|Demand of the question |
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Importance of Eurasia. How India can boost its presence?
Conclusion. Way forward.
The vast Eurasian landmass, stretching from China in the east to Europe in the west and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south, includes some of the world’s most powerful and dynamic states. The economic relationship between India and the Member States of the Eurasia has developed rapidly in the recent years, particularly during India’s ongoing process of economic reforms.
Importance of Eurasia for India:
- Resources: Eurasian region is rich in natural resources, most notably energy resources, characterized by significant production and exports. Economic cooperation with these countries is vital for safeguarding India’s interests. The Eurasian states are prospective long-term partners in energy (oil, natural gas) and natural resources (that include uranium and iron ore).
- Economic growth: Eurasia is important for India’s objective of becoming an Economic Hub due its strategic peninsular geographic location connecting various sub-regions of Asia and West Asia. This could well be facilitated by recent initiatives such as the Make in India, Skill India and Digital India. It could well serve as a mechanism to harness India’s demographic dividend as well if India economically integrates with other parts of Asia.
- Strategic: Eurasian Region is interested in decreasing their dependence on both Moscow and Beijing. Against this backdrop they are prepared to support India in its bid to strengthen its position in the region so as to become an alternative to the traditional players Russia, China, the EU and the US. Simultaneously Iran’s nuclear deal and Russia’s face-off with the West provide favourable conditions for a qualitative improvement in India’s relations with the Eurasian states.
- Tourism: India is an emerging tourist nation. Eurasia is important to garner tourists from the region. India should develop beaches and world class hotels in order to attract more tourists.
- Pharmaceutical: The medical and Pharmaceutical industry is another area that offers huge potential for cooperation. India is ready to extend cooperation by setting up civil hospitals/clinics in Eurasia. India is working on setting up a Central Asian e-network with its hub in India, to deliver, tele-education and tele-medicine connectivity, linking all the five Central Asian States.
- Construction industry: Indian companies can showcase its capability in the construction sector and build world class structures at competitive rates. Central Asian countries, especially Kazakhstan, have almost limitless reserves of iron ore and coal, as well as abundant cheap electricity. India can help set up several medium size steel rolling mills, producing its requirement of specific products.
How India can boost its presence?
- Facilitate regular and frequent shipping links between the ports in India (Mundra, Kandla & Mumbai) and Chabahar.
- Support the proposed joint Afghan-Uzbek project of extending the approximately 700-km long Mazar-i-Sharif to Herat railway line that would pass through western Afghanistan. If this project materialises, all Central Asian countries including Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan would be connected to Chabahar corridor via western Afghanistan.
- Apart from Afghanistan, India needs to rope in one or more of the Central Asian countries, preferably Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, in its effort to project Chabahar as a gateway between Eurasia and the Indian Ocean.
- Cooperation in the area of connectivity with these countries could also be pursued under the SCO framework.
- India should push its own connectivity agenda for Eurasia, without necessarily becoming engaged in direct conflict or competition with China’s BRI. Russia, Iran and Central Asian states can certainly help India enter into the Eurasian integration path.
- Apart from INSTC and Chabahar Port, India should seek to join Russia’s “Greater Eurasian” corridor and the Northeast Passage to connect to the Far East and even Japan.
While New Delhi enters the Eurasian integration path, it also needs to factor in the changing political dynamics within Central Asia. Following the recent change of leadership in Tashkent, the nature of the regional outlook is changing in favour of intra-regional cooperation. Indian policy response should cater for the interplay of trade, investment, connectivity and culture.