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The upcoming India-Central Asia summit slated for next month and a coordinated approach on Afghanistan were major talking points on Sunday at the third India-Central Asia foreign ministers’ dialogue.

The foreign ministers’ meet is the third, the first having taken place in 2019. The participants at the meeting took stock of ties between India and the Central Asian states with whom New Delhi established diplomatic ties almost three decades ago.

India has invited the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to visit New Delhi as chief guests for the Republic Day parade on 26 January 2022, according to a person familiar with the matter. The marking of three decades of ties also comes against the backdrop of India’s focus on ties with the five countries in the areas of connectivity, trade, and security situation with the Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan.

Foreign minister S. Jaishankar spoke about the shared concerns of India and Central Asian states vis a vis Afghanistan, which include the spread of terrorism and radicalism.

“We all also share deep-rooted historical and civilizational ties with Afghanistan. Our concerns and objectives in that country are similar, a truly inclusive and representative government, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, unhindered humanitarian assistance, and preservation of the rights of women, children, and minorities. We must find ways of helping the people of Afghanistan," he said.

The ministers “reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure, and stable Afghanistan while emphasizing the respect for sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs", according to a joint statement issued after the talks.

“The ministers also discussed the current humanitarian situation and decided to continue to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people," it said, referring to the problems caused by the covid-19 pandemic, drought, and the instability in Afghanistan. “The ministers reaffirmed the importance of UN Security Council Resolution 2593 (2021), which unequivocally demands that Afghan territory not be used for sheltering, training, planning, or financing terrorist acts and called for concerted action against all terrorist groups. The ministers also agreed to continue close consultations on the situation in Afghanistan," it said.

India would be a “steadfast partner" as the countries look at rebuilding their economies bruised by the covid-19 pandemic, Jaishankar said.

“We already have a good history of cooperation. But my message to you today is a readiness to take it to the next level. Our ties must now focus around 4 Cs: commerce, capacity enhancement, connectivity, and contacts," he said.

Rashid Meredov, deputy chairman of the cabinet of ministers and the minister of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan, described Sunday’s meeting as a “key event in preparation for the India-Central Asia summit" in January.

All the countries expressed their desire for deeper cooperation identifying healthcare, including medical tourism, science, technology, and innovation, as areas to further deepen their partnership, according to the joint statement. “The ministers paid special attention to the need to establish cooperation between specialized national institutions, including in the fields of finance, renewable energy, information, digital, and other advanced technologies," it said.

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