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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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Prime Minister Narendra Modi Appeals MPs To Utilize Their Winter Season Well

The session would have 20 sittings spread over 29 days

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According to LocalCircles, each person who voted in the survey is registered with the portal with their detailed information and in many cases they shared their residential address.
Modi asks MPs to utilize winter session well, wikimedia commons

Prime Minister Naredndra Modi on Monday appealed to all MPs at an all-party meeting to utilize the winter session of Parliament well as it will be the last full-fledged session before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Addressing an all-party meet at Parliament House a day before the session commences, Modi said the government was ready to discuss all issues as per rules and procedures and was open to the opposition’s inputs for better working of Parliament.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar briefed the media on what transpired in the meeting.

“The Prime Minister said that we all need to cooperate with each other on the issues of public interest. He underlined that in a democracy both the government and the opposition share their inputs for efficient governance,” Tomar said, quoting the Prime Minister.

“The Prime Minister also said that the government was ready to discuss all issues as per rules and procedures. If anybody wants to bring something to the government’s notice inside the House or even outside, we are open to it,” he added.

Tomar said that all the political parties present at the meeting have assured full cooperation in the smooth functioning of Parliament.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

Asked if the government was ready for a JPC probe in the Rafale fighter jets deal, he said the opposition had several issues including Rafale, farmers’ plight and economy “but they would have to prioritise things as the session was only four weeks long.

“These things can be settled in the Business Advisory Meetings,” he added.

The Minister said a legislation on Ram Mandir was “not the topic of today’s discussion”.

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“When something to this effect comes up, we will let you know,” he said.

He said the government had 46 items on the agenda including three ordinances, Supplementary Budget and government legislations.

The session would have 20 sittings spread over 29 days. (IANS)