India & Kyrgyzstan Consolidating Developmental Partnership

Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chingiz Azamatovich Aidarbekov was on his first official visit to India to consolidate and provide a new direction to growing India-Kyrgyzstan bilateral engagement.  Foreign Minister Aidarbekov called on Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla. He also addressed a Business Forum and held delegation level talks with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The two ministers held extensive discussions on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest. While the focus was on finding ways to boost economic cooperation, emphasis was also given to re-energise cooperation in defence, training, IT, e-governance, health care, pharmaceuticals, tourism, movie production and culture. Both side acknowledged the threat posed by terrorism and radicalisation of their societies. They agreed to fight this menace together and exchange their experience in the field of de-radicalisation.

The Kyrgyzstan Foreign Minister highlighted the potential to increase cooperation in the field of education by encouraging collaboration between educational institutes of both the countries. In this context, he noted the presence of 9000 Indian students in various educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan. Regional cooperation drew attention of both the ministers. They also discussed cooperation in the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Kyrgyzstan will host next SCO Summit in June 2019 where India will be participating as full member. Foreign Minister Aidarbekov extended invitation to the Indian Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister for the upcoming SCO Summit.

India and Kyrgyzstan enjoy excellent political relations; however economic leg of this partnership has been weak. Bilateral trade figures do not commensurate the strong political ties. The bilateral trade in 2016-17 stood at US $ 24.98 million. India’s exports to Kyrgyzstan were $22.66 million whereas Kyrgyz exports to India were $2.32 million. The visit of Mr. Aidarbekov can be seen as an important step to strengthen and consolidate trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. Kyrgyzstan has recently liberalized its economy to attract foreign investments; there is huge potential for Indian companies to do business in Kyrgyzstan. Mr. Aidarbekov invited Indian companies to invest and participate in the new infrastructure projects in Kyrgyzstan, including in the fields of railways and hydro-electricity.

Foreign Minister Aidarbekov was highly appreciative of recent initiative of the India-Central Asia Foreign Minister’s Dialogue including the participation of Afghanistan which was held in Samarkand last month. In his view, this dialogue not only provides a platform for region wide cooperation but also brings benefits to all the participating countries to enhance trade and economic cooperation and greater connectivity. This was an acknowledgement of India’s contribution in re-energising its ties with the entire region. India would be hosting the next dialogue in 2020.

New Delhi has built comprehensive partnership with all its Central Asian partners. In the last four and a half years, India’s policy towards the region has moved towards ‘Connect North’ with an aim to boost political, economic and strategic ties. India is all set to build meaningful partnerships with the region in the context of new geo-political changes shaping the Eurasian region. Prime Minister Modi’s simultaneous visits to the five Central Asian Republics (CARs) in 2015 – the first by an Indian Prime Minister in half a century, set the tone for a new equation with the CARs. India has sought to re-energise its linkages with Central Asia, a region of not merely civilizational but also geopolitical and economic importance.

Kyrgyzstan features significantly in India’s Central Asia policy. After the independence of the Kyrgyz Republic in 1991, India was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with it in March 1992. Over the years, both countries have worked towards strengthening their strategic partnership incorporating wide ranging areas of cooperation. Given the interest and desire on both sides to consolidate this partnership, bilateral relations are likely to get a new momentum after the visit of the Foreign Minister Aidarbekov.

Script: Dr. Meena Singh Roy, Strategic Analyst On Central Asia