Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the First Central Asian Summit with other leaders ( Twitter/MEAIndia)
NEW DELHI: Emphasising further development of mutual connectivity for enhancing trade and commerce, India and Central Asian countries on Thursday agreed that connectivity initiatives should be based on the principles of transparency and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
At the first India-Central Asia Summit, the leaders of participating countries welcomed the proposal of India to establish a joint working group on Chabahar Port to address issues of free movements of goods and services between India and Central Asian countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted the virtual summit which was attended by Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Japarov, Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The virtual summit coincided with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Central Asian countries.
The Delhi declaration adopted at the summit said India and the Central Asian member countries of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), as well as the Ashgabat Agreement on International Transport and Transit Corridor, called upon the other Central Asian countries to consider joining these connectivity initiatives.
“The sides agreed that connectivity initiatives should be based on the principles of transparency, broad participation, local priorities, financial sustainability and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” the declaration said.
The Indian side welcomed the interest of Central Asian countries to utilize the services of Shahid Beheshti Terminal at Chabahar Port for facilitating their trade with India and other external markets.
The sides supported India’s proposal to include the Chabahar Port and noted Turkmenistan’s proposal to include the Turkmenbashi Port within the framework of INSTC (International North-South Transport Corridor).
The Delhi Declaration said the leaders agreed to continue engagement for further developing the transit and transport potential of their countries, improving the logistics network of the region and promoting joint initiatives to create regional and international transport corridors. They also noted the need for continued large-scale and long-term economic cooperation between Central Asian countries and India in order to strengthen and expand inter-connectivity.
In this context, the President of Turkmenistan stressed the importance of TAPI gas pipeline project. The leaders noted that the current level of trade and investments between India and Central Asian countries is far from realizing its true potential and stressed the importance of making concerted efforts to boost trade and investment in various sectors like medicine, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, education and information technology. They welcomed the development of direct contacts between the states of India and the regions of Central Asian countries, including through the establishment of partnership arrangements between them.
The leaders directed their respective ministers to prepare a roadmap for enhancing mutual trade volume and industrial cooperation between India and the Central Asian countries. The leaders encouraged the India-Central Asia Business Council (ICABC) to accelerate their efforts to promote business linkages, facilitate a greater understanding of business regulations and incentivize mutual investments. They took note of the proposal to create an India-Central Asia Investment Club under ICABC to promote investment opportunities in each other’s countries.
The leaders noted that further development of mutual connectivity is essential for enhanced trade and commerce between India and Central Asian countries in the context of their land-locked nature and lack of overland connectivity with India. They emphasized that connectivity projects deserve priority attention and could be a force-multiplier for trade and economic cooperation and contacts between countries and people.
Iran and India had signed an agreement in 2018 to develop the Chabahar Port in South-Eastern Iran. The port is located in the Gulf of Oman and provides an alternative route for trade between India and Afghanistan. The Chabahar port is a key connectivity project to boost trade ties among India, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. (ANI)