Tech, tourism, education main attraction for Central Asian countries in India

Tech, tourism, education
Photo credit: Trend

India stands as a steadfast and trustworthy collaborator in the developmental progress of Central Asia. Leveraging India's extensive knowledge and proficiency in IT, education, and healthcare, Central Asian countries have actively contributed to the enhancement of capacities and the development of human resources in their nations, Trend reports.

Over 6,200 professionals and 1,500 students from Central Asia have received training in India through our ITEC programme and ICCR scholarships. Noteworthy grant-based projects in key sectors like IT, hydro-power, infrastructure, and healthcare have been successfully implemented by India in Central Asian countries.

Central Asian nations possess abundant energy resources. Turkmenistan ranks among the top five countries globally in proven natural gas reserves. Kazakhstan boasts significant reserves of crude oil, while Uzbekistan also has substantial natural gas reserves. Notably, India currently stands as the world's third-largest energy consumer.

In the initial half of fiscal year 2023/24, the proportion of Russian oil in India's total imports increased to approximately 40 per cent, solidifying Moscow's position as the primary supplier. This shift occurred as refiners reduced their purchases from the Middle East, according to industry data.

India stands ready to share its experience and expertise in renewable energy and welcome the Central Asian countries in the International Solar Alliance and the One Sun, One World, One Grid initiative. Some Central Asian countries have much more hydro potential.

The IT, healthcare, education and tourism remain as the key fields of interest between Central Asian countries and India.

Kazakhstan is India’s largest trade and investment partner in Central Asia. Total bilateral trade between India and Kazakhstan amounted to US$1 billion in 2023. Kazakhstan is increasingly focusing on developing its technology and innovation sector, with a growing start-up ecosystem and government support for IT development. Indian tech companies and start-ups can consider partnering with Kazakh counterparts or investing in the growing IT and innovation sector.

India has also emerged as a highly reliable and cost-effective medical tourism destination for the Central Asian countries.

The Central Asian countries have expressed desire to deepen cooperation with India in the health-care sector, including medical tourism. Increasing tourist arrivals, including in the segments of pilgrimage and historical and cultural tourism, creating tourism trails across the region, encouraging investment in tourism infrastructure were also emphasized.

Taking note of the large number of students from India and the Central Asian countries studying in each other’s higher educational institutions, India and Central Asia stressed the importance of ensuring their welfare. Both sides have also expressed interest in strengthening mutual cooperation in the field of Science, Technology and Innovation by enhancing direct cooperation between government organizations, research institutes, innovation centres and technological enterprises of India and the Central Asian countries.

Central Asia emerges as a recent geopolitical development with significant strategic importance in the foreseeable future. Despite its potential as a consumer market, there are untapped opportunities awaiting exploration. Central Asia lies at the strategic junction between two nuclear powers, Russia and China.

India holds the fourth position worldwide in installed renewable energy capacity, constituting 40 per cent of its overall energy mix from non-fossil fuel sources. India is prepared to impart its knowledge on harnessing renewable energy to the Central Asian nations.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic tour of all five Central Asian countries in 2015 played a pivotal role in enhancing the diplomatic relations. The year 2017 witnessed India's accession to the SCO, followed by the initiation of an India-Central Asia Dialogue at the Foreign Ministers' level in 2019. The inaugural India-Central Asia Summit held in January of the current year marked a significant milestone, solidifying the bonds. During the summit, consensus was reached on conducting regular meetings involving Foreign Ministers, Trade Ministers, Culture Ministers, Secretaries of National Security Councils, and the India-Central Asia Parliamentary Forum. Additionally, an agreement was made to establish the "India-Central Asia Centre" in New Delhi, aiming to further institutionalize and strengthen our partnership.

The topic of Indo-Central Asian relations is well-established, with a rich historical connection that has consistently portrayed the region as an extension of India's neighbourhood. It's crucial to emphasize that the enduring relationship between these areas, spanning centuries, has developed through continuous cultural exchanges. Various aspects of their cultures, civilizations, and intellectual histories indicate an intertwined evolution, marked by reciprocal cultural enrichment. In contemporary times, Central Asia holds significance for India not only in terms of civilization and history but also in geopolitical and economic dimensions. The strategic importance of Central Asia to India is substantial, presenting abundant opportunities for practical and mutually beneficial engagement between the two regions.

India is keenly aware of its historical connections along the Silk Route with Central Asia and is aspiring to tap into the largely unexplored energy resources in the region. To overcome connectivity challenges, India has made substantial investments in the realization of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Chabahar project, both of which are nearing completion.

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