Kazakhstan–Pivot of Human History, says PM Modi


"I have come here, drawn by history and goodwill and as a neighbour, to write a new chapter in an ancient relationship... This might be the first time this has happened"

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, on July 7 (from Uzbekistan) on his five-nation tour of the Central Asian countries. Later in the day, in his address at Nazarbayev University in the presence of Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Mossimov, Modi expressed the significance of his visit to “a region of continuous engagement with India since human civilisation began.”

“I am truly excited to visit a great country and a great region that has been called the pivot of human history,” the Indian prime minister said. “So, I have come here, drawn by history and goodwill and as a neighbour, to write a new chapter in an ancient relationship.” In Modi’s own words, “This might be the first time this [a visit to all five Central Asian countries by any Indian head of government] has happened.”

The visit of Prime Minister Modi to Kazakhstan culminated in the signing of five bilateral agreements in areas as significant as defence and military, railways and uranium supply, among others.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the following is the list of bilateral agreements signed between the two countries:

1. Agreement on transfer of sentenced persons;

2. Agreement on defence and military;

3. MoU between India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Culture and Sports on cooperation in culture and sports;

4. MoU between India’s Ministry of Railways and Kazakhstan’s Temir Zholy on technical cooperation in the field of railways;

5. Long term contract between India’s Department of Atomic Energy and Joint-Stock Company (JSC) National Atomic Company Kazatomprom for sale and purchase of natural uranium concentrates.

A joint press statement of Prime Minister Modi and President Nazarbayev welcomed the signing of an agreement on defence and military-technical cooperation and hoped that it would further widen the scope of bilateral defence cooperation including regular exchange of visits, consultations, training of military personnel, military-technical cooperation, joint exercises, special forces exchanges and cooperation in the area of UN peacekeeping operations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for increased economic engagement between India and Kazakhstan. In his statement at a business roundtable attended by members of the business community from India and Kazakhstan, the Prime Minister praised the huge strides made by Kazakhstan in economic progress over the last decade. Modi invited Kazakh companies for enhanced investment in India, particularly in the areas of renewable energy, smart cities, housing, and railways.

Prime Minister Modi also presented Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev a set of books relating to religions born in India. President Nazarbayev has held the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions every three years at the Palace of Peace and Accord in Astana since 2003. The presentation set includes an English translation of Guru Granth Sahib, as also specially commissioned reproductions from the manuscripts collection of National Museum, Delhi. The reproductions include one of Jainism’s most revered texts, Bhadrabahu’s Kalpasutra (15th century AD) in Prakrit; one of Buddhism’s most important scriptures Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita (12th century AD) in Sanskrit; and a Persian translation of Valmiki’s Ramayana (18th century AD) in nastaliq script.

“Kazakhstan is a voice of responsibility and maturity in international forums, including the United Nations,” Modi said in his speech at the university. “No Indian will forget Kazakhstan’s generosity in making way for India’s bid for the membership of the UN Security Council in 2011-12. We stand solidly behind you for your bid in 2017-18.”

Moid also praised the Kazakh leadership and the people for having “built modern, inclusive and pluralist nations at a time when many in the region are caught in conflict and instability.”

Outlining the importance of Central Asia the Indian prime minister said the region “is at the crossroads of Eurasia. It has been caught in the currents of history and it has also shaped it. It has seen rise and fall of empires. It has witnessed trade thrive and ebb. For monks, merchants and monarchs, it has been both—a destination and a passage. It has been an intermediary of cultures and faiths from across Asia.”

“The confluence of Indian and Islamic civilisations took place in Central Asia,” Modi said, and added that “We enriched each other not only in spiritual thought, but also in medicine, science, mathematics and astronomy.”

“We greatly value our relationship with Kazakhstan. We have enormous synergies of markets, resources and skills for a strong bilateral relationship. We discovered remarkable convergence in our economic policies, approaches and strategies in a number of areas,” Modi stated in his media briefing. He said “Kazakhstan is India’s biggest economic partner in the region… but, our relations are modest, compared to our potential. We will work together to take economic ties to a new level.”

Proposing that hydrocarbons is another area of high priority for India, the Indian prime minister announced, in the presence of his Kazakh counterpart Karim Massimov, the commencement of drilling operations at Satpayev block for exploration in the first oil field with Indian investments in Kazakhstan. 

PM Modi also stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation and investment in sectors like manufacturing and infrastructure, renewable energy, space and information technology, human resource etc. “Our defence and security cooperation is an important dimension of our strategic partnership. We both want to make it stronger, including in defence manufacturing,” he said.

The joint statement of the two leaders noted that pharmaceuticals, mining, textiles, information technology, banking, and health are promising areas for future cooperation between the two countries and agreed to extend full support to joint projects in realising potential in these areas on a mutually beneficial basis. 

According to the Indian prime minister the principle bottleneck to realising full bilateral trade potential between the countries is lack of connectivity. He said, “We will be the first to say that the engagement between India and Central Asia falls short of its promise and potential.”

The International North-South Transport Corridor, the Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan rail link, India’s interest in joining the Ashkabat Agreement on trade and transit and India’s investment in Chahbahar Port in Iran were other issues discussed by the two Asian leaders. 

“The richness of our ties is written into the contours of our cities and our daily lives,” Modi said. “We see this in architecture and art, handicraft and textile, and in most popular food. The dargahs of Delhi resonate with Sufi music that draws people from all faiths. The cities of Central Asia have become centres of yoga and Hindi, long before the world came together to celebrate the International Day of Yoga on 21st June.” Modi also sought to underline the cementing role of cultural diplomacy. He said, “This is the source of goodwill between our people. It is the foundation of a relationship of hearts and emotions. And, it cannot be measured only by the scale of trade or the demands of states.”

In an apparent attempt to lure investors Modi said India constitutes one-sixth of humanity—it is a nation of 800 million youth that is an enormous force of progress and change for India and the world. “Our economy is growing at 7.5 percent every year. We can sustain higher growth rates long into the future.”

He said that India is prepared to invest more in a new partnership of prosperity: “We will work together not just in minerals and energy, but in industries such as pharmaceuticals, textiles, engineering, and small and medium enterprises. We can invest in refineries, petrochemicals and fertilizer plants here.”

Highlighting the importance of peace in the region and the need to strengthen cooperation in defence and security, the prime minister said “We live at the frontier of instability. We live close to the crucible of extremism and terrorism.” Modi also spoke of the “growing institutional erosion” of the United Nations and proposed that “we must work to make it relevant to our times.”

Calling for a united Asia, he said, “This region has prospered the most when we have been connected. Indeed, our hopes of an Asian Century will be realized, when we see Asia as one—not as South, West, East or Central. Asia will rise when we all prosper together.”

Modi and Nazarbayev jointly expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting. The Indian prime minister also extended an official invitation to the Kazakh president to visit India.

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The Diplomatist Bureau

Source: http://www.mea.gov.in/outgoing-visit-info.htm?2/787/Visit+of+Prime+Minister+to+Kazakhstan+July+78+2015

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