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The visit by Prime Minister to all the five Central Asian states countries in the region in July this year has provided the much needed impetus to our “Connect Central Asia” policy. This policy was launched in 2012 to enrich our contacts with the region. We share two main interests with countries in the region – security and counter-terrorism on the one hand; and mutually beneficial economic engagement including in the use of energy and natural resources on the other. Central Asia also provides opportunities for closer cooperation in other sectors such as education, culture, tourism, health, banking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, textiles, engineering and Science & Technology. India’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization recently is also part of this deepening engagement with the region. Our ongoing efforts at examining the possibility of an FTA with the Eurasian Economic Union will also further deepen our integration with the region.
Even as we pursue closer cooperation with the region, we must remain cognisant that our ties have been the closest and mutually beneficial only when we have had established routes of connectivity with each other. In this regard, we need to make full use of the opportunities offered by the recent Iranian nuclear deal which opens the possibility of establishing connectivity with the region through the development of Chahbahar Port in Iran. This also opens up the possibility of implementing the International North South Corridor for a competitive and quick route to Eurasia for India. India’s future dependence on imported energy, mainly oil and gas, is a stark reality that will also require creative and diversifying sources of supply. The Central Asian States have considerable surplus and the TAPI pipeline project is worth pursuing both for sourcing energy supplies and its collateral geo-strategic benefits. The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline can also be revived since Iran has already built the section of the pipeline in its territory. Such energy projects could also prove to be game changers for geo-strategic stability.
As I had mentioned earlier, CRRID and similar institutions play a crucial role in independently analyzing these aspects and presenting the foreign policy establishment with alternative roadmaps for the future. I congratulate CRRID for providing support for India’s foreign policy effort since 1982. I wish it and all scholars associated with CRRID the very best for their future efforts.
I have the pleasure of declaring this conference open. I am confident the deliberations during the conference will significantly add to the corpus of intellectual output that will help India in the making of our foreign policy.
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