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Modi’s Eurasia Visit: BREAKING BREAD WITH SHARIF, By Gaurav Kumar Jha, 16 July, 2015 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 16 July 2015

Modi’s Eurasia Visit


By Gaurav Kumar Jha

(Research Scholar, JNU)


“Who rules the Heartland commands… the world”, stated Halford Mackinder father of modern geo-politics and geo-strategy. Notably, recent trips by Prime Minister Modi underscores he understands the relevance of this region.

After meeting successes in his ‘Neighbourhood First’, ‘Act East’, ‘Link West’ and upbeat Indian Ocean diplomacy in Southern India's landmass, New Delhi shifted attention northward to the Eurasian region to increase its influence and reconnect with the land of Sakas (Kushans).

Towards that end, Modi visited five Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan along-with participating in the BRICS and SCO summits in Ufa, Russia last week.

However, all this was over-shadowed by the Indo-Pak dialogue between Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the BRICS Summit sidelines. True, the talks cannot be termed ‘breakthrough’, but are an indication of a positive step. Cryptically, both agreed to collective responsibility to “ensure peace and promote development”.

Towards that end, in the smallest-ever 216-words joint statement both sides agreed “to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including providing voice samples”. The other four steps: “Meetings between the two National Security Advisors on terrorism; DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers followed by DGMOs.

Fishermen held by the two nations to be released within 15 days; mechanism for facilitating religious tourism”. Nawaz Sharif once again reiterated his invitation to Modi to visit Pakistan for the SAARC Summit next year which he accepted.

However, this step forward turned into a two steps backward with Pakistan’s NSA Sartaj Aziz reneging on its commitment. Asserted Aziz, “Our Government will not compromise on the country's dignity and honour.” Adding for good measure, “there cannot be any dialogue with India unless the Kashmir issue is not resolved.”

Further, he ruled out further movement on the 26/11 investigation, delayed for over six years, till India gave more proof and documents. Simultaneously, 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi’s lawyer reiterated that Lakhvi would not give his voice samples.

Clearly, by shifting its goal posts, Pakistan has put India in a Catch-22 situation. The catch for India will be whether to go ahead with the Ufa spirit and resume talks with Pakistan, notwithstanding, that nothing has changed. Or should the proposed interactions be cancelled which would endorse New Delhi’s international reputation as an obdurate hawk. Either which way, this does not bode well for the Government.

This apart, the visits to Five Central Asian countries was important as India’s stakes go beyond energy and security or attracting more trade and investments herein.  In Uzbekistan, the Prime Minister held talks with President Karimov and signed significant agreements to fortify cooperation.

In Kazakhstan, he met President Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Karim Massimov and signed documents. In Turkmenistan, India offered that it becomes the International North South Transport Corridor member alongside opening a traditional Medicine and Yoga Centre.

Another feather in India’s cap was getting full membership of SCO by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan along-with Pakistan. Given that this organisation accounts for 60 per cent of Eurasia’s land mass boasting of a quarter of the world’s population. With ‘observers’ Afghanistan, Iran and Mongolia and Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey as dialogue partners this totals half of the world’s population.

Significantly, India underlined its commitment to world peace and combating terrorism. “We will work with SCO to combat extremism. The future of prosperity rests on the foundation of peace. India will contribute to advancing peace and friendship in the region,” stated Modi.

Highlighting, that he would deepen India’s engagement with SCO member-nations, Modi averred the need to build infrastructure, ease trade barriers and expand connectivity in the region. He also stressed further impetus in banking and capital markets, micro-small and medium enterprises, micro-finance, food security, pharmaceuticals and health, human resource development, information and communication technology.

Indeed, membership of SCO is vital for India as it gives us major strategic inroads into Central Asia, a region that New Delhi has tried upping its engagement with since the 1990s.The only hurdle of full membership till now was China’s reluctance. By granting Pakistan’s full membership also, Beijing has counter-balanced its strategy.

Further, with India now becoming SCO’s full member which will now had four Nuclear-armed countries, western fears of it acting as an ‘Eastern NATO’ is likely to end as Modi has been trying to improve ties with the East and West equally.

Also, it is in India and China’s interests not to allow SCO from being seen as an anti-West organisation as both countries have large trade volumes with the US and EU rather than Russia. For Beijing, SCO is important to stimulate its Silk Road Project and for New Delhi it is gaining connectivity and access to Central Asia.

Pertinently, the economic goals of both Asian giants can only be met when there is stability in the region, not by pursuing hostile hard power tactics targeted against the West or even within the region. Therefore, the goals of China and India are symbiotic and synergistic in the Eurasian region.

Modi used the Ufa visit to hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghanistan’s Ashraf Ghani.

In sum, the success of Modi’s trip shall be measured not just in terms of inflow of investments and foreign trade, which most of his foreign trips have hitherto failed to attract. But in terms of creating an over-arching foreign policy framework that links his varied initiatives like all his other Firsts in a singular framework to protect and promote India’s vital interests. ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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