India on Wednesday announced extending USD 1 billion line of credit for "priority" developmental projects in central Asian countries while vowing to further expand cooperation with the resource-rich region including confronting the common challenges of terrorism and extremism.
The announcement on the quantum of the financial assistance was made by India during the second meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue which also discussed a plethora of key issues as well as ways to expand cooperation between the two sides.
The virtual meeting was chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and it was attended by his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. While the Kyrgyz Republic was represented by its first deputy foreign minister, the acting foreign minister of Afghanistan too attended it as a special invitee.
"The ministers of the Central Asian countries welcomed the provision by India of USD 1 billion line of credit for priority developmental projects in fields such as connectivity, energy, IT, healthcare, education, agriculture etc," a joint statement issued after the talks said.
The joint statement said the ministers strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the determination of their countries to combat the menace by destroying terrorist safe-havens, networks, infrastructure and funding channels.
"They also underlined the need for every country to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks against other countries," it said.
In his address, Jaishankar talked about "common perspectives" on opportunities and challenges and mentioned the commonality of views on various regional and international issues.
"We face common challenges of terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and such other issues. All these commonalities make us a natural partner in our developmental journey," he said.
He further said: "We consider Central Asia as India's 'extended neighbourhood'. We share a common geography which facilitated continuous exchange of people, ideas and goods in both directions and left indelible imprints on our customs, traditions and languages."
The ministers also called for the settlement of the Afghan conflict on the principle of Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process.
"The ministers expressed their interest in strengthening cooperation for the development and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, including through the implementation of infrastructure, energy, transit and transport projects," the statement said.
It said they also emphasised preserving the socio-economic development and political gains made by Afghanistan in the last 19 years while extending support for a united, sovereign and democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
In the talks, the ministers also emphasised the importance of connectivity for increasing trade and commerce as well as people-to-people contacts between India and the Central Asian countries.
"The ministers expressed their continued interest in further developing the transit and transport potential of their countries, improving the logistics network of the region and promoting joint initiatives to create regional and international transport corridors," the statement said.
"In this regard, the Ministers of the Central Asian countries appreciated India's efforts to modernise the infrastructure of the Chabahar port in Iran, which could become an important link in trade and transport communications between the markets of Central and South Asia," it said.