India - Eurasia relations
International relations > India and Global Regions > India & Central Asia
WHY IN NEWS?
- Current crises in Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Kazakhstan are reshaping the geopolitics of Eurasia.
- Eurasia is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia.
- It spans from the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula in the west to the Japanese archipelago in the east.
- Eurasia covers around 36.2% of the Earth's total land area; and it contains well over 5 billion people, equating to approximately 70% of the human population.
- As in the Indo-Pacific, so in Eurasia, there is no shared international understanding of what constitutes the region.
INCREASING SIGNIFICANCE OF EURASIA IN THE PRESENT WORLD ORDER
- Strong prospects for economic growth:
- Eurasia has been one of the most dynamic regions of the world in terms of economic growth with an average annual per capita income growth rate of about 4-5% over the past few years.
- Dramatic rise of China and its growing strategic assertiveness:
- China, in its quest to create a China-centric Asian order is striving hard to create a new economic order and security initiatives sans the US.
- Beijing’s muscular approach to the long and disputed border with Bhutan and India, its quest for a security presence in Tajikistan, the active search for a larger role in Afghanistan, and a greater say in the affairs of the broader sub-Himalayan region are only one part of the story.
- The impressive expansion of China’s Belt and Road initiative across central Asia and Russia, onto the shores of the Atlantic, and Europe’s growing economic interdependence with China have added to Beijing’s powerful leverages in Eurasia.
- These leverages, in turn, were reinforced by a deepening alliance with Russia that straddles the Eurasian heartland. Russia’s intractable disputes with Europe and America have increased Moscow’s reliance on Beijing.
- Changing Geostrategic Alignments:
- Growing animosity between China and US has led China and Russia to cement their relationship to counter the USA.
- There is growing cooperation between them on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), tie-up with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), cooperation in the Arctic region, energy, trade, and in the military domain through joint production and military exercises.
- Changing strategic priorities of U.S:
- Amidst mounting challenges from China in the Indo-Pacific maritime domain, Washington has begun to rethink its strategic commitments to Eurasia.
- The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is just the beginning of a long-overdue redefinition of US global strategic priorities.
- Even Europe, which has seen a massive deployment of US military resources since the Second World War, is not immune to the inevitable rearrangement of the US military’s global disposition.
- Washington and Brussels are now in the middle of an important debate on how to rebalance the trans-Atlantic responsibilities for Europe’s collective defence.
- Whether defined as “burden-sharing” in Washington or “strategic autonomy” in Brussels, Europe must necessarily take on a larger regional Eurasian security role. More broadly, regional powers are going to reshape Eurasia.
- Regional geostrategic alliances:
- China and Russia are increasingly drawing in Iran, another adversary of the US.
- All three have recently deepened their ties with a joint military exercise in the Gulf of Oman and Iran is also a vital component of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.
- Concurrently, the China-Iran-Russia-Turkey-Pakistan strategic pentagonal is taking shape that will impact the geopolitics of Eurasia and West Asia and will have profound implications on the regional balance of power.
- Region being developed as a countermeasure to Indo-Pacific Region:
- Middle powers like Japan and Australia along with USA are confining themselves to the Indo Pacific region.
- China and Russia as a countermeasure are developing Eurasia as a power block.
IMPORTANCE OF EURASIA FOR INDIA:
- Economic significance
- Eurasian region is rich in natural resources, most notably energy resources.
- It accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.
- Economic cooperation with these countries is vital for safeguarding India’s interests.
- The strategic peninsular location of Eurasia connecting various sub-regions of Asia and West Asia makes it important for India’s objective of becoming an Economic Hub
- Eurasia with its vast population and geographical proximity to India >> offers huge tourism market for India.
- The medical and Pharmaceutical industry is another area that offers huge potential for cooperation.
- India is ready to extend cooperation by setting up civil hospitals in Eurasia.
- For ex: India is working on setting up a Central Asian e-network with its hub in India, to deliver, tele-education and tele-medicine connectivity, linking all the five Central Asian States.
- Complementing Indo-Pacific strategy:
- Delhi’s Indo-Pacific strategy has acquired political and institutional traction, thanks to intensive Indian diplomacy in recent years. It must now devote similar energy to the development of a “Eurasian” policy.
- If the Indo-Pacific is about Delhi’s new maritime geopolitics, Eurasia involves the recalibration of India’s continental strategy.
- Addressing crisis in Afghanistan:
- Engaging with Eurasia is important to seek regional cooperation for confronting threats such as terrorism, drug trafficking, radicalism following the Taliban's take over Afghanistan.
- Strategic significance:
- Eurasian Region is interested in decreasing their dependence on both Moscow and Beijing. Against this backdrop they are prepared to support India in its bid to strengthen its position in the region so as to become an alternative to the traditional players Russia, China, the EU and the US.
- Stability in Central Asia:
- Central Asia, the centroid of the new Eurasia, is a part of India’s “extended neighborhood” and of great geo-strategic value to India.
- With the existing threat of terrorism, drugs and arms smuggling etc. achieving stability in the region is in India’s interest.
- India’s ancient civilizational links with Eurasia.
- Eurasia has been the host of many ancient civilizations, including those based in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and China – which had trade and cultural interactions.
- The collaboration between the Sangha and the Shreni in the Buddhist era produced lasting interaction between India and other Eurasian regions.
- India’s inward orientation after the decline of Buddhism did not stop the flow of Central Asian forces into the subcontinent.
- The peoples of Siberia have distinctive historico-cultural similarities with the Indian Himalayas due to common traditions and Buddhist culture.
- Shared colonial history:
- The arrival of the British in India and the consolidation of the Raj as a territorial entity in the subcontinent saw the outward projection of India’s influence into Eurasian region.
- British rivalry with Russia during the Great Game in the 19th and early 20th centuries put Eurasian geopolitics at the top of undivided India’s security agenda.
CHALLENGES FACED BY INDIA IN EURASIA
- Pakistan factor:
- The Partition of the subcontinent and India’s physical disconnection from inner Asia cut India off from Eurasian geopolitics.
- Overcoming the geographic limitation — represented by the Pakistan barrier— will be central to an expanded Indian role in Eurasian geopolitics.
- China’s dominance:
- With ever expanding trade with EU, huge infrastructure projects such as BRI, dominance in manufacturing supply chain etc. >> Beijing has placed itself in a very dominant position over the entire Eurasia region.
- Poor execution of connectivity projects:
- Major transport initiatives like INSTC, Ashgabat Agreement, Chabahar port etc are delayed due to various reasons such as lack of funding, trust issues, sanctions imposed by west on Iran, Russia etc.
- Eurasian turmoil in recent years.
- Current crisis in Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Kazakhstan are affecting the security and stability of the entire region.
- Engaging in connectivity projects:
- Apart from INSTC and Chabahar Port, India should seek to join Russia’s “Greater Eurasian” corridor and the Northeast Passage to connect to the Far East and even Japan.
- India should also push its own connectivity agenda for Eurasia, without necessarily becoming engaged in direct conflict or competition with China’s BRI
- Putting Europe Back into India’s Continental Calculus:
- Before independence, many Indian nationalists turned to Europe to secure the nation’s liberation from British colonialism.
- However, post-independence, Delhi’s drift towards an alliance with Moscow saw India neglect Europe’s strategic significance.
- As India now steps up its engagement with Europe, the time has come for it to begin a strategic conversation with Brussels on Eurasian security.
- Greater Engagement with EU and NATO Members:
- India’s Eurasian policy must necessarily involve greater engagement with both the EU and NATO.
- A dedicated military office in the Indian mission to Brussels, where both EU and NATO are headquartered, will be a crucial step towards a sustained security dialogue with Europe.
- Balancing the priorities:
- India needs to balance its Connect Eurasia policy with its Act East Policy and Indo-Pacific Strategy.
- Being an important member of BRICS, SCO, and RIC, India must utilize the platforms to promote strategic cooperation with Russia, China and Central Asia.
- Intensify the dialogue on Eurasian security with Russia
- While Indo-Russian differences on the Indo-Pacific, the Quad, China, and the Taliban are real, Delhi and Moscow have good reasons to narrow their differences on Afghanistan and widen cooperation on continental Eurasian security.
- Need for collaboration with both Persia and Arabia.
- If Persia’s location makes it critical for the future of Afghanistan and Central Asia, the religious influence of Arabia and the weight of the Gulf capital are quite consequential in the region.
- India’s partnerships with Persia and Arabia are also critical in overcoming Turkey’s alliance with Pakistan that is hostile to Delhi.
- India has certainly dealt with Eurasia’s constituent spaces separately over the decades. What Delhi now needs is an integrated approach to Eurasia. Like the Indo-Pacific, Eurasia is new to India’s strategic discourse.
- India must push for greater strategic activism in Eurasia that opens opportunities in all directions in the region.
Q. “India needs a new integrated approach to Eurasia”. Comment