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Jaishankar focuses on covid challenges, Afghan crisis and a secure Central Asia

The third India-Central Asia Dialogue of Foreign Ministers begins in Delhi (Photo: @MEA/Twitter)

Pitching for taking relations "to the next level" with Central Asian countries, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that ties must now focus around 4 Cs–Commerce, Capacity enhancement, Connectivity and Contacts.

In his opening remarks at the third meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue in Delhi on December 19, Jaishankar focused on how India has been at the forefront of battling the Covid-19 pandemic. He said: "We have supplied vaccines to more than 90 countries including Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. We have also offered the CoWIN platform to assist the vaccination programs of our friendly partners".

Besides India, the dialogue includes the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The dialogue is significant as it discusses the regional security situation arising out of the Afghan crisis with the Taliban taking over Kabul in August this year.

Jaishankar also thanked Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for their support to India during the second Covid wave.

The External Affairs Minister said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an enormous setback to global health and to global economy. It has changed the way we imagined societies, workplaces, supply chains and governance. It also highlights the inadequacy of the existing multilateral structures to meet new and emerging threats. We need diversified supply chains and more regional solutions".

Jaishankar highlighted that the Central Asian countries and India not only share historical and civilizational ties with Afghanistan but common concerns and objectives as well about the future of the country.

Jaishankar said that Afghanistan needs an inclusive and representative government. He said that Afghanistan needs: "…a truly inclusive and representative government, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, ensuring unhindered humanitarian assistance and preserving the rights of women, children and the minorities. We must find ways of helping the people of Afghanistan".

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev acknowledged India as a strategic partner for all countries in the region. Kazakbaev said: "Today, India is the strategic partner for all countries of Central Asia and we have political and economic, cultural relations and partnership and cooperation".

Kazakbaev underscored the importance of partnering in regional security and the fact that the Central Asian countries have been in constant touch with India over the evolving scenario in Afghanistan. Extending his support to regional security initiatives, he said: "We are ready to support and collaborate in all measures to make this region safer".

He added that the dialogue provides an opportunity to Kyrgyzstan to improve bilateral ties with India, highlighting what the dialogue seeks to do–create an opportunity for countries from Central Asia to not just formulate a plan to deal with challenges emanating from Afghanistan but strengthen bilateral relations with India.