Afghanistan since the Taliban’s take-over in August 2021 continues to impact the geopolitical and geo-economic architecture of South Asia and the broader continent. One of the primary concerns of major stakeholders is the potential spill-over of security issues from Afghanistan to critical regions such as the energy-rich Central Asia.
While certain major powers such as the United States, China, and Russia have developed active as well as direct engagements with the Taliban, India continues to demonstrate wariness in its communication, despite limited attempts to reach out in the form of aid and developmental assistance.
From the meeting between an official Indian delegation and the Taliban team at the sidelines of the Moscow Format Consultations to committing to provide the Afghans with wheat, life-saving medications, and Covid vaccines, India has endeavoured to pragmatically maintain its presence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
However, a significant level of caution continues to limit New Delhi’s level of engagement. Considering these factors, India has recently spearheaded several initiatives to solidify its links with Central Asia, in both military and economic dimensions. These approaches will allow India to mitigate the potential insecurity that may spill over from Afghanistan as the Taliban continue to consolidate power.
Why Central Asia matters to India
Geographically situated with China to the East, Europe to the West, Russia to the North, and countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey to the South, Central Asia has been serving as the crossroads for Eurasia for centuries. Moreover, the survival of the Central Asian countries greatly rely on the maintenance of several corridors and logistical nexuses that connect and extend towards China, Europe, Russia, Europe, and the Indian Ocean region.
Known as the “second Middle East” or the “second Persian Gulf,” the region is rich with energy resources with 16 major sedimentary basins, including 10 basins producing oil and gas that are mainly distributed in the three countries bordering the Caspian Sea; namely, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
Recognizing the significance of Central Asia, India unveiled its “Connect Central Asia” policy (CCAP) in 2012 to enhance its relations with the Central Asian Republics (CAR). A major push towards this direction was greatly motivated by the reality that India’s rise will greatly expand its energy requirements. Moreover, the inefficiency of the coal-dominated domestic energy resources has widened the gap of India’s energy insecurity. Therefore, the need to look for diverse alternatives for oil and energy to meet its growing demands and major power ambitions has prompted India to incorporate the dimension of energy in its foreign and security policy.
While a major component of the India-CAR relationship centres on geo-economics, the latter is closely linked with geopolitics. Maintaining a robust level of economic cooperation between Indi