India, Kyrgyzstan bolster defence ties

Jul 13, 2015 12:00 AM

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived in Bishkek on the penultimate stop of his ongoing Central Asian tour on Saturday night, announced that Kyrgyzstan is a key part in New Delhi’s ‘Central Asia vision’.

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Upon his arrival in the Kyrgyz capital, Modi demonstrated the importance of India’s relationships with Kyrgyzstan, saying: “We can reinforce each others’ economic progress. We can contribute to co-operation and integration across the different regions of Asia.”

During his meeting with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev at the Ala-Archa State Residence on Sunday, Modi stressed that his government was committed to strengthen defence ties with the Central Asian country in an attempt to ensure peace and stability in the region. According to the visiting premier, peace and stability are pre-requisites of economic development. “We both seek a peaceful and secure neighbourhood at a time of challenges in our region. And, we have shared interest in combating extremism and terrorism that has become a threat without borders,” added Modi. The Indian leader – who appreciated the steps taken by Bishkek in combating terrorism and maintaining the ‘secular’ character of Kyrgyz society – also said that India and Kyrgyzstan are ‘ideal’ partners for each other, as there is a huge potential of growth in bilateral trade.

President Atambayev, too, expressed serious concern over the rising trend of extremism and terrorism globally. He assured his guest that Kyrgyzstan would exchange defence-related experience and intelligence information with India. The president also welcomed the interest shown by Indian companies in investing (especially in mining and pharmaceutical sectors) in his country.

Later, senior officials of the two countries signed four agreements – including one to boost defence co-operation – and two MoUs for co-operation between the Election Commissions of the two countries in the presence of Prime Minister Modi and President Atambayev. India and Kyrgyzstan also agreed to hold annual joint military exercises. The Indian External Affairs Ministry confirmed that Modi and Atambayev decided to sign an agreement on ‘combating international terrorism and other crimes’ in the coming months.

Addressing a joint press conference with the president, the Indian premier said that the new agreement on defence co-operation would provide a “framework to broaden bilateral engagement” and it would also include defence technology. The main reason behind signing the defence agreement was to bolster bilateral co-operation in defence, security, military education and training, he added.
Meanwhile, Modi thanked Kyrgyzstan for supporting India’s bid for a permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council, saying that the South Asian nation wanted early completion of the reforms in the world body. He also congratulated Kyrgyzstan for joining the Eurasia Economic Union and told the president that India would work hard for early conclusion of its Free Trade Agreements with the member states of the Union. Modi, who considers Central Asia as an important place for future economic development, stressed: “We can reinforce each other’s economic progress. Sustainable development is important for both. We can contribute to co-operation and integration across the different regions of Asia.”

Kyrgyzstan – the smallest and most democratic Central Asian state (sandwiched between China and Russia) – is the only one to have military exercises with India. It is another country that has not seen an Indian PM’s visit in 20 years. As a result, Modi’s visit to Bishkek will certainly be noticed in Beijing. Modi also has plans to build a medical tourism link between the two countries, as it would fund regular air flights. Famed for its natural beauty, Kyrgyzstan is often likened to Switzerland. (However) unlike its neighbours, the tiny Central Asian country has seen ethnic conflict. Its founding President Askar Akayev quit his post in 2005 after the Tulip Revolution. Since then, the country has experienced ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks several times. Agriculture is a significant occupation in Kyrgyzstan, as the country has no oil and gas reserves.

Meanwhile, the Indian PM arrived in Tajikistan on Sunday night on the last and final leg of his five-nation 10-day Central Asia visit.

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