‘We are not in competition with any country; aiding the nation in our own way’

Amid China’s growing influence on Tajikistan, Vice President Hamid Ansari, who concluded his “extremely productive” four-day visit to the Middle East nation on Wednesday, said India had no clash of interests with China.

Speaking to The Hindu on board Air India’s special plane, returning to New Delhi from Dushanbe, Mr. Ansari was replying to a question whether India was worried over the assistance China was providing Tajikistan.

“There is no clash [of interests] in giving assistance to Tajikistan. We are doing it in our own way and helping Tajikistan in capacity building, human resource development, information technology and they are very appreciative about it. We are not in competition with any country,” the Vice President told journalists accompanying him on his first ever visit to Tajikistan, which shares a nearly 500-km-long border with China.

Mr. Ansari said that besides the substance of his discussions with the Tajik leadership, headed by its President Emomali Rahmon, the general ambience and warmth displayed by his hosts was “very significant” in the field of international diplomacy.

“We had very important discussions with the President, who himself chaired the delegation-level talks and it was indicative of his approach and closeness towards India,” the Vice President said.

Mr. Ansari said the focus of his visit was to go forward from where India and Tajikistan had started out in September 2012, when President Rahmon had visited New Delhi for the fifth time and the special relationship between the two countries was elevated to the strategic partnership.

The Vice President said the focus of his visit was two-fold — to reiterate India’s commitment to decisions taken in September 2012 and to raise the relationship to a higher level in terms of the frequency of high-level interaction. “I think my visit achieved these objectives. It was substantive and there were no problem areas,” he said.

In reply to another question about the roadmap for further pushing India’s “Connect Central Asia” policy, Mr. Ansari policies such as “Look East” must be seen in totality and all Central Asian countries came under its umbrella. “We have to develop and pursue individual policies with these countries, bringing our interests on a converging platform.”

During his visit to Tajik Technical University here, India offered to gift a supercomputer to Tajikistan which would be in place over the next 18 months at a centre of IT excellence and become the seed for developing IT expertise among young people in the Middle East nation. India also proposes to set up an Enterprise Development Centre in Tajikistan which will help create entrepreneurs and job-providers as against job-seekers.

The Vice President said there was great scope for implementing micro-level and small projects, expanding trade in many areas and exploiting the potential of mining. “The only problem is of connectivity as the trade route is very complex, time-consuming and difficult. Though talks for cooperation in the civil aviation sector have been held in the past, the airline companies of the two countries have to take commercial decisions in their [own] interests,” he said.

On the existing counter-terrorism measures and joint working group between India and Tajikistan, Mr. Ansari said the cooperation was continuing and information was being exchanged: “There is give and take in equal and good measure by both the sides to their benefit in this area.”

He said both India and Tajikistan, which had suffered due to cross-border terrorism, were committed to tackling the menace. He also referred to the threat posed by radical Taliban elements to the region’s stability after the U.S.’ proposed withdrawal of its troops from the region.

Mr. Ansari stressed that there was strong cultural affinity between India and Tajikistan, contributed to majorly by Indian music, films and dance: “Though the Indian film industry takes its own decisions and takes its own time, Tajikistan is very keen that Hindi film producers should shoot their movies in scenic locations in their country, which has mountain ranges, rivers and unexploited country-side.”