Analysis; China Main Central Asia Force Now

Manila Bulletin, October 9, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Analysis; China Main Central Asia Force Now

Byline: Siddharta Kumar Deutsche Presse Agentur

NEW DELHI - India's plans to be the main player in Central Asia have been thwarted by China, which has emerged as the dominant force in the "New Great Game" with soaring trade and multi-billion-dollar investments in energy and infrastructure.

Having long considered the Central Asian Republics (CARs) as its backyard, New Delhi expected to play a lead role in the region after the 1991 collapse of its traditional ally the Soviet Union.

India shared close ties with Moscow and had special access to the satellite CARs of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan by virtue of a friendship treaty as well as historical and cultural links.

But in recent years, India, perceived as a counter-weight to the Chinese domination of Asia, has been playing second fiddle to her giant neighbour to the north.

"China seeks to replicate its Central Asian success in other regions. It pumps in investments and builds infrastructure to enter economies and create strategic space," said Suvrokamal Dutta, a foreign affairs expert.

With its political system, China is relatively comfortable dealing with the authoritarian leaders in Central Asia, some experts say. The state and businesses work in tandem to ensure the full use of its economic clout.

"There is a near-complete synergy in policy formulation and implementation and execution of projects, whereas Indian bureaucracy and business do not have an integrated policy to engage with the region," said K Warikoo, professor of Central Asian studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

China launched its economic thrust in the CARs following the 2001 terror attacks in the US, worried that Muslim Uyghur unrest in the Xinjiang region could escalate with support from Uyghurs in the neighbouring CARs.

As China's state-run enterprises began investing across borders where once only smaller merchants went, trade with the five CARs rose from 850 million dollars in 1997 to more than 13 billion dollars in 2006.

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