Aug. 15 – This week, India and China held official talks for the first time regarding their respective approaches towards Central Asia. The talks represent further bilateral engagement with regard to regional cooperation, despite their occasional competing interests.
India and China are both geographically close to Central Asia, and both countries have already established close political and economic ties with the countries in the region.
The talks covered issues ranging from economic issues to regional security, counter-terrorism and energy security. Particularly, India and China spoke extensively on the importance of energy-related issues in both countries’ engagement with the resource-rich Central Asia region.
The Chinese side specifically spoke to the Indian delegation about what it expects its relationship with Central Asia to grow into, while the Indian side described its “Connect Central Asia” policy.
The Indian Embassy in Beijing issued a statement regarding the talks, noting that they “focus[ed] on the very similar Indian and Chinese approaches to political and economic relationships with Central Asian countries, [and] reflected the growing engagement between the foreign offices of India and China.”
Interestingly, the two countries decided to engage in their first official dialogues on the subject just weeks after India and China competed directly for an oil field project located in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh government ended up awarding the deal to the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.
The talks were seen as a positive affair, with Lan Jianxue, a researcher at the China Institute for International Studies, noting that “now, since we have a China-India Central Asia dialogue mechanism, we can share information and share our common ground on energy exploration and energy cooperation.”
Since “China and India are the biggest energy consumers and are both buyers, we have a common ground when it comes to the price of energy and price negotiations. [China and India] both have also invested in Central Asia, so we need a stable and secure environment there. We can now unite our efforts, for example, by considering jointly bidding for oil fields or gas fields,” he further added.
The Indian delegation was led by Ajay Bisaria, Joint Secretary, Eurasia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, while the Chinese side was led by Zhang Hanhui, Director General, Department of European-Central Asian Affairs.
The Indian side has invited the Chinese delegation to New Delhi for the next round of talks, but a date has yet to be confirmed.
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