India, Kyrgyzstan ink defence pact, focus on economic ties

India and Kyrgyzstan, the energy-rich Central Asian state, have signed four key agreements, including a pact on defence cooperation, underlining the growing importance of the region in the country’s security calculus.

“We see an important place for Central Asia in India’s future. We both seek a peaceful and secure neighbourhood at a time of challenges in our region. And, we have shared interest in combating extremism and terrorism that has become a threat without borders,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after holding bilateral talks with Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev in Bishkek.

The defence pact envisages intensifying joint military exercises, exchange of military instructors and observers, military education and training, on regular intervals.

The prime minister, who is on the  penultimate stop of his tour of five Central Asian countries, stressed that his visit highlighted the importance that India attached to scaling up this relationship, as the two countries were united by the bonds of shared democratic values. 

The defence ties between India and Kyrgyzstan are already strong, and the latest agreement will further broaden their defence cooperation. The two countries’ armed forces held joint military exercise “Khanjar 2015” in Kyrgyzstan in March this year. The two sides had also held joint military exercise in India in 2011.

Besides security, the two countries also focused on stepping up economic relations, which have remained way below the potential, largely due to connectivity issues. In this context, the two countries signed an MoU between Kyrgyzstan’s ministry of economy and the Bureau of Indian Standards to cooperate in the field of standards to strengthen technical cooperation in conformity assessment, standardization and sharing of expertise on mutual trade.

The two leaders vowed to work together for an early conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Eurasia Economic Union and India.                            

With Tajikistan trying to buttress its democratic institutions, the two countries inked a pact on cooperation in election-related issues.

 The prime minister thanked Kyrgyzstan for supporting India’s candidature for a permanent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat. He also reaffirmed support for the Kyrgyz Republic’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council for 2016-2018.

 The Kyrgyz side lauded India for training Kyrgyz military officers for conducting several UN Peacekeeping Courses, including by the Centre for UN Peacekeeping in New Delhi.

Bolstering cultural connections was also emphasized at the meeting and was reflected in an agreement aimed at preserving cultural heritages, promoting theater and youth festivals, and organising of folk arts.