NEW DELHI: Underscoring the importance India attaches to connectivity and economic integration with Central Asian countries, NSA Ajit Doval slammed Pakistan for blocking direct land access between India and Central Asia as he said the present situation wasn’t just “self-defeating’’ for Islamabad but also reduced the “collective well-being’’ of the entire region.
Without naming either China or Pakistan, Doval also underlined India’s position that connectivity initiatives had to be transparent, mindful of sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations and not cause debt burdens. Doval made the remarks in the second meeting of the national security advisers of India and Central Asian countries in Kazakhstan.
With issues related to regional security, particularly in the context of Afghanistan, dominating the agenda of the meeting, Doval also emphasised that any act of terrorism, regardless of its motivation, was unjustifiable and offered fully funded capacity building programmes to the 5 countries that participated in the meeting – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – to deal with the menace.
The NSA also invited the Central Asian countries to utilise the Chabahar port in Iran and its terminal operated by an Indian company for maritime trade. Describing the lack of land connectivity between India and Central Asia, a resource-rich region where China has been rapidly building influence, as an anomaly, Doval said this was the result of a “conscious policy of denial by a particular country’’.
Pakistan doesn’t allow India land access even to Afghanistan, which India sees as a contiguous neighbour. The only time it made an exception in recent times was in 2021, shortly after the return of the Taliban, when it allowed India to supply 50,000 tonnes of wheat to the drought-hit country through the land route.
The meeting also saw the participating countries expressing concerns over the situation in Afghanistan. Doval highlighted India’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and India’s efforts to encourage sports in the country, including through the participation of its cricket team in the ongoing world cup. Apart from humanitarian assistance, formation of a truly inclusive and representative government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking and safeguarding the rights of women, children and minorities were listed in the meeting as the common immediate priorities of the participating countries.
The NSA dialogue mechanism between India and Central Asia followed the first summit that India hosted with the countries of the region in early 2022. It was a product of the need both sides felt for a regional security dialogue, keeping in mind common threats and security challenges like terrorism, extremism and radicalisation. To facilitate a deeper understanding of Islam, India is also looking to organise a seminar that will see participation by leading scholars from both sides. It’s expected to underscore the importance of dialogue and diplomacy in resolving disputes.
The meeting on Tuesday also saw focus on enhancing cooperation in cyber security, digital infrastructure, rare earths and people to people contacts. Doval proposed an India-Central Asia Rare Earths Forums to facilitate investments by Indian private companies.
According to Indian government sources, India will work closely with Central Asian countries to help them “build defences against cyber threats and create a secure cyber ecosystem’’.
“India invited the Heads of the Cyber Security Agencies of all the Central Asian countries to India for a strategic cyber experience,’’ said an official.

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