India, China hold first official dialogue on Central Asia

Beijing, Aug 14 (IANS) India and China held their first dialogue on Central Asia on regional and energy security, and counter-terrorism, reflecting the growing engagement between the foreign offices of the two countries.

The two neighbours discussed the situation in Central Asia, focussing on their "very similar" approaches to political and economic relationships with countries of the strategically important region. Both sides had a conversation on specific issues like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), development partnerships, and people-to-people contacts with the countries of the region.

The dialogue followed similar comprehensive dialogues on Africa, West Asia, Afghanistan and counter-terrorism issues. They were "held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere marked by a high degree of candour," said an Indian Embassy release.

The Chinese side briefed the Indian delegation on China's vision of its relations with Central Asia, while the Indian side described details of India's "Connect Central Asia"" policy.

Both India and China are in the neighbourhood of Central Asia and have established close political and economic ties with the countries of the region. Both countries stated that strong relationships with the countries of the Central Asia region were an important priority in their foreign policy.

Ajay Bisaria, joint secretary, Eurasia division in the Ministry of External Affairs, led the Indian delegation in the two-day talks on Aug 12 and 13, which were joined by Prabhat Kumar, joint secretary, energy security. The Chinese side was led by Zhang Hanhui, director general, department of European-Central Asian affairs.

The Indian delegation also called on Cheng Guoping, vice foreign minister, and discussed the similarity of Indian and Chinese interests in Central Asia.

It also interacted with scholars at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) and the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).

The Indian side invited the Chinese delegation for the next round of the dialogue in New Delhi.

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