India’s engagement with Central Asia, both politically and economically, is on the rise, but without greater access to the countries in the region.
New Delhi cannot take optimal advantage of the region’s rich natural resources such as oil and gas, uranium and minerals.
Making this observation at a seminar organised by CII in the capital on Wednesday, ambassadors from Central Asia and government officials have called for speeding up the modalities for the functioning of the North-South Transport Corridor for greater connectivity.
The transport corridor, is an agreement signed by India, Iran and Russia, came into force on May 16, 2002 after it was ratified by the three signatories.
Central Asia is a ‘sunrise’ region for Indian businesses and there is immense scope for greater annual trade turnover with the five Central Asian republics, which now stands ranges between $22 and $360 million, when the transport corridor is fully functional.
Some of the issues dogging the initiative are issuing multiple visas and warehouse facilities, said Naghma Mallick, director (Eurasia), Ministry of External Affairs.
The movement of high-volume goods continues to be a problem along this corridor, said Mallick, adding that India faced this obstacle while moving high-volume material to Tajikistan for humanitarian relief.
Apart from facilitating trade and commerce, the North-South Transport Corridor also has a strategic aspect as it bypasses India’s dependence on Pakistan and Afghanistan to secure overland access to Central Asia.