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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 34

Need to Develop Close Ties with Eurasian Centre of Power

by Mansoor Ali

Saturday 11 August 2007

While attention is currently rivetted on the Indo-US nuclear deal it is necessary to understand certain developments in our neighbourhood to which New Delhi has lately paid scant attention. One of these is the functioning of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO): its growing potential promotes the stability and security of not just Central Asia but the adjoining regions as well. Furthermore, it serves to impart a kind of balance in the situation obtaining in the Asia-Pacific as a whole. A few influential countries and regional groupings are trying to formalise contacts with the SCO; prominent among these are the US, ASEAN and lately the European Union (EU).

The EU, for example, is of the considered opinion that cooperation with the SCO is crucial for maintaining good political and trade relations with resource-rich and strategically important Central Asian states like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrghyzstan and Tajikistan. Many in Brussels are of course well aware of the inevitability of the security of Afghanistan being outsourced to the SCO in the days ahead; they also know that some ground would have to be conceded to this grouping while dealing with Iran, Iraq and the affairs of the Middle East in general.

India is a rising power striving for energy security and waging a protracted war against terror squads infiltrating into the country from the western border in particular. It needs to evolve a forward looking policy towards this emerging Eurasian centre of power and thereafter take appropriate steps for dialogue with this grouping that is driven by the Sino-Russian combine (why can’t it be develped into a security and economic forum propelled by Indian initiatives?). South Block is currently in a desperate hurry to forge equality in the relations between the world’s two most vibrant democracies. But what prevents it from looking just round the corner to develop renewed friendship with a region that has traditionally exuded warmth and goodwill for India?

New Delhi must also realise that it can win the competition for a coveted place in the Eurasian energy market by effectively utilising its time-tested, valuable, longstanding strategic partnership with Moscow. To leave the field wide open for Beijing and Islamabad to reap dividends in this region would be quite strange to say the least. Hence it is imperative on the part of the UPA leadership and the Union Government not to miss the opportunity to send a strong representation for the SCO summit in Bishkek this month and strengthen as well as consolidate India’s foothold in the grouping

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