India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun his eight-day journey focused on upscaling India’s multifarious relations with Central Asia. His first stop is Uzbekistan, the most populous country in Central Asia which is bound to India by close historical and cultural ties. On July 6, Mr Modi met Uzbek President Islamov Karimov and Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoev as he was warmly welcomed in Uzbek capital Tashkent. Ahead of his trip, Mr Modi had outlined his agenda: “We want to expand our economic ties with Uzbekistan and enhance trade and economic linkages. I must add that President Karimov has visited India five times, including four times as President, with the last visit taking place in 2011.” He also spoke on the popularity of Bollywood and broadcasting of Hindi in Uzbekistan radio. Predictably, Mr Modi’s visit to Uzbekistan has a strong cultural component: he would be interacting with Indologists, students learning Hindi and the Indian diaspora which comprises of more than 3,000 Indians. Mr Modi is also expected to visit the memorial of India’s former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who died in Tashkent in 1965.
Mr Modi will be in Kazakhastan July 7-8. Kazakhstan, the world’s 9th largest country in terms of landmass, is India’s largest trading partner in Central Asia and has been a valued friend of India at various international forums. In Kazakhstan, Mr Modi will be focusing on boosting energy ties and witness the first drilling from the oil well in Satpayev block, in which ONGC Videsh has acquired stakes. The two sides are also expected to hold discussions on fast-tracking the deal on supply of uranium to India. Development partnership will be in focus as Mr Modi will inaugurate the India-Kazakhstan Centre for Excellence in Information and Communication Technology at the LN Gumilev Eurasian National University.
India’s Connect Central Asia policy will be in focus again at the BRICS and Ufa summits Russia July 8-10 is holding in Ufa. At the SCO summit, India is expected to be elevated to full membership, which will mark a defining step in New Delhi’s thrust to deepen its footprints in the energy-rich region. The BRICS leaders will also hold an outreach session with the leaders of SCO and Central Asian states.
After the BRICS and SCO summits, Mr Modi will head on bilateral visits to the remaining three Stans states. On July 11, Mr Modi would be visiting Turkmenistan where many agreements are expected to be signed. Ties with Turkmenistan straddle diverse sectors, including energy, tourism, fertilizers, space, science and technology and defence. Fast-tracking the TAPI pipeline will be on top of the agenda. In Turkmenistan, Mr Modi also will inaugurate a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and a Traditional Medicine and Yoga Centre.
In Kyrgyztan, the focus will be on building stronger economic ties and forging partnership in hydropower development. On July 12, Mr Modi is expected to gift medical equipment to Kyrgyz field hospital along with unveiling a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
Prime Minister Modi’s 8-day trip to the region will conclude with a day in in the strategically located Tajikistan, with whom India has a strong defence cooperation and strategic partnership. The focus will be on bolstering security ties and enhancing cooperation in stabilizing Afghanistan.
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