On the second leg of his trip to Central Asia, Narendra Modi makes quite an impression in Astana, as he talks about terror and trade, films and the future
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday underlined the Islamic heritage of both India and Central Asia defined by the highest ideals and said it has always rejected the forces of extremism.
Modi, who flew to Kazakhstan's capital Astana from Uzbekistan earlier in the day, said the confluence of Indian and Islamic civilisations took place in Central Asia and enriched each other not only in spiritual thought but also in medicine, science, mathematics and astronomy.
Addressing a gathering at the Nazerbayev University, the PM also made a strong pitch for enhanced defence and security cooperation with the Central Asian countries, saying, "We live at the frontier of instability. We live close to the crucible of extremism and terrorism. We see terrorism spawned by nations and groups. Today, we also see cyber space become a platform without borders for terror to draw recruits to its cause.”
"So, during this visit, we will strengthen our defence and security cooperation in the region. But, we will also combat terrorism by the strength of our values and our commitment to humanism."
Asserting that he has come to write a "new chapter in an ancient relationship", Modi said, "The Islamic heritage of both India and Central Asia is defined by the highest ideals of Islam -- knowledge, piety, compassion and welfare. This is a heritage founded on the principle of love and devotion.
"And, it has always rejected the forces of extremism. Today, this is an important source of strength that brings India and Central Asia together."
Immediately after his arrival, Modi also held talks with his Kazakh counterpart Karim Massimov on various key bilateral and regional issues. The PM will be holding comprehensive talks with the Kazakh president on Wednesday after which the two countries are likely to ink number of pacts including in the field of energy.
During his nearly half-an-hour speech, Modi touched upon other important issues including regional connectivity, establishment of a 21st century silk route and economic integration between India and Central Asian countries. Noting that the richness of ties between India and Central Asia was written into the contours of Indian cities and daily lives there, Modi said one could see this in architecture, art, handicraft and textile and in most popular foods.
"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 said.
However, he also rued that the engagement between India and Central Asia falls short of its promise and potential and said, "We have a special place in our hearts for each other. But, we have not paid as much attention to each other as we should. This will change. That is why I am travelling to all five countries in the region in the early stages of my government."
"Both India and Central Asia cannot achieve their full potential without each other. Nor will our people be safer and our region more stable without our cooperation," Modi said while noting that they have built modern, inclusive and pluralist nations at a time when many in the region are caught in conflict and instability.
Stressing that from theatres of conflicts to the calm neighbourhoods of distant cities, terrorism has become a global challenge as never before, Modi said it was a force that is larger and more enduring than its changing names, locations and targets.
"So, we must ask ourselves: Will we let a generation of youth be lost to guns and hate, because they will hold us accountable for their lost future?," he said.
Describing Kazakhstan as "a nation of global stature and respect", he said this was not just because Mother Nature has been generous to it with resources of every kind. "Kazakhstan is a voice of responsibility and maturity in international forums, including the United Nations."
He also recalled Kazakhstan's generosity in making way for India's bid for the membership of the UN Security Council in 2011-12 and assured India's support for the Central Asian country's bid in 2017-18.
On trade ties, Modi said trade was expanding, but it was still modest. The cooperation in energy sector has begun, he said while highlighting today's launch of the drilling of the first oil well with Indian investments in Kazakhstan.
He also said Indian investments in Central Asia have started flowing in and asserted that India was prepared to invest more in a new partnership of prosperity.
The PM also offered expertise in information and communication technology to create wealth and opportunities for the youth as well as in the field of space technology for closer partnership in development and resource management.
“Our economy is growing at 7.5 per cent every year. We can sustain higher growth rates long into the future. India is the new frontier of opportunities for the world. Central Asia is a vast region of immense resources, talented people, rapid growth and a strategic location. So, I am here to start a new era in our relationship with Central Asia," Modi said.
India will work together not just in minerals and energy, but in industries such as pharmaceuticals, textiles, engineering and small and medium enterprises and can invest in refineries, petrochemicals and fertilizer plants in Kazakhstan, he added.
On regional connectivity, Modi said physical connectivity for trade, transit and energy will be restored and noted that the International North South Transport Corridor opens a competitive and quick route for India to Eurasia. He hoped that all of Central Asia will join it.
Showing interest to join the Ashgabat Agreement on trade and transit, he also said that India's investment in Chahbahar Port in Iran will bring it closer to Central Asia.
"I also hope that we can restore the traditional route to Central Asia through Pakistan and Afghanistan. We can draw confidence from the agreement between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India on the gas pipeline," he said, adding that this region has prospered the most when connected.
"India is at the crossroads of Asia's land and sea routes. We understand our responsibility. And, we are working with a sense of priority to connect ourselves to the East and the West, by land and sea. There is a surge of interest in reconnecting Asia with itself and beyond," he said.
Maintaining that all of Asia seeks the revival of the glorious ancient Silk Road, he, however, said, "We must also remember the lessons of history. The Silk Road flourished and waned with the fortunes of Central Asia".
Asserting that the success of connectivity through and across Central Asia was important, Modi said,"... From Europe to Asia, all nations must foster a climate of cooperation and collaboration, not competition and exclusion, in this region".
Referring to popularity of Indian TV serials and movies, the PM said Uzbekistan has recently completed fifty years of radio broadcast in Hindi and Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were popular on Uzbek TV as they were in India. "Many of you wait for the release of the latest Bollywood film with the same excitement as people in India. 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," he said.