New Delhi: All five Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, are being invited by New Delhi as the Republic Day guest. This is the first time that all Central Asian countries will be present as the guest and the second time so many countries will be invited together after ASEAN as a grouping was invited for Republic day in 2018.
The formal conversation regarding this started 2-3 weeks ago between the two sides, multiple sources have confirmed. This is a significant outreach to Central Asia by New Delhi, with which it shares cultural, civilizational, and historic linkages. Prime Minister Modi had visited all Central Asian countries in 2015, a first by any Indian Prime Minister since the five republics came into being since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The visit by Central Asian leadership marks the first summit of Central Asia and India dialogue, a mechanism that already exists at the foreign minister’s level. On 18-19th December, New Delhi will be hosting the Central Asian, India foreign ministers meet.
This will be the third such meeting of Central Asian and Indian foreign ministers. The first such meet happened in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand in January 2019 which saw India being represented by the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Last year, the meet happened virtually.
India has in the past announced US $ 1 billion Line of Credit for priority development projects in fields such as connectivity, energy, IT, healthcare, education, agriculture etc. It has also pitched for Chabahar port in Iran for an easy route for connectivity, something that has garnered support among those countries.
Afghanistan has been one of the main topics of conversation between the two sides, with EAM visiting Uzbekistan and Tajikistan earlier this year where the issue dominated.
India’s choice of guests at the republic day shows its closeness with the country or a region. Under PM Narendra Modi’s tenure, starting 2014, India has invited US President Barack Obama (2015), French President Francois Hollande(2016), UAE’s Md Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (2017), all the 10 ASEAN countries (2018), South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa (2019) and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro (2020).
Last year, UK’s Boris Johnson was expected as the guest but that could not happen due to covid crisis. Among the Central Asian countries, only Kazakhstan has been the chief guest of India’s grand parade in the year 2009.