NEW DELHI: The first India-Central Asia summit hosted virtually by PM Narendra Modi Thursday condemned cross-border terrorism, a term used by India to indict Pakistan, and underlined the significance of transparency, along with respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, in pursuing connectivity initiatives.
Regional security with focus on Afghanistan , along with connectivity, dominated the summit that saw Modi emphasising that the Central Asian region was central to India’s vision of an integrated and stable “extended neighbourhood”.
The 2 sides agreed to form separate joint working groups to address the Afghanistan situation and encourage connectivity through the Chabahar port with the land-locked region comprising 5 countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The presidents of all 5 countries participated in the summit.
While China was not really the focus of attention in the virtual meeting, both sides agreed, according to a joint declaration, that connectivity initiatives had to be based on the principles of transparency, broad participation, local priorities, financial sustainability and “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries”. The India-Central Asia summit came only 2 days after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s own summit meeting with the Central Asian leaders in which he offered $ 500 million as aid to the 5 countries.
Modi said India and Central Asia had same concerns and objectives on regional security. “We are all concerned about the developments in Afghanistan. In this context also, our mutual cooperation has become even more important for regional security and stability,” said the PM in his opening remarks, adding that cooperation between India and Central Asia was essential for regional security and prosperity. Three Central Asian countries – Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – share border with Afghanistan.
In keeping with the consensus reached last year at the Delhi Security Dialogue on Afghanistan, the summit called for formation of a truly representative and inclusive government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, central role of the UN, providing immediate humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan and “preserving the rights of women, children and other national ethnic groups and minorities”.
The leaders reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasizing the respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs, according to the declaration. “They also discussed the current humanitarian situation and decided to continue to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan,” it said.