NSA Ajit Doval hosts counterparts from Central Asia

NewsDrum Desk
06 Dec 2022
NSA Ajit Doval hosts counterparts from Central Asia

New Delhi: Financial support is the "lifeblood" of terrorism and greater priority should be accorded to counter terror financing, NSA Ajit Doval said on Tuesday while hosting his counterparts from the Central Asian region with an aim to evolve a common framework to confront major regional security challenges.

In his address at the inaugural India-Central Asia meeting of national security advisors, Doval also said that connectivity projects should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries, in remarks that came amid increasing criticism of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Describing Central Asia as India's "extended neighbourhood", Doval said New Delhi accords "highest priority" to this region, adding Afghanistan is an important issue "concerning all of us".

Doval hosted the conclave with a focus on evolving a common framework to deal with challenges of terrorism in the region including Afghanistan and ways to bolster overall security cooperation in sync with a decision taken at the first India-Central Asia summit in January.

The National Security Advisor began by saying that the meeting is taking place at a time of "great churn" in international relations and uncertainty about the future, noting a peaceful, secure and prosperous Central Asia is in "our common interest".

"Today's meeting, therefore, assumes importance as it provides us an opportunity to discuss matters which require greater cooperation and coordination amongst the regional countries," he said In his brief address, Doval largely focused on the challenge of terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and the importance of regional connectivity projects.

"Financing of terrorism is its lifeblood and countering terror financing should be an equal priority for all of us," he said, amid India's growing concern over use of Afghan soil for terrorist activities including by Pakistan-origin terror groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The NSAs of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are attending the conclave while Turkmenistan is being represented by its ambassador to India.

"Afghanistan is an important issue concerning all of us. India's concerns and objectives with regard to immediate priorities and the way forward are similar to those of many of us around the table," he said.

Doval said connectivity with Central Asian countries remained a key priority for India and that New Delhi stands ready to cooperate, invest and build connectivity in the region.

"We should also call on all UN members to fulfil obligations enshrined in relevant counter-terror conventions and protocols and refrain from providing any form of support to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts," he said.

Doval said connectivity with Central Asian countries remained a key priority for India and that New Delhi stands ready to cooperate, invest and build connectivity in the region.

"While expanding connectivity, it is important to ensure that connectivity initiatives are consultative, transparent and participatory, with respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries," he said, seen as an oblique reference to China's BRI.

Doval also referred to the first India-Central Asia virtual summit in January that was hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"Your presence is a testimony to our cohesiveness and it will enrich the discussions. Central Asia is our extended neighbourhood with which we have civilisational linkages and we accord highest priority to this region," Doval said.

"At the January meeting of our leaders agreed to convene regular meetings of secretaries of security councils to discuss security-related developments in the region. This forms the basis of the meeting," he said.

Tajikistan's Secretary of the Security Council said threats to security in the region are growing and new challenges and threats are emerging.

"These include cyber crime, cyber terrorism and environmental, biological threats," he said. The security situation in Afghanistan and the evolving dynamics in that country figured in the deliberations.

A number of Central Asian countries share land borders with Afghanistan and there have been concerns by them after the Taliban seized power in Kabul in August last year.

It is learnt that India and the Central Asian countries have similarities in approach to countering terrorism and the threat of radicalisation.

Boosting connectivity including making the Chabahar port in Iran a part of the International North-South Transport Corridor was to be part of the discussions.

Located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran's southern coast, the Chabahar port is being developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan to boost connectivity and trade ties.

At a connectivity conference in Tashkent in July last year, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar projected Iran's Chabahar Port as a key regional transit hub including Afghanistan.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe. India has been supporting the project.

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