India must redouble efforts towards Central Asia to counter the ‘Great Game’ rivalries
While the strengthening of India-Central Asia ties and a revival of their traditional, historical and cultural links are much needed, it is also important to recognise the geopolitical cross-currents that complicate such efforts. While Russia continues to wield influence in the CAR governments, China’s Belt and Road Initiative and $100 billion trade (by some estimates) have made it a central figure in the region. The U.S. has also been seeking a foothold in the region, especially after Afghanistan. Meanwhile, India’s land connectivity to Central Asia is hampered by Pakistan which is building strong links and transit trade agreements with each of the CARs. The alternative route, via Iran’s Chabahar, has received a setback after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, and the development of the Indian-managed Shahid Beheshti terminal there continues to suffer due to the threat of American sanctions. While India has strengthened ties with other parts of Asia, it must now redouble its efforts towards Central Asia if it is to counter the ‘Great Game’ rivalries playing out in the region, and reclaim its shared history with countries that are an important market, a source for energy, and also a bulwark against the threats of extremism and radicalisation.
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