India and the countries of central asia: the regional security cooperation

The Republic of India hasn’t fully pledged itself to any camp or global pole during the Cold War since 1947 and was one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. Since the post-Cold War epoch that position has eroded. India has been moving away from its traditional position, relationships and policy in the international arena for over a decade. India has been vied for as an ally in the »Great Game» that is underway, once again. This round of the «Great Game» is, however, being played under a far broader spectrum than the one played between Great Britain and Russian Empire. In question is the Indian power relationship with two geopolitical entities: the first is the »Periphery» and the second is »Eurasia».

Disintegration of the USSR by the end of 1991 led to the emergence of five Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union, namely, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, as independent countries. The geostrategic location of these countries at the crossroads between Europe and China and also between Russia and Iran as well as their huge and largely untapped reserves of oil and gas, lend these countries immense geostrategic importance in world affairs.

«India has vital economic and security interests in the Central Asian Republics and needs to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy to protect and promote its geopolitical interest in this region» [1, 97]. In developing an effective geo-strategy, India needs to carefully examine the complex interactions between the three major strategic players in this region (Russia, China, and the USA, especially in light of the altered security situation in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA and its direct military action in Afghanistan and Iraq).

The potential role of Iran and Turkey as well as the impact of future developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan on the evolving geopolitical situation in the Central Asia region are also explored. In terms of security interests, India needs to aggressively explore and establish security and economic cooperation agreements with the Central Asian Republics both on bilateral and regional basis. In this context, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (the SCO), established in June 2001 at initiative of China, is a major geopolitical development in the region. It is in India’s interest to strive to win its membership. In order to meet its current and future energy needs, Indian firms need to participate in oil and gas exploration ventures in the region, perhaps by joining the relevant international consortia.

Security problems relating to oil and gas transit routes through Afghanistan and Pakistan, India needs to seriously examine the viability of the proposed Russia-Central Asia-China-India pipeline. «Furthermore, India needs to take energetic steps to enhance its trade and investment levels with the Central Asian Republics, which are currently insignificant. Apart from trade in goods, service sectors including education and training, IT-software, health-care, and hotels appear to be promising areas for Indian trade and investments in this region and need to be aggressively pursued. The paper concludes by emphasizing that India needs to establish policy research institutes, staffed with Russian speaking researchers and experts who understand this complex and fast-changing region, so that effective long-term business and security strategies can be formulated and implemented» [2, 215].

«A lot of scientists discussed the issues of security and sustainable development in the Central Asia region, as much as the global security, and were unanimous in their conclusions. India and the countries of Central Asia are concerned about the growth of terrorism and religious extremism in the world as well as the security situation in Afghanistan. For India, Central Asian security is a vital issue and India favours peaceful Central Asia. The region is caught in the vortex of security challenges and threats that may appear episodic but are formative. The biggest threat to regional stability originates from Afghanistan in the activities of radical extremists and drug traffickers» [3].

It is necessary to note, that Islamic radicalism and its manifestations of separatism and extremism justifying terrorist methods of conflict add to the potential for instability in Central Asia. At the same time, a high level of strategic uncertainty has also appeared in the region, stemming, paradoxically, from big power rivalries, given the significant increase in its importance as a major source of petroleum resources and as an alternative to the volatile Middle East and Caspian regions.

The «outside» actors (principally Russia, the United States and China) are consolidating or increasing their presence in the region through complex modes of relationships that promote cooperation as well as trigger competition. A kind of polarization of relations between Russia, on the one side, and the U.S., on the other, has been accelerating in the region. The strategic rivalry is compounded by the worsening security in Afghanistan. As militant Islamists infiltrate from across the Afghan border into Tajikistan, regional stability is coming under severe challenge. The result is a state of «strategic uncertainty» as a medium-term prospect.

Regional security and stability in Central Asia is a precondition for energy development and energy security. China, Russia, the Central Asian states, the USA, the EU, East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, South Asian countries like India and Pakistan, the ASEAN countries, and most Islamic countries in the Middle East do in fact have common interests in this area.

The Republic of India will be averse to being the promoter or participant in a competing effort. «However, it cannot but be affected by the outcome of the ongoing struggle for spheres of influence between the «pro-Russian» and «pro-American» vectors or among contending projects — Russia’s «Eurasia Space» project, America’s «Greater Middle East Initiative,» China’s «Assimilation» project, and the EU’s «Integration» project — and last but not least the potential entanglement of the region in the «World Islamic Caliphate» project. Again, regional security in Central Asia is currently multilevel and unstructured and often contradictory, which compels India to avoid military-political cooperation» [4, 49]. Having said that, India, as an affected party, cannot remain impervious to the permanent threat of the spread of challenges from Afghanistan to neighbouring countries. The diplomatic challenge is that India is called upon to promote regional stability and bolster its antiterrorist efforts without resorting to military-political modes of cooperation.

The Government of the Republic of India believes that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (the SCO) is pursuing an important agenda, especially with regard to combating the menace of terrorism. India is interested in joining the SCO and has made its intentions clear to the Russian Federation as well as the other Member States. Indian membership in the SCO is not dependant on any other state joining or not joining this Organization. The Government believes that India will be able to contribute constructively to the agenda of the SCO. It understand, however, that currently the rules of membership do not allow the accession of new states into the grouping. It is, however, following the activities of the Organization with interest.

The Indian priorities lie in the sprawling Asia-Pacific Ocean region, in the Indian Ocean and in Central Asian region. «I propose to pay personal visits to these regions. We will pitch for larger investment in the Indian economy by the Arab countries of the Gulf region. We have very good relations with Iran; we have been interacting closely with leaders of Central Asian Republics where India happens to enjoy a lot of goodwill. Lack of common land borders and of access to Central Asia through civil war-torn Afghanistan is an impediment, but we have gained access to Central Asia through Iran. Leaders of all Central Asian Republics have visited Delhi. Leaders of Republic of India also visited Central Asian Republics’ capitals» [2, 76].

The world experiences the period of transformation practically of all developed systems and mechanisms of the international interaction now. The thesis about necessity of more responsible attitude to the processes touching interests of not only separate states, but also the whole regions even more often rises. In this connection a principle that threats of security not local at all, finds a special urgency. These postulates underlie in construction of mutual relations of India with the countries of the Central Asia region. In the given statement for India borders of its strategic interest are determined.

«I have referred only to our relations with our immediate neighbours. But our idea of a neighbourhood is not a narrow one. Our history and cultural heritage have been such that we conceive of our neighbourhood in much larger terms. For instance, we regard Afghanistan as an important neighbour and can not but have a very close interest in developments there. In recent years, we have also worked on our ties with the Central Asian Republics, from where so much of Indian history has been influenced» [2, 251].

Though interaction with the countries of Central Asia began long before it, the potential and necessity of regional cooperation for India have completely realized only last years. At the present stage the basic   approach on the given direction is maintenance of regular dialogue in spirit of strategic partnership, first of all on problems of regional development and trade and economic interaction. Interaction on problems of security only grows, as, despite lacking direct borders, maintenance of stability in the general geographical zone is one of the basic joint problems.

India cannot be named the key external subject, capable to render significant influence on regional balance of forces; the potential of its influence on development of a situation in Central Asia is not comparable with potential of the USA, China and Russia, but at the same time it is impossible to give values to the spent by India policy in the relation of strategically important region for it.

Probably, the partnership with the country possessing with smaller regional influence in comparison with other foreign policy forces, will introduce more than conceptual ideas for development of a rate of interaction, optimum to modern calls and threats. Thus, considering key aspects of cooperation of India with the countries of Central Asia, it is necessary to pay attention to a policy on questions of the security, spent by it within the framework of South Asia.

Tendencies of development of regional cooperation can be easy projected on the Central Asia region. Till now in Central Asia India stakes on development bilateral, instead of multilateral contacts; thus the principle of stabilization of regional conditions for strengthening the long-term interests here is shown the same as and in South Asia. Thus, key parameters of inter-regional cooperation can be determined even without precise representation about the general threats worth both before South Asia, and in front of the Central Asia.

Unfortunately, an axiom in going deep security cooperation between India and the countries of South and Central Asia is joint opposition to the most obvious threats. In South Asia disagreements between India and neighbours are shown in the form of boundary, religious-ethnic and immigration problems, distributions of water resources, militarization and presence of the nuclear weapon. However there is the factor which in the greater degree influences strengthening of cooperation, growth of economic problems in the countries of region and partly their social and economic instability on a background enough indicative successes of India in this area. In this connection mutual relations are constantly subject to risk of maneuvering which is difficult to avoid.

As a whole rather positive experience in sphere of strengthening of cooperation between India and the countries of Central Asia is its experience of counteraction to terrorism and religious extremism though the criticism of Islam in South Asia is ambiguous. On the one hand, the Islam in the region acts as the civilization-cultural factor of national identity, with another hand in case of strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism South Asia can turn to the basic arena of its antagonism with the world community.

For India stability and security of the Central Asia region has crucial importance. India believes, that «stability and security of Central Asia can be in the best way provided by carrying out of a secular and democratic policy» [5]. In this context experience of India in carrying out of such policy can be very useful. India, together with members of the SCO, faces some problems of security having interethnic character. Such unusual threats demand the coordinated and joint actions for which the SCO represents already almost ready mechanism.

Thus, experience of India in struggle against terrorism testifies to development of tactics of flexibility by it, consisting in rapproachement all over again social and economic, and then political structures, despite of presence of some complicating circumstances. The given circumstance can be applied with success in strengthening cooperation of India with the countries of Central Asian region. That fact is positive, that in strengthening mutual relations practically there are no terminators of an all-around development.

Key aspect of cooperation of India and Kazakhstan in the field of safety in intermediate term prospect is interaction in frameworks of Meeting on interaction and measures of trust in Asia (SVMDA) and the SCO where as priority area formation of system of continental safety acts, and also joint opposition to the international terrorism, the organized crime and drug business. At the same time the given threats in the long term should not become the unique factors promoting strengthening of cooperation between the states.

One of the most important achievements of interaction in frameworks of the SCO is purchase by India of the status of the observer at the Organization, event during Summit of heads of the states of the SCO in July, 2005. Interest of India in reception of the status of the observer at the SCO testifies not only to appeal of the purposes and problems to it which are put before itself the Organization, but also about prospect which the country sees in interaction within the framework of interstate regional structures. The basis for this purpose, as is known, are security issues and stability.

At the present stage when the SCO has overcome a part of problems of organizational becoming and has entered a new stage of adjustment and a deepening of effective cooperation on priority directions of the activity, special value is given to increase of political weight of the Organization. The expansion of the format testifying to adherence of the countries-members of the SCO to open dialogue, represents itself as one of ways of strengthening not only its international authority, but also efficiency. There of such influential members of the SCO as China, Russia and Kazakhstan, welcomed intention of playing a significant role in a global and regional policy of India to receive the status of the observer at the Organization.

India has declared the basic decision to enter the SCO practically right after formations of the Organization. At an initial stage the country leaders even had been carried out exploratory talk on the given question with all countries which are included in the SCO, and their consent is received. At the present stage  struggle against terrorism and closer economic cooperation are two largest areas in which the Organization has undertaken the important steps. In both areas India is capable to bring in the significant contribution to programs of the SCO. India also is interested in assisting in development of closer contacts within the framework of the countries-members of the SCO, to revive that intensive stream of ideas and trade with which blossoming well-known «era of the Silk way» differed.

Reception by India of the status of the observer at the SCO has positive consequences for the Organization. It will promote:

First, strengthening of regional stability and economic integration will raise coordination of efforts on counteraction to terrorism, extremism and drug business, struggle with which is one of priority directions in the policy of the countries of South Asia to which India and Pakistan concern.

Second, to transformation of the SCO into the powerful international organization, capable to struggle for influence on the world scene with any other alliances. Activity of India as the large Asian power possessing in economic and political potential, will facilitate the SCO search of the niche in the system of international organizations, that, in turn, gives reason for efficiency of the Organization as the tool of maintenance of regional security.

In opinion of Indian analysts, the SCO has proved as very active and leading organization in the region.

It could carry out a problem of support of stability and security in Central Asian region [5].

The establishment between Kazakhstan and India of relations of strategic partnership deduces cooperation between our states on essentially new level: it is a new level of opportunities, but, at the same time, a new level of responsibility. It is fair, because, despite lacking direct borders, maintenance of stability in the general geographical zone is one of the basic joint problems. The Asian region is not included today into number of the most stable regions of the world. Here during many years there are serious problems directly menacing not only regional, but also global security. Among them: the international terrorism, activization of extremist and separative movements, distribution of drugtraffic, the non-authorized territorial disputes, and also the calls of security which are starting with social and economic sphere.

Certainly, their decision is impossible without effective and institutionally formed coordination of efforts of all states of the Central Asia region. In this connection, it is necessary to note a role of India, as one of the most influential world powers and the guarantor of stability in South Asia and Kazakhstan, as the most politically stable and economically successful among the states of the Central Asia region. As Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan K.Tokaev spoke, «Kazakhstan positioned itself as the essential factor of maintenance of stability and security both in the Central Asia region, and in extensive territory of the Eurasian continent. The task of maintenance of a favorable external environment has been put to internal reforms by adjustment of stable and friendly mutual relations, first of all with neighbour states, and also with leading political and economic centers of the modern world. Having concluded the contract about an establishment of relations of strategic partnership, our countries should concentrate forces on development of the mechanism of cooperation in sphere of maintenance of regional security» [6].

Thus, it is possible to conclude, that the geopolitical environment of India is not so peace as should be. With growth of value of Eurasia in the future, the geostrategic site of Central Asia region can become critical. The rivalry existing between Russia and the USA, sometimes open, sometimes latent, hardly will develop in serious confrontation, at least, not because of problems of Central Asia. This script could be realized, if China, with growth of the potential, would challenge the USA. The second tendency, able to mention India is growth of religious extremism in Central Asian region. One of the main calls before which there is India is growing threat of religious extremism and terrorism of its territorial integrity. Within more than ten years the Indian government battles to extremism and transboundary terrorism in state Jammu and Kashmir. Members of terrorist groups receiving support, safe shelters and instructors from abroad have declared jihad against the Indian government. Their actions represent danger to territorial unity of the Republic of India.

In view of extreme interest of India in rigid and consecutive opposition to threat of international terrorism,  Kazakhstan  supports interest of  India  to  participation  in  activity  of  Regional  antiterrorist structure (RATS). India has huge potential of assistance to states-members of RATS of the SCO in their activity. In this connection India could take part in the following directions of RATS activity:

  • Information interchanges with states-members of RATS about activity of terrorist organizations;
  • Joint opposition to distribution of ideology of terrorism and extremism in Central Asian region;
  • Maintenance of antiterrorist security of joint objects of infrastructure and joint ventures;
  • Exchange of experience on struggle against terrorism at a level of contacts of corresponding services of India and states-participants of RATS;
  • Preparation of normative-legal base on optimization of interaction of India and

Activization of cooperation of Kazakhstan and India on opposition to threats of international terrorism will allow raising the level of efficiency of the given work and will lower a number of calls of regional security.

Other extremely actual direction in cooperation of efforts in business of maintenance of regional safety is inclusion of India in structure of Contact group of the SCO-Afghanistan. Distinctive feature of work of Contact group of the SCO-Afghanistan is accent on cooperation with its government, and also scope practically of all areas of interaction to provide not only force, but also the economic decision of the problem of the help to Afghanistan.

Now the question is maintenance of regional security, therefore we will address only to joint actions on neutralization of the calls which are starting from Afghanistan. Threat of terrorism and active spread of drug addiction from what all suffer without exception of the country of the Asian region concern to them, first of all.

Thus, the problem of Afghanistan is the most actual for such regional organization, as the SCO, including also India being the state-observer. In the given context special interest is represented with idea about creation in frameworks of the SCO of system of antiterrorist, antidrug and financial zones of regional security. Clearly, that the given system in frameworks of the SCO is possible only at full and active participation of countries-observers of the SCO, here again one of key roles is allocated to India being not only the large regional economic center, but also the system forming state in South Asia.

Initiative of India can provide an abstemious effect on the overall regional configuration process, something that Central Asians desire, but India cannot match the leverages enjoyed by Russia and China. Its are more intrinsic in terms of security interest, ideological convergence and economic complementarity. However, India stands to gain a greater say in the SCO by addressing particularly the security issues including terrorism. «Our approach should contrast the policies of Russia and China that insist on maintaining the status quo against the desire for a gradual change. If the trend of limiting the influence of the USA and EU continues, India will have a greater role to play in moderating the developments to ensure that the SCO does not shape into a military bloc which will be detrimental to regional peace and security, especially for the Afghanistan reconstruction efforts» [7].

As to other prospects within frameworks of the cooperation directed on maintenance of regional security, here it is meaningful to pay attention to expansion of cooperation in the field of defense. First, there is an opportunity of export of small arms made in India in the countries of Central Asia as agreements on military-technical cooperation with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have been signed. Russian frontier guards expect to the aid of India in struggle against fundamentalists on southern boundaries of the former Soviet Union. India took part in training and equipment of divisions of Afghani Northern Alliance during campaign against movement «Taliban». Second, India can give the technical help in management of the industrial enterprises of defensive sector, is especial in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Thirdly, India participated in training the personnel of antiterrorist divisions which aim is struggle against internal sources of intensity. India also has a wide experience in maintenance of stability in ethnically diverse society.

The Kazakhstan-Indian cooperation has serious potential to begin the important component in business of maintenance of regional security. Nevertheless, it is necessary to emphasize, that the bilateral format of relations not to the full corresponds to the purposes of the activity. Our problem to coordinate efforts and to start formation of effective mechanisms of multilateral interaction on suppression of calls of security in Asia. Thus, experience of the cooperation of the Republic of India with the countries of Central Asia on questions of regional security during the further strengthening of the Central Asian-Indian relations testifies to necessity:

  • signing of the Declaration on strategic partnership;
  • carrying out of regular multilateral summits for an estimation of carried out agreements;
  • carrying out of annual meetings on questions of foreign policy and international relations;
  • continuation of the dialogue on security issues and non-distribution of the nuclear weapon;
  • creation of joint working group on questions of struggle against terrorism and religious extremism;
  • strengthening of cooperation in the field of military-technical cooperation and an exchange of experience in this

The President of the Republic of India Pratibha Patil has called the countries of Central Asia to unit efforts in struggle against the international terrorism which threatens to security of the world.

«It is necessary for Governments of the countries of the region to take urgent measures on destruction of terrorism in all its forms of display». As she said, distribution of radicalism and hatred threatens to all world. «Acts of terrorism in 2008 in Mumbai have shown, that the terrorism was distributed everywhere and any country is not protected from its danger». Patil has noted, that Central Asia takes a high place in foreign policy of India. «We are going to expand the cooperation in the field of regional security, in sphere of education and in sphere of business activity, including power and the foodstuffs» [8]. The countries of Central Asia and India have a common opinion in security issues, stability and regional cooperation.


The list of literature

  1. Gujral I.K. Continuity and Change: India’s Foreign Policy. — New Delhi, 2003. — 142
  2. Gujral I.K. A Foreign Policy for India / Government of India: N.D., 1998. — 337
  3. Joint Communiqué on the results of the trilateral meeting of the Foreign Minister of India, Russia and China //
  4. Ganduly Sumit. India as an emerging power. — London, Gass.: 2003. — 233
  5. Гусев Л. Индийские аналитики о ШОС //
  6. Выступление Министра иностранных дел Касымжомарта Токаева на конференции «Стратегия Казахстан–2030 в действии», 11 октября 2005 года, Астана //
  7. Phunchok Stobdan. Building a strategic partnership with Kazakhstan (A blueprint for India’s Central Asia Policy) //
  8. Президент Индии       призвала      страны      Средней       Азии      объединить       усилия      против      терроризма      //
Year: 2010
City: Karaganda
Category: History