India, Turkmenistan decide to fast-track TAPI, sign defence pact

India and Turkmenistan, the energy-rich Central Asian nation, have decided to fast-track the implementation of the long discussed TAPI pipeline, which is poised to have a transformational impact on economic relations between the two countries as well as the region. Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian leader to visit Turkmenistan after a gap of two decades as he touched down in the capital Ashgabat on July 10. P.V Narasimha Rao was the last Indian prime minister to visit Turkmenistan.

Energising Ties

Prime Minister Modi and President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov held wide-ranging talks, which have energised bilateral ties across the spectrum. The showpiece outcome held at Ashgabat on July 11 was clearly the decision by the two sides to move ahead with the TAPI project, along with plans to finalize the consortium leader. “The Leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment towards timely implementation of this strategic project for the common benefit of peoples of the four countries and noted that the selection of the Consortium Leader for the project, to be finalized by 1 September 2015, would mark a crucial step in the early implementation of the project,” said the joint statement.

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Reconnecting to Central Asia: Modi’s visit to Stans states a game-changer

If I say Amir Khusrau is our poet, I would be stoned in India,” the Tajik ambassador said recently in New Delhi, a shade dramatically. In Dushanbe, don’t be surprised if Tajiks recite to you soulful couplets of Zebn-un-Nisa, Aurangzeb’s eldest daughter better known by her pen-name Makhfil (The Hidden One). Mahabharata and Ramayana are prime time shows on Uzbek TV. And this will be a revelation for those not in the know: on Valentine’s Day, Uzbeks celebrate their love for the 16th century Mughal emperor Babur.
From Bollywood and kathak to yoga and Hindi, Central Asia is suffused with the glow of Indian culture and spirituality. It was, therefore, fitting when India launched its Connect Central Asia policy in 2012 as the two regions have been conjoined intimately through historical and cultural ties for centuries. It’s a relationship that has been enriched by culture and poetry, but geopolitically it’s only now this strategically located region is zooming back into the focus of India’s diplomatic-strategic establishment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the five Central Asian states is a compelling statement of India’s reawakened interest in the region that is critical to the country’s interlinked strategic, economic and energy interests. The forthcoming visit of Mr Modi, the first by an Indian prime minister to all five post-Soviet Stans states in one go, is a game-changer of sorts that’s set to transform India’s multifarious relations with the energy-rich Central Asian region, where China has firmly positioned itself as the leading economic power and dispenser of largesse.

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