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STRENGTHENING COUNTER-TERRORISM COOPERATION WITH THE CENTRAL ASIAN STATES

In this piece, Manasvini CVTL lucidly explains the emerging areas of cooperation on counterterrorism between India and the Central Asian states.

Central Asia which extends from the Caspian Sea to the border of Western China is India’s extended neighbourhood which it doesn’t graphically line out but co-exists with. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are the five ethnically and economically diverse countries that consist of the Central Asia Republics (CARs) that India concerns with, post their Soviet-ruled era. Central Asia being the epicenter of terrorism, these countries have constantly lived in the shadow of terror threats.


The new unwinding Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship, instability of the Afghan government is a cause of worry in the present-day scenario whilst dealing with counter-terrorism.


India’s personal reforms to deal with terrorism include amends to the 1967 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, reforms to the 2008 National Investigation Agency Act and more such changes in the legal and diplomatic aspects. Indian defense relationship with the Central Asia Republics has been strengthening since after the six-day integrated tour to the five concerning states in June 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Indian leadership approached and increased the reachability and influence on the Central Asian States in an attempt to deal with counter-terrorism in several different ways.


UZBEKISTAN


In 2019, the Defence Minister of India alongside his Uzbek counterpart signed three Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) to increase co-operation in military education and military medicines. On the 20th of November, 2019, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and Uzbek Minister of External affairs signed an agreement on Security Co-Operations which aimed at further strengthening the bilateral cooperation in areas of counter-terrorism, organised crime, and human trafficking. Alongside, following the visits by the ministers in the years 2018 and 2019 respectively to the other country both the states decided on conducting Dustlik-19, which in Uzbek means friendship. Dustlik is a joint field training exercise that took place near Tashkent in a training area Chirchiq. The 10-day joint exercise focused solely on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in urban scenarios. The recent Dustlik-II exercises held in the month of March, 2021 had incorporated technological advancements to minimise collateral damage.


KAZAKHSTAN


According to the Ministry of Defence on April 9, 2021, defence minister of Republic of Kazakhstan Lieutenant General Nurlan Yermekbayev and defence minister Rajnath Singh met in New Delhi to discuss ways to improve bilateral defence cooperation, capacity building, training and military exercises. Both the parties agreed to explore the possibility of defence industrial collaboration.


The Kazind exercise, which is the military exercise between India and Kazakhstan is aimed at promoting regional security, fostering bilateral co-operations and gaining interoperability between the two armies. The last exercise was held on the 2nd October, 2019 where both the parties carried out a cordon and search operation in a mock counter-insurgency operation.


KYRGYZSTAN


The Khanjar exercise initiated in 2011, a two-week exercise that focuses on high-altitude mountains and counter-terrorism exercise saw it’s eighth edition which commenced in April, 2021 in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan.


In 2018, India signed four agreements with Kyrgyzstan of which was statured to boost defence co-operation and hold annual joint-military exercises.


TURKMENISTAN


In March 2015, Turkmenistan and India had signed a ‘Defense Cooperation Agreement’ which outlined the growing importance of Turkmenistan and the Central Asian region for India’s security-strategic calculus.


In March 2021, Indian Army began the training of special forces of Turkmenistan in Combat Free Fall to help build their capabilities as a precursor to series of customised courses. 16 special forces personnel from Turkmenistan and India were undergoing training for the first phase of skydiving at Bakloh-based Special Forces Training School (SFTS) in Himachal Pradesh. The personnel will go for the second phase of training in August this year, so as to develop a strong winning attitude for carrying out special operations.


TAJIKISTAN


Defence cooperation is one of the strongest pillars of the relation between India and Tajikistan. India had helped assist the building of the Ayni/ Farkhor airbase. This airbase is an extremely important asset to the Indian armed forces both in geostrategic and political sense. Following the 9/11 attacks, 150 personnel were appointed there. Tajikistan is just about 20 km from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir across the corridor and it also has a narrow strip of land that adjoins both China and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, it could provide an edge and help in gathering vital intelligence on Pakistani movements.


The recent second India-Central Asia dialogue was held virtually on the 28 October 2020, under the chairmanship of the External Affairs Minister of India, S Jaishankar along with the foreign ministers Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and The First Deputy Foreign


Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic mainly focused and discussed several issues one of which was strategically pointing towards the strengthening of counter-terrorism cooperation. Acting Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Haneef Atmar, also attended the meeting as a special invitee.


A press release after the session stated, “Both Indian and Central Asian Ministers condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the determination to combat this threat by destroying terrorist safe-havens, infrastructure, networks, and funding sources.” They also underlined the need for every country to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks against other countries. Apart from strengthening bilateral relations and reforming the legal and diplomatic loopholes, dealing with terrorism lies equally on the shoulders of the criminal justice system to administer.


United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime collaborated with the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, Hyderabad to organize a national training of trainers (TOT) workshop for the judiciary, prosecution and law enforcement officers. Police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges were brought from around the country to attend the five-day workshop titled "Global legal framework against terrorism and relevant criminal justice response measures." Under the guidance of UNODC, another TOT will be followed which will train selected participants.

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