India along with five Central Asian countries have decided to establish a Joint Working Group on Afghanistan, said an official statement Thursday. 

The decision was made at the first India-Central Asia Summit hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attended by Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov.

A Delhi Declaration issued after the virtual summit said there is a broad “regional consensus” on the issues related to Afghanistan which includes the formation of a truly representative and inclusive government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, the central role of the UN, providing immediate humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan and preserving the rights of women, children and other national ethnic groups and minorities.

The leaders also discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the security and stability of the region. They reiterated their strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasizing respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs.

They also discussed the current humanitarian situation and decided to continue to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

The leaders welcomed the holding of the first India – Central Asia Summit and agreed to hold it every two years.

The Central Asian leaders also welcomed the offer of India to establish an “India – Central Asia Centre” in New Delhi which could act as the Secretariat for the India – Central Asia Summit.

The leaders noted that the current level of trade and investments between India and Central Asian countries is far from realizing its true potential and stressed the importance of making concerted efforts to boost trade and investment in sectors like medicine, health care, pharmaceuticals, education, information technology, business process outsourcing (BPO), infrastructure, agriculture and processing of agricultural products, energy, the space industry, textiles, the leather and footwear industry, and gems and jewelry.

They welcomed the development of direct contacts between the states of India and the regions of Central Asian countries, including through establishment of partnership arrangements between them. The leaders directed their respective ministers to prepare a roadmap for enhancing mutual trade volume and industrial cooperation between India and the Central Asian countries.

The leaders noted that further development of mutual connectivity is essential for enhanced trade and commerce between India and Central Asian countries in the context of their land-locked nature and lack of overland connectivity with India.

They condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reiterated that providing support, using terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, terror financing, arms and drug trafficking, the dissemination of a radical ideology and abuse of cyberspace to spread disinformation and incite violence goes against the basic principles of humanity and international relations. They agreed that terrorism must be comprehensively countered to achieve a “World Free of Terror.”

The first India-Central Asia Summit was a reflection of India’s growing engagement with the Central Asian countries, which are a part of India’s “Extended Neighborhood.”

Prime Minister Modi paid a historic visit to all Central Asian countries in 2015. Subsequently, there have been exchanges at high levels at bilateral and multilateral forums.

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