On the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Central Asia, the Confederation of Indian Industry said that trade with the region can jump manifold provided the right connectivity is put in place.
“Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Central Asia is a landmark event to revitalize our ancient links with the region. CII estimates that trade with the five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan can multiply manifold from the small base of $1.4 billion currently,” said Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII.
According to CII, the major areas of opportunity for India in Central Asia include oil and gas, minerals and metals, agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, textiles and chemicals. The CII press release stated that the services sectors are an untapped potential between the two sides, including sectors such as Information Technology, education and skill development and tourism.
The CII suggested that India and the Eurasian Economic Union should engage in Free Trade Agreement negotiations on the fast track. Industry should be a key participant in the discussions in order to resolve outstanding trade and commercial issues such as visas, it recommended.
“There is need to rapidly move forward on the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that would connect India to Central Asia and Russia via Iran. The INSTC would greatly reduce freight transport time and open up connectivity between these regions,” said Mr.Banerjee.
CII has recommended that the energy sector be accorded high priority. Kazakhstan is a significant oil producer while the other countries are estimated to have large reserves of natural gas. Priority must be given to a pipeline connecting India to Central Asia as in the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan) pipeline project.
There is need to develop more transport corridors that can connect India to the Central Asia region and provide commercial and shipping access to India’s warm water ports for these land-locked nations. India can also assist in value addition to Kazakhstan’s uranium output.
Trade between India and the Central Asian region stood at $1,380.05 billion in 2014-15, with India’s exports to the five countries at $604.32 million and its imports at $775.73 million. Kazakhstan is India’s largest trading partner among the five countries, and trade has seen a rapid expansion as India is sourcing mineral fuels from the country.