NEW DELHI (Xinhua) – Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left yesterday for a four-day tour of three Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
According to the External Affairs Ministry, Ms Swaraj’s first stop is Kazakhstan Astana, where she will hold discussions with her Kazakh counterpart Kairat Abdrakhmanov and call on the country’s top leadership.
She will then leave for Kyrgyzstan where she would hold talks with the country’s Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev and meet the top leadership.
In the last leg of her tour of Uzbekistan, Ms Swaraj will go to Tashkent. “In that country also, the Indian minister will call on the leadership and meet its foreign minister,” sources said.
In the Central Asian countries she is visiting, the minister will also interact with the Indian community.
Her trip is also seen as a move by India to create firm ties among the energy-exporting states of Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan besides Turkmenistan.
New Delhi is considering exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Kazakhstan and participation of its companies in the oil and gas sector. Kazakhstan has expressed interest in supplying gas to India. These Central Asian countries and India also have long traditions of social-cultural, religious, political and economic contact since ancient times.
The two regions have common and contiguous borders, climatic continuity, similar geographical features and geo-cultural affinity. There has always been uninterrupted flow of people, material and the ideas between the two.
While oil and uranium rich Kazakhstan is an old partner, Uzbekistan, which has historical links with India, is emerging as the next big partner for New Delhi in the region. It has offered to provide special incentives and zones for Indian businesses, expand defence and counter-terror partnership with India and extend an opportunity to expand presence in the region and Afghanistan through mega connectivity initiatives.