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India’s Expanding Options to Link with Central Asia

Published Jan 18, 2020
Updated Mar 02, 2020

Secretary (West) Shri Vikas Swaroop in his address during Industry interaction with Mr. Vladimir Norov, Secretary General, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at FICCI on January 13, 2020 outlined India’s linkages and significance of the grouping thus-

On behalf of the Government of India I would like to welcome Mr Norov and his delegation. This interaction with FICCI is part of our policy of enhanced engagement with the SCO and to broaden the partnership to bring in a very important stakeholder, the Indian industry.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has emerged as a key regional organisation in the Eurasian space in the past two decades of its existence. Accounting for over 60 per cent of Eurasia’s territory and more than 40 per cent of the world’s population, the Member States of SCO account for almost a quarter of the world’s GDP. The induction of new states, both as permanent and observer members, has expanded the frontiers of the organisation. The renewed momentum at building regional synergies is reflected in addressing common security challenges and building long-term economic and energy linkages.’s

While still a work in progress, there appears to be a strong desire among SCO stakeholders to strengthen the bonds of regional cooperation. This is, arguably, best reflected in co-opting Afghanistan as an Observer State with a view to transform a potential arc of Eurasian instability into an oasis of regional stability and cooperation. India’s interests, against this backdrop, align with the priorities of SCO. India received the Observer status of the organisation in 2005 and was accorded the full member status in 2017. More than a decade’s engagement with the organisation, highlights India’s willingness to play a more meaningful role in this regional grouping. This synergy also stems from India’s strategy of deepening its Eurasian partnerships and the SCO provides a springboard for reconnecting with this extended neighbourhood, with which we are bound by the silken bonds of centuries of common history.

India’s cultural heritage is deeply influenced by countries in Eurasia. Indian traders and travelers had actively traded along the caravan routes and Buddhism had flourished across the vast Eurasian steppe. History is full of friendly interactions between India and Central Asia, through movement of people, goods and ideas, including spiritual interfaces that enriched us both. Acknowledging these umbilical bonds, Prime Minister Modi at the 2015 SCO Ufa Summit highlighted the scope and importance of SCO in India’s Eurasian geo-strategic calculus, “as the political landscape of the region changed at the turn of this century, India restored its historical ties of natural affinity with the Central Asian countries….. Our membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a natural extension of these relationships and mirrors the region’s place in India’s future. SCO could be a vehicle for an integrated and connected Eurasia to become one of the most dynamic regions in the world”.

India’s growing economic potential and vast experience and expertise in building institutional capabilities, can add greater value to SCO’s ongoing projects and share best practices in newer areas to forge a common vision for the region. India’s priorities in the SCO are therefore, aimed at expanding synergies in connectivity, counter-terrorism, energy and economic arenas. The foundation of India’s economic outreach to the region is also premised on its 2012 Connect Central Asia Policy with its focus on building long-term partnerships, both bilaterally and collectively. India is more than willing to share its unique experience in banking, finance, Information Technology (IT), education, telecommunication, health and agriculture with SCO Member States to build mutually beneficial development partnerships. India has already implemented several projects involving IT excellence, entrepreneurship development and industrial training centers in Central Asia and can share this expertise with others.

Importantly with the connectivity through Chabahar now operational and increasing interests in Eurasia, India is hopeful that the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) can be activated