Covid-19 may upset plan to host Central Asian leaders on January 26

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india, central asia, shanghai cooperation organisation, security dialogue, January 26

New Delhi: The government is unlikely to go ahead with its plan of inviting the heads of the five Central Asian nations for this year’s Republic Day celebration, according to people aware of the matter, amid a rise in Covid-19 infections.

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Instead, it has proposed to host a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on January 24 or 27, they said.

The earlier plan was to host the five Central Asian leaders for the first-ever summit coinciding with the January 26 event, with the aim to expand outreach to Eurasia. ET was the first to report it.

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Sources indicated that the modalities of the virtual meet are being worked out by officials in the five Central Asian capitals.

In 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson could not make it to India for Republic Day due to the Covid-19 situation in the UK. But the Republic Day parade took place and close to 25,000 people were allowed to attend it.

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This year, about 24,000 people will be permitted to attend the Republic Day parade on January 26, according to sources. In 2020, before the pandemic struck India, around 125,000 people were permitted to attend the parade.

Besides development partnerships, investments, security partnerships and connectivity via Iran’s Chabahar Port to Central Asia–often considered India’s extended neighbourhood–are the key pillars of engagement between India and the Central Asian region.

The counter-terror partnership between India and Central Asia is expected to gain momentum in the backdrop of the developments in Afghanistan and the recent terror attacks in Kazakhstan. Radicals from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region were actively involved in the Kazakh terror attacks.

The strong bonds between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union have contributed to New Delhi’s growing ties with the Central Asian region. India’s presence in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is also contributing to this.

Besides India and Russia are working on joint projects in Central Asia in the areas of defence production and joint exercises, ET had earlier reported. During the India-Russia 2 + 2 meet in Delhi on December 6, both sides discussed proposals for joint projects in Central Asia, a region where Russia still has huge stakes, including military pacts with three of the five countries. Moscow has been keen that New Delhi increases its footprints in the region.

The foreign ministers of India and the Central Asian countries met here last month to further the agenda.

In November, India hosted the national security advisors of Central Asia besides Russia and Iran for the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan.

At the Security Dialogue, the national security advisors (NSAs) of India, Russia, Iran and Central Asia had called for the creation of an inclusive government in Kabul and resolved to fight terror and radical forces. The situation in Afghanistan and cross-border threats from there, besides the looming humanitarian crisis, were on the agenda.

From Central Asia, the then Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had participated in India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2009. During Nazarbayev’s visit, the two countries had signed a deal for Kazakhstan to supply uranium to India.

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