Conference on ‘Security along the Silk Road'
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Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), in collaboration with Near East and South Asia (NESA) Center, USA, had organized a two day Conference on ‘Security along the Silk Road’ on December 15-16, 2016. 11 international guests and 12 Indian delegates participated in the endeavor, which addressed the issues and challenges in Central Asia. Major focus of the discussions was on political developments in the Central Asian Republics (CARs), economic diversity, energy sector, security threats like terrorism and extremism, and regional connectivity.

Opening Remarks of the Conference were delivered by Gen. Vij, Director, VIF and Dr. Roger Kangas, from NESA Center. Gen. Vij asserted that Central Asia is geo-strategically important region. Central Asia’s significance mainly comes from its strategic location, abundance of natural resources, and rising security concerns. Dr. Roger Kangas highlighted the importance of connectivity and relations Central Asian Republics (CARs) maintain with the other regions of Asia. Ambassador Gitesh Sarma, from MEA, graced the occasion by his special remarks. He maintained that India considers Central Asia to be its ‘extended neighborhood’ and a priority area in policy-making.

Session I focused on challenges of Political Developments in Central Asia, in which Ms. Anna Gussarova (Kazakhstan), Dr. Meena Singh Roy, Ambassador Skand Tayal and Prof. Nirmala Joshi took part. Speakers of this session opined that CARs are still going through the political transition. Each republic has developed its unique structures and institutions based on national ethos and socio-economic conditions. It was also agreed that democratic institutions should develop indigenously at their own pace and should not be super-imposed from outside.

Session II focused on ‘Economic Diversification and Modernization’, in which Mr. Ravshan Sobirzoda (Tajikistan), Mr. Yevgenniy Khon (Kazakhstan) and Prof. Gulshan Sachdeva participated. Speakers maintained that the Energy-rich CARs (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), which account for 95% of Central Asia’s GDP, depend heavily on energy revenue and need diversification. It was agreed that CARs need to economically integrate with the regional players to enhance economic growth.

Session III was related to the Energy Sector and included presentations of Mr. Talant Sultanov (Kyrgyzstan), Ms. Shebonti Dadwal and Amb. D. P. Srivastava. It was agreed by the speakers that Central Asia has vast hydrocarbon, uranium and hydel power resources. India, being an emerging energy market, has to get into Central Asia for fulfilling its energy needs. However, bringing energy through the troubled region of Af-Pak is not viable. Therefore, India has to develop alternate routes through the Chabahar port in Iran.

Session IV dealt with the Security Challenges like terrorism and violent extremism, in which Mr. Hekmatullah Azamy (Afghanistan), Dr. Hana Shelest (Ukraine) and Mr. Sushant Sareen took part. Speakers agreed that the security situation in Afghanistan continues to impact the security and stability of Eurasia. Any efforts to enhance connectivity cannot materialize without tackling the menace of terrorism and extremism. It was also argued that terrorism is a trans-border threat that calls for consorted effort from all powers.

Session V, which focused on Regional Connectivity, had Dr. Xin Zhang (China), Dr. Jafar Haghpanah (Iran), Amb. Asoke Mukerji, and Amb. D. P. Srivastava as speakers. Participants highlighted the role of CARs in improving regional connectivity. Issues discussed were regarding China trying to enhance regional integration and connectivity through the revival of the concept of Silk Road(s) while Indian integration with the Central Asian region is limited because of lack of direct physical connectivity. The role of Iran is crucial in this regard, as alternate route is being built through the Chabahar port.

In Session VI that dealt with role of Outside Powers, Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, Dr. Roger Kangas (USA) and Ms. Ozge Nur Ogutcu (Turkey) participated. Because of the multi-vector foreign policies of the CARs, no power is in position to dominate the region, although China has edge over others, maintained the speakers. Chinese engagements in the CARs are on rise in recent years, which are visible from OBOR initiative, massive investments in transport, and building of energy pipelines. Russian influence in the region is declining, and Russia seems to have bowed down to China in certain areas. US seems to have limited interest in the CARs. India’s engagement in CARs is low at the moment; but India has huge potential in terms of security, energy security, trade, connectivity, political cooperation and cultural relations.

Gen. N. C. Vij summed up the discussions of the Conference. He reiterated that CARs have enormous economic potential, and can be important ‘destination’ for emerging economy like India. In order to enhance connectivity and integration with the region, India has to develop alternate routes through Iran. Director further commented that terrorism and radicalism pose serious challenge to Central Asia, and call for consorted efforts by all powers.

Event Date 
December 15, 2016
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