On 15-16 December 2016 CAISS Acting Director Anna Gussarova and Deputy Director Yevgeniy Khon participated in a two-day conference entitled “Security Along the Silk Road”, organized by The NESA Center together with the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF).
The conference included experts from Central Asia and South Asia, East Asia, and Europe and focused on the economic, political, and human security dimensions of Central Asia and its surrounding regions. The discussions addressed several crucial concepts including the challenges of political development in Central Asia post-independence, terrorism and violent extremism, regional development and capacity, reconnecting economic development along the ‘Silk Road’, and looking for opportunities to expand external investments. Over 30 participants took part in the conference which was located at the offices of Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi.
Session I focused on challenges of Political Developments in Central Asia, in which Ms. Anna Gussarova (Kazakhstan), Dr. Meena Singh Roy, Ambassador Skand Tayal and Prof. Nirmala Joshi took part. Speakers of this session opined that Central Asian states are still going through the political transition. Each republic has developed its unique structures and institutions based on national ethos and socio-economic conditions. It was also agreed that democratic institutions should develop indigenously at their own pace and should not be super-imposed from outside.
Session II focused on ‘Economic Diversification and Modernization’, in which Mr. Ravshan Sobirzoda (Tajikistan), Mr. Yevgeniy Khon (Kazakhstan) and Prof. Gulshan Sachdeva participated. Speakers maintained that the Energy-rich CARs (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), which account for 95% of Central Asia’s GDP, depend heavily on energy revenue and need diversification. It was agreed that Central Asia need to economically integrate with the regional players to enhance economic growth.
Session III was related to the Energy Sector and included presentations of Mr. Talant Sultanov (Kyrgyzstan), Ms. Shebonti Dadwal and Amb. D. P. Srivastava. It was agreed by the speakers that Central Asia has vast hydrocarbon, uranium and hydel power resources. India, being an emerging energy market, has to get into Central Asia for fulfilling its energy needs. However, bringing energy through the troubled region of Af-Pak is not viable. Therefore, India has to develop alternate routes through the Chabahar port in Iran.
Session IV dealt with the Security Challenges like terrorism and violent extremism, in which Mr. Hekmatullah Azamy (Afghanistan), Dr. Hana Shelest (Ukraine) and Mr. Sushant Sareen took part. Speakers agreed that the security situation in Afghanistan continues to impact the security and stability of Eurasia. Any efforts to enhance connectivity cannot materialize without tackling the menace of terrorism and extremism. It was also argued that terrorism is a trans-border threat that calls for consorted effort from all powers.
Session V, which focused on Regional Connectivity, had Dr. Xin Zhang (China), Dr. Jafar Haghpanah (Iran), Amb. Asoke Mukerji, and Amb. D. P. Srivastava as speakers. Participants highlighted the role of Central Asian states in improving regional connectivity. Issues discussed were regarding China trying to enhance regional integration and connectivity through the revival of the concept of Silk Road(s) while Indian integration with the Central Asian region is limited because of lack of direct physical connectivity. The role of Iran is crucial in this regard, as alternate route is being built through the Chabahar port.
In Session VI that dealt with role of Outside Powers, Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, Dr. Roger Kangas (USA) and Ms. Ozge Nur Ogutcu (Turkey) participated. Because of the multi-vector foreign policies of the Central Asian states, no power is in position to dominate the region, although China has edge over others, maintained the speakers. Chinese engagements in the region are on rise in recent years, which are visible from OBOR initiative, massive investments in transport, and building of energy pipelines. Russian influence in the region is declining, and Russia seems to have bowed down to China in certain areas. US seems to have limited interest in Central Asia. India’s engagement is low at the moment; but India has huge potential in terms of security, energy security, trade, connectivity, political cooperation and cultural relations.