India can do more in Central Asia

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by ejazr, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/india-can-do-more-in-central-asia-1.701610

    If New Delhi seeks greater influence in the region, it needs to show more interest in developing relations with key West Asian states

    India's central Asia policy lacks holistic vision. Any effort to locate the area from an Indian perspective require, first, a redefinition of the existing parameters in Central Asia; and second, from a re-interpretation of the existing balance of power to portend possible policy options and alternatives.

    The question of what Central Asia means to India can be addressed from at least three perspectives: historical, geopolitical and cultural. Analysing these elements in detail will not only explain the main determinants of India's policy towards Central Asia but also reveal options, obstacles and limitations.

    From a historical perspective, one should accept that partition of the subcontinent in 1947 pushed India to the periphery of Central Asia and constrained its strategic options. While partition has influenced Indian domestic foreign policy greatly, its more profound impact has been on Indian foreign policy. After the creation of Pakistan, India was cut-off from its historical and natural neighbours: Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

    From a geopolitical perspective, it is possible to argue there are three big players and three middle-tier players in Central Asia. The big players are Russia, China and the US (through their presence in Afghanistan). The middle players are Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. In this geopolitical setting, India is an outside power, and may influence the key questions in Central Asia in a mostly indirect way.

    There is also a cultural element originating from India's own strategic thinking that shapes its policy towards Central Asia. A widely held view in the Indian strategic community is that ‘India's status is given, not earned'.

    This has led many within the Indian political elite to take the rhetoric of a ‘Rising India' as an objective reality and to expect that others, especially those in Central Asia, to recognise India and act accordingly. This expectation has undermined India's Central Asian policy. More specifically, it has created a romanticised perspective within India about Central Asia. Curiously, the Indian policy elite tends not to query how the Central Asian republics see and perceive India.

    India's foreign policy towards Central Asia has two characteristics. First, it has been generally mild and cautious, although it has become more assertive after the Chinese diplomatic offensive started in the region around 2005. Since then, India understood that despite the rising power rhetoric, its ability to shape the politics in Central Asia was very limited.

    With China and Pakistan hostile, it is almost impossible for India to directly exert influence in Central Asia. The prime case here is in Afghanistan. This feeling of isolation accentuates India's need to develop a new and cohesive strategy. Discussions about this new strategy have been fitful and intermittent arguably because the basic question of what India wants from the region has not been answered.

    Second, India's Central Asia policy has been ad hoc in nature and reactive.

    In order to avoid this, India should define its position and priorities vis-à-vis other players in Central Asia. Does India want to balance the big players such as China and Russia in Central Asia? Or does India seek to balance middle players like Pakistan and Iran?

    From a realist perspective, the possibility of India's balancing of the big players in Central Asia sounds like a stretch. However, whether India should balance the middle players in the area or not is a question that is directly related to Pakistan, since India has excellent relations with Turkey and Iran.

    Middle-tier players

    A new Indian strategy towards Central Asia should conceive of the region beyond Pakistan and China, and develop a policy of building inroads of cooperation with the middle-tier players, especially with Turkey and Iran. India's cooperation with Russia and the US in Central Asia is beneficial, but it is unlikely to secure the foreign policy posture India desires.

    On the other hand, cooperation with Iran and Turkey might be beneficial for India for various reasons. First, Turkey and Iran are making significant strides in Central Asia in the political, economic and energy realms. Turkey's inroads are especially striking.

    In September 2010, the presidents of Turkey and the Turkic republics decided to establish a new political mechanism — the Turkic Leaders Summit — which will have its secretariat in Istanbul.

    Currently, India's principal foreign policy focus continues to be dominated by Pakistan and China. As such, it has overlooked ways to influence Central Asia through different channels such as cooperating with middle-tie countries. For that to happen, India should work to improve relations with at bilateral level first.

    In India, there is a feeling that West Asia is of lesser interest for Delhi's foreign policy tsars. If India seeks greater influence in Central Asia, it needs to show more interest in developing relations with key West Asian states. After all, the nomenclature, "West Asia" connotes that Turkey and Iran are not far away lands.

    Mehmet Ozkan is a PhD Candidate at Sevilla University, Spain, and a Visiting Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
     
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Even with relationship with west asia india will remain at the periphery of the central asia as it is now.Truth is india cant do anything in central asia untill it has direct land access route to central asia.Thats the reason POK is as important to india strategically.With POK in its hand india can by-pass pakistan to land acess to central asia and afghanistan through wakhan corridor and severe the china-pak link.And to even think about such a geopolitical move india must 've gutsy leader in south block not some weak hearted ones.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2010
  4. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    China-Pak Karakoram link of highway and railway smashes such a dream, needless to mention wakhan corridor is an impasse for human beings
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    you never know when pakistan is in question........china has already sold pakistan down the indus twice....1971 and 1999:happy_2:
     
  6. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Well there are two main routes although more expensive than land route via Pakistan that can allow India access to central Asia.

    (1) Iran-Afghanistan-Central Asia
    (2) Turkey-CIS/Central Asia

    The better the infrastructure the cheaper the transport.

    But the more important idea is to work with middle tier players to make Afghanistan-Central Asia conducive to Indian influence. Lets not forget that the anti-Taliban coalition forged in the 90s was mainly India working with Iran,Russia, Central Asian states as well as Turkey against the Taliban and Pakistan on the other side. So there is already a precedent for this co-operation.
     
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Those routes are not feasible
    1. cost and time taken
    2.UNSC sanctions on iran.

    Thats true iran-russia-turkey-india cooperated and helped northern alliance but it also true that these countries were unable to push back taliban and prevent take over of kabul by taliban and save president najibullah.India was found to be grappling when IC814 was hijacked and taken to kandhar just coz there was no direct access to afghanistan for india. any route through pakistan and Afghanistan to central asia is not safe for india and hence it cant project its powers there or play the big role in central asia.for that to happen india needs direct land access route to central asia.Where POK comes into picture.POK is strategically too important for india to leave it just like that.
     
  8. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Making the routes economically feasible is how India will become a gamechanger.

    Our view shouldbe 10-20-30 years from now.

    As we gain expereince in infrastructure, what is preventing Indian companies to launch high speed rail and highway projects for Turkey CIS and Iran Afghan routes? And regarding Iran sanctions, with India on the UNSC, its going to have to get involved in this sooner or later. The US gives a rats ass when it comes to protecting its interests and is willing to support the most extremists groups if necessary as it did with the war against Communism.

    US needs India more than theother way around. US should get either full transit rights though Pakistan for India or be willing to concede Indian's transport requirements through Iran.

    Besides, TAPI is still on the table and the tansit trade has a one way component as well. Its just that the better infratructure along the different routes,the more economical it will become in the long run. And India couldeven get local investors to fund the project. Its all about thinking out-of the box.
     
  9. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    The way war in afghanistan is going on and the way david headley's case crop up i dont think usa need india.Anyway india wont be fighting usa's wars or carry forward its interests in the region as pakistan does.so usa bets on pakistan and rightly so.Pakistan is usa's cats paw in south asia .And usa dont want to repeat same mistake it did with china to have another competitor in asia.
     

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