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Modi heads for Central Asia; energy, connectivity, anti-terror on agenda

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the five ‘stans” of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — next week will see energy security high on the agenda plus talks on the North-South connectivity corridor that will give India access to the resource-rich region and beyond.

Forming a joint front against emerging extremist and terror threats would also figure high on the agenda for the talks, sources here said.

Modi, who is to visit the five Central Asian republics and Ufa in Russia for the BRICS and SCO summit, will be on an eight-day tour from July 6 to 13. He wiill visit Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan ahead of the July 8-10 back-to-back BRICS and SCO summits.

Modi’s visit would help in re-engagement with a resource-rich region that India has not really engaged with but where China has fast spread its reach through major infrastructure projects, like pipelines, and with unfolding plans like the ‘One Belt, One Road’ economic linkage project.

The five countries are part of the old Silk Road, the ancient trade route through which not only silks and spices were ferried but was also a pathway for exchange of ideas, art, architecture and spiritual beliefs.

The five land-locked countries, once part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, are very keen on Modi’s visit — as their envoys mentioned during a talk earlier this week.

Prime ministerial visits to the region have been few and far between, with the last visit being by Manmohan Singh who barely stopped over at Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2011 while on way back from Sanya, China, where he attended the BRICS summit.

For the five republics, relations with India would prove to be a balancing factor, with both China and Russia pushing to gain more influence and firmer foothold.

Talks during Modi’s visit would also focus on terrorism, which is a common concern, and tackling the rising influence of the Islamic State terror group. Over 1,500 youth from the region are reported to have joined the jihadist organization and are fighting in Syria and Iraq. The five countries, which follow moderate Islam and are secular in nature, are concerned about the spread of the Islamic State’s influence among its youth.

In Kazakhstan, where Modi would visit July 7-8, talks would largely focus on energy cooperation and uranium mining. Modi’s visit to capital Almaty would coincide with the first drilling for oil in the Satpayev block, in which India has 25 percent stake. ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) — the overseas arm of state-run ONGC — had in 2011 picked up 25 percent stake in the Satpayev oil block in the North Caspian Sea.

Both sides are set to ink a major agreement for joint exploration and mining of uranium in Kazakhstan, which has the world’s largest uranium reserves. Cooperation in the field of expanding the country’s 15,000-km railways track is also on the anvil.

In Uzbekistan, where the prime minister visits first, the talks are expected to focus on joint ventures, besides boosting trade.

In Turkmenistan, the $10 billion TAPI gas pipeline project would top Modi’s agenda during his July 10-11 visit to Ashgabat.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, which is gathering speed after many years of no movement, is expected to bring Turkmen natural gas from its giant Dauletabad and Galkynysh gas fields to Pakistan and India.

The legal framework for the pipeline project would be finalized by September after which the consortiums are to be announced. The project is expected to take off in December, according to the country’s envoy here Parakhat H. Durdyev.

Fertilisers is another major area of cooperation between the two countries. India is to set up a urea manufacturing unit in Turkmenistan. Later, a potash manufacturing unit would also be set up in the country, Durdyev sad.

Both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are keen to have India on board the CASA 1000 project, under which the hydropower energy of the two countries can be tapped. Both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are rich in water sources cascading from the mountain ranges.

Both the countries are also keen to see the North South Transport Corridor kick off. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are members of the corridor project, a multi-modal corridor project which aims to connect Mumbai with St. Petersburg in Russia, while touching Iran’s Bandar Abbas port.

Kazakhstan is also a member of the corridor project, which has held two dry runs, including one last year.

The five countries are also looking for Iran’s Chabahar port to be upgraded fast by India and made operational, so that connectivity to their region could be boosted.

The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme — under which India carries out capacity building training programmes in recipient countries for their people — is also much sought after by the five Central Asian republics.

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Is Donald Trump’s presidency turning out to be a reward for Trump Jr.?

Trump Jr. is scheduled to give a speech on Indo-Pacific relations at a New Delhi business summit and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to share the stage with him

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The Donald Trump Jr. landed in India yesterday and is slated to sell his luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians.
The Donald Trump Jr. landed in India yesterday and is slated to sell his luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians. Wikimedia Commons

Recently, advertisements can be seen repeatedly in the past few days, announcing the arrival not of the Donald Trump but of his eldest son. The Donald Trump Jr. landed in India yesterday and is slated to sell his luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians.  The advertisement further charms the people with “a conversation and dinner” with Trump Jr., if buyers who order apartments in the development by Thursday.

After Trump Jr. landed in India, he was seen posing for photos in New Delhi with Indian developers. One of the builders included Kalpesh Mehta. His firm is supposed to be the main Indian partner for Trump-brand real estate projects.

Also Read: Daughter of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump to celebrate Diwali in a Hindu Temple in the US

Although, during his election campaigns, President Donald Trump has pledged to avoid any new foreign business deals during his term in office. One of the better reasons for this was seen as to avoid potential ethical conflicts. But the visit by his Donald Trump’s son has directed the promises made by his father in some other direction. Moreover, Trump Jr. is flying around the world trying to trade on the fact that his father is sitting in the Oval Office. The global experts have long seen the use of the Trump name to promote even existing business ventures as a tricky territory.

Trump family has real estate projects coming up in Mumbai, the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon and the eastern city of Kolkata.
Trump family has real estate projects coming up in Mumbai, the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon and the eastern city of Kolkata. Wikimedia Commons

The shocker over here is the scheduled speech of Trump Jr. about Indo-Pacific relations at a New Delhi business summit and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to share the stage with him. This has raised another set of ethics concerns by offering his thoughts on international relations, that too when Trump Jr. is not holding any portfolio in the US government. By sharing the stage with government officials and talking about international relations, he is surely portraying himself as an informal ambassador for the US.

Last November, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump visited India with an altogether different agenda than that of Trump Jr. She led the U.S. contingent at a global business conference and even her speech was broadcasted live by various television stations.

Also Read: US President Donald Trump’s Tough Stand Against Pakistan and more Highlights from his Speech

Interestingly, it is not the first instance when President Trump’s sons have raised ethical concerns over their promotional visits. Last year only, Donald Trump’s sons inaugurated a Trump-branded golf club in Dubai. The two brothers are now official in-charge to lead the Trump Organization.

Trump Jr. has planned his sprawling building in the satellite city of India, Gurgaon. The people who are ready to invest huge sum into this can expect to move into their swanky homes sometime in 2023. To run his business in India, Trump Jr. has licensing agreements with all its Indian business partners. India holds out to be the brand’s largest market outside the United States. In Pune, a luxury complex is already operational. The expected price of apartments in the Trump Towers complex in Gurgaon runs between $775,000 and $1.5 million.

President Donald Trump has pledged to avoid any new foreign business deals during his term in office.
President Donald Trump has pledged to avoid any new foreign business deals during his term in office. Wikimedia Commons

Trump family has real estate projects coming up in Mumbai, the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon and the eastern city of Kolkata.