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India to Offer e-Network to Central Asia

Sunday 10 June 2012

NEW DELHI (IANS) – Stepping up its diplomatic footprints in energy-rich Central Asia, India is set to replicate the success of the Pan Africa e-network by creating a similar project of tele-education and tele-medicine that will span all the states of the strategically important region.

An Ilyushin IL-76 cargo plane of the Indian Air Force stationed in Farkhor Base in Tajikistan
The presence of Islamist militant networks and the geographical contiguity of Afghanistan with Central Asian nations have added to the region’s strategic significance for India. Defence cooperation with the region is also growing. India has the only overseas military base in Tajikistan, which is operated by the Indian Air Force in collaboration with the Tajikistan Air Force.

The e-network project will be unveiled during Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed’s visit to Bishkek, June 12-13. Bishkek will host a Track 1.5 dialogue that will bring experts and academics along with officials from India and Central Asian countries to map out a coherent and effective India-Central Asia partnership. The dialogue has been organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).

The Central Asian e-network will be a pioneering attempt by India to leverage its prowess in the IT to bridge the digital divide in developing countries and to bolster their capacity in critical areas of health and education by linking India’s top hospitals and educational institutions with hubs in the region.

Given the critical importance of the resource-rich Central Asian nations, India has been raising its profile by proactive initiatives on multiple fronts in the region which is already sold on the charms of Bollywood cinema. Central Asia and the Ancient Indian subcontinent have long traditions of social-cultural, religious, political and economic contact since remote antiquity. The two regions have common and contiguous borders, climatic continuity, similar geographical features and geo-cultural affinity. There has always been uninterrupted flow of people, material and the ideas between the two. So much so, some ancient literary sources trace common lineage for Indians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and other nationalities of Central Asia. Today, India is strongly placed with its soft power attractions – many Tajiks and Uzbeks who trained in India speak fluent Hindi and love humming Hindi songs.

During his visit, Ahamed will also inaugurate a potato processing plant, part of a slew of small development projects shepherded and assisted by India in the region.

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