Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said that over the past two decades and despite being land locked, Central Asia emerged as one of the fastest growing regions in the world, and has displayed considerable development potential.
"It is resource rich in terms of oil, gas, gold, cotton, rare-earths, has relatively advanced infrastructure and human capital, and enjoys the benefit of a strategic location between Asia and Europe. Many of the Central Asian Republics have embarked on market-oriented economic reforms to boost private sector competitiveness and economic performance," Vice President Ansari said.
"As a result, leading and aspiring powers are active in the region in quest of natural resources, energy pipelines and transit routes leading to wide ranging geopolitical considerations pertaining to security, prevention of drug and arms smuggling, and countering terrorism and fundamentalism," he added.
The Vice President said that different aspects of modern Central Asia are being studied in different research institutions in the country, and the need of the hour is to enhance coordination and cooperation amongst them to avoid overlapping, ensure better utilization of available resources and, eventually, more meaningful inputs for our foreign policy objectives.
Vice President Ansari said greater attention also needs to be devoted to language skills and the study of social impulses in individual societies, and added that diligent fieldwork is essential for both and must be undertaken.
"This audience knows well that foreign policy formulation rarely begins with a clean slate. Its building blocks, instead, consist of ground realities. Aspirations and objectives help give it shape; the baggage of the past is sought to be avoided but is rarely achieved comprehensively. Success thus lies, as Henry Kissinger put it, in 'patient accumulation of partial successes'," said Vice President Ansari in his inaugural address at the National Seminar on 'India and Central Asia' at Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) here.
"It is thus evident that the new ground realities in the post-Soviet period called for a redefining of India's strategic interests in the region. Our primary interest was stability in the region. The task of diplomacy was to build new relationships and protect and enhance economic and commercial interests. We were successful in the first and are still struggling with the second," he added.
Vice President Ansari said India's own approach to the region has evolved over these twenty years and has recently been spelt out in its "Connect Central Asia" Policy.
"This is focused on identification and furtherance of mutually beneficial interests, development of access routes and options, sharing of developmental experience in nation building, offering economic and technical assistance, and furtherance of cultural and educational cooperation," said Vice President Ansari.
"Pursuant to it, we have entered into Strategic Partnership agreements with three of the five Central Asian Republics - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and have increased co-operation and dialogue between specialized security agencies and the defence forces," he added.
Vice President Ansari emphasized that furtherance of trade and economic co-operation with the region, beginning with Afghanistan, hinges on connectivity, which in turn, is intrinsically dependent on access-route options and its policy and practical implications.
"The easiest route, through Pakistan and Afghanistan, appears totally dependent on a good mix of human wisdom and divine intervention; both seem elusive in the foreseeable future! A second point of access, through Iran and Afghanistan, is a real possibility and appears now to take shape through the proposed development of the Chabahar port and the completion of the Zaranj-Delaram highway," said Vice President Ansari.
"A variant of this for Central Asian states, dependent on the upgrading of railway network in Iran, could be the Iran-Turkmenistan route. Both would require fine-tuning of policy and longer-term financial commitments. Other options, through China or Russia, would be grossly uneconomical," he added.
Vice President Ansari also emphasized that no discussion on Central Asia and its immediate neighbourhood would be complete without taking on board the challenges arising out of the situation in Afghanistan.
"The lesson of history is that hegemonic prescriptions do not sustain themselves and result in greater chaos. The entire region would therefore benefits if realistic alternatives are thought of and Afghanistan drawn into a cooperative regional economic and security framework so that nation-building there could proceed based on economic development, social harmony, rule of law and participatory democracy in consonance with the wishes of the Afghan people. Such an approach should be underwritten by the United Nations and all interested powers," Vice President Ansari said.
"Though India is not part of any regional grouping so far, our role in regional fora like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) would serve to strengthen India's renewed links with the region. India's engagement in Central Asia is also part of our belief in a multi-polar world," he added. (ANI)