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Penpa Dhundup asked: Is there any cooperation between India and China in Central Asia?

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  • Raviprasad Narayanan replies: India's efforts at creating a positional advantage in Central Asia is fraught with difficulties since the region is land locked and only Iran can play a role in facilitating access to the region for India. Central Asian countries are looking for a way out of the dreadlocks of Russia and Chabahar Port comes into the equation. Sanctions imposed on Iran by the United State have not so far impacted Chabahar Port, considered crucial for India’s access to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. This port is located close to Gwadar where the Chinese have a role in developing the infrastructure to accommodate People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships on 'courtesy' visits.

    China and India are deeply involved in the region with the former utilising its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a leverage to secure access to the Arabian Sea. For India, the uniqueness of Central Asia are its reserves of oil, gas and precious minerals like uranium, gold and iron ore. Same is for China. However, cooperation between the two is not something that has found fruition in this region.

    The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) – a joint initiative of India, Russia and Iran – is a laudable attempt at stitching the region, but one that comes into conflict with BRI and hence China and its larger investments. Being members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), China and India have a forum to discuss and implement joint projects, something very ideal and lost on a transactional world.

    Dr. Raviprasad Narayanan is Associate Professor at Centre for East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was earlier Associate Fellow at IDSA.

    Posted on February 25, 2019