PM hopes Central Asia trip will increase India’s trade and influence in region

PM hopes Central Asia trip will increase India’s trade and influence in region

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is wrapping up his landmark trip to Central Asia this week, hoping to increase trade and challenge the dominance of China in the region.

He was in Tajikistan on Monday after visiting Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as Russia. This is the first tour of all five Central Asian capitals by an Indian leader.

“We see an important place for Central Asia in India’s future. We can reinforce each other’s economic progress,” Mr Modi said in a statement in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek.

“My visit to all five countries in the region demonstrates the importance that we attach to a new level of relationship with Central Asia.”

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the five republics have moved closer to China, which has signed military deals, invested in infrastructure and bought large oil and gas reserves.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has welcomed the trip, hoping it will increase trade with those countries.

“Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Central Asia is a landmark event to revitalize our ancient links with the region. CII estimates that trade with the five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan can multiply manifold from the small base of $1.4 billion currently,” said director-general Chandrajit Banerjee.

It said major areas of opportunity for India in Central Asia include oil and gas, minerals and metals, agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, textiles and chemicals.

The service sectors – including information technology, education and skills development, and tourism – also have untapped potential, it said.

While in Tajikistan, Modi was expected to ask the government if India could lease a Soviet-era airbase just half and hour’s flying time from the border with China.

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