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A number of outside powers have entrenched themselves in Central Asia, which is a zone of interest to India. Discuss the implications, in this context, of India’s joining the Ashgabat Agreement, 2018. (150 words)

Central Asia is a region of great interest to India, given its strategic location and rich natural resources. However, several outside powers have entrenched themselves in the region, posing a challenge to India’s interests. India’s recent joining of the Ashgabat Agreement, 2018 has several implications in this context:

Implications for India:

  • Promoting trade with Central Asia: India’s membership in the Ashgabat Agreement will help promote trade with the Central Asian countries and the Eurasian region.
  • Synchronization of efforts: It will synchronize India’s efforts to implement the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for enhanced connectivity.
  • Chabahar port: Joining the agreement opens up the possibility of enlarging the operational and practical scope of the Chabahar port.
  • Gateway to Central Asia: It will serve as the shortest and most vital route to Central Asia for India.
  • Afghanistan: The agreement will help connect India with Afghanistan and improve trade relations between the two countries.
  • Reduced dependency on Pakistan: Joining the Ashgabat Agreement will reduce the dependency of India and Afghanistan on Pakistan for transit and trade permits.
  • Energy security: It will help ease India’s energy requirement needs, as it connects India with the mineral-rich regions of Central Asia.

Way forward:

  • India must leverage its membership in the Ashgabat Agreement to increase its trade ties with the Central Asian countries and promote regional connectivity.
  • India must also engage in dialogue with other outside powers in the region to safeguard its interests and maintain regional stability.
  • India should continue to invest in the development of Chabahar port as a strategic gateway to Central Asia and as an alternative to Gwadar port in Pakistan.

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