National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval on October 17 laced India’s commitment to enhancing cooperation with the Central Asian region on multiple fronts and argued that a “particular country” is responsible for denying connectivity between India and the region. Addressing the second meeting of the NSAs of India and Central Asian countries in Kazakhstan, Mr. Doval expressed concern about the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and said humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people remains India’s priority.
“The absence of direct land access between Central Asia and India is an anomaly. This absence of direct connectivity is the result of a conscious policy of denial by a particular country. This situation is not only self-defeating for this country but it also reduces the collective well-being of the entire region,” said Mr. Doval without mentioning Pakistan. He mentioned that connectivity and economic integration with Central Asia remains a “key priority” for India. The consultation among the NSAs was held in the backdrop of several conflicts currently raging in the world and the discussion mentioned the importance of dialogue for “settling difference and disputes”.
Afghanistan was one of the major issues that featured in the discussion and Mr. Doval highlighted the presence of the Afghan cricket team in India for the ICC World Cup matches. “The situation in Afghanistan remains a cause of concern for all of us. Our common immediate priorities include providing humanitarian assistance, ensuring formation of a truly inclusive and representative government combating terrorism and drug trafficking, and preserving the rights of women, children and the minorities,” said Mr. Doval. He further mentioned that Amul, one of the biggest Indian brands, is the principal sponsor of the Afghanistan national cricket team for the World Cup.
India has not recognised the Taliban regime in Kabul but has air connectivity with Kabul and also maintains a “technical team” at the Indian embassy in the capital which keeps the consular works going for Afghan citizens. In recent months, several countries including China have moved to maintain normal diplomatic ties with the Taliban. The Afghan embassy in Delhi was shut down on October 1 as the representatives of the previous regime gave up control of the premises though consular work continues through the Afghan consulates in Mumbai and Hyderabad.
Mr. Doval announced that India will hold a seminar in the country between leading scholars and ulemas from India and Central Asia to foster greater understanding of the “history and context of Islam and its role in fostering peaceful coexistence and social harmony in today’s complicated world,” said Mr. Doval indirectly referring to Chinese infrastructure projects in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) that India accuses of violating its sovereignty.
“Connectivity and economic integration with the Central Asian countries is a key priority for India. However, while promoting connectivity, it is important to ensure that connectivity initiatives are consultative, transparent, and participatory. They should respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. They should also adhere to environmental parameters, ensure financial viability, and not become debt burdens,” said NSA Doval.