India has ignored Central Asian Region for too long and it always looked at the region through Moscow opined Dr. Kashi Nath Pandita, an eminent intellectual and well known central Asian expert. He was delivering a talk on the subject ‘Iran and Central Asian Region in Indian Perspective: Prospects & Possibilities’ in Vivekananda International Foundation Chanakyapuri New Delhi. Beginning with the difference in perception among people about the identification of the area called Central Asian Region, Dr. Pandita delved deep into the close relations India has had with the people and territory since time immemorial. He talked about the social, economical, cultural and political aspects of the people inhabiting in these regions.
During the Cold War period with the USSR intact and the Central Asian countries being its confederating units, India interacted with this region through Moscow. Even after dissolution of USSR India was slow to react to the changing realities, he added. Dr. Pandita who has been very closely connected with the area and is a keen observer of the developments there spoke in depth about the implications of the power game going on in the natural resource rich region for India and its future.
Involvement of China, Russia and USA and China-Pakistan nexus creating trouble spots for India and the developments in Afghanistan also were dealt with a fair amount of authority. Dr. Pandita declared assertively that no matter whether USA or Pakistan likes it or otherwise India shall not and will not exit from Afghanistan, the country with which it has had very close links and also for strategic reasons. Talking about Iran, Dr. Pandita asked for a patient dealing. He was of the opinion that in spite of several irritants and some irrational reactions from that country India has to understand that Iran is our gateway to Central Asia. Asking Iranian leadership to compare the mature Indian reaction to the Iranian consent to anti India resolutions in OIC with its reaction to Indian vote against Iranian nuclear programme, Dr. Pandita suggested caution in the interest of both the countries. He was all for the IPI gas pipeline advising all the concerned players to be pragmatic in finding out a way. He suggested that India to probe alternative options for an approach to Central Asia under international guarantees to ensure a transit route to the land locked region. Dr. KN Pandita was optimistic about the capabilities and ability of Indian leadership, both political as well as the diplomatic to make sure that the delay in paying attention to the most important region will be compensated with the accelerated action plan to make up for the loss of time.
An informed question answer session followed the speech by Dr. Pandita. Quality interventions were made by equally knowledgeable audience and Dr. Pandita was remarkably convincing and impressive in his response. Muralidhar Rao, National Secretary of BJP for example wanted to know the views of the learned speaker about the opinion in decision making circles that given the future needs of India in both economic and strategic terms and in relation to its aspiration for a permanent seat in UN security council was not it worthwhile to have a leaning toward US lead West? Dr. Pandita opined that in case of UN Security Council seat a 2/3rd majority support of UN general Assembly was a must. In such a scenario ignoring majority of the nations with a vote in General Assembly will not be ideal. So a balanced approach was needed he added. Sh. Ashok Bhan a senior Congress leader of J&K wanted to know the extent of impact of Iranian shift on Kashmir on the developments in the trouble torn valley the place that is fast emerging as Islamic state under secular democratic set up. Dr. Pandita responded by saying that irrespective of the extent to which Iranian noise on Kashmir impacts valley it is imperative to understand that can a secular democratic India afford to have a theocratic Islamic state as an confederating unit? Definition of secular democracy will need to be reinterpreted in that case he lamented. There were questions about the role of leading Muslim scholars of India and their role, and also about possibility of CAR playing a role in food security of the country. Dr. Pandita was eloquent in his reply to all the queries. While Mukul Kanitkar, Secretary Vivekananda International Foundation started the programme in traditional VIF way, Brig. Vinod Anand Senior Fellow at VIF made the opening remarks and also the vote of thanks. Ajay Bharti, editor Swadeshipatrika introduced Dr. KN Pandita.