• Kyrgyzstan shares border with Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and is a landlocked country in central Asia.
  • Kyrgyzstan was a part of former Soviet Union and upon the disintegration of Soviet union, it formed an independent state following a liberal polity and privatised economy.
  • It was even called the island of democracy in the post-Soviet space. However, unlike others in Central Asia, the country has no rich hydrocarbon resources.
  • Historically, India has had close contacts with Central Asia, especially countries that were part of the ancient Silk Route, including Kyrgyz Republic. During the Soviet era, India and the then Kyrgyz Republic had limited political, economic and cultural contacts.
  • India was among the first Nations to establish a diplomatic relationship with the Kyrgyz Republic in March 1992 and the resident Mission of India was set up on 23 May 1994.
  • The 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relationships between the two nations.
India-Kyrgyzstan Relations

Areas of Cooperation

Kyrgyzstan perceives India as a large and successful model of democracy and secularism with expanding political and economic influence, not only on Asian affairs, but also on the global stage. Following Kyrgyzstan’s adoption to parliamentary form of democracy, it seeks to further deepen the vibrant relationship with democratic India.

Political

  • Political ties with the Kyrgyz Republic have been traditionally warm and friendly. With the visit of Rajiv Gandhi to Bishkek and Issyk-Kul Lake in 1985, and the Festival of India in USSR (1987-88), the contacts became closer, and cultural and people-to-people interaction increased.
  • After the independence of Kyrgyz Republic in 1991, India was among the first to establish diplomatic relations in 1992.
  • An important street in Bishkek was renamed after Mahatma Gandhi during the visit of Narsimha Rao.
  • Late K.R. Narayanan and the late Krishna Kant, former Vice-Presidents, visited Kyrgyzstan in September 1996 and August 1999 respectively.
  • The visit of the Indian Prime Minister to the Kyrgyz Republic in June 2019 had raised the relationship between two nations to the level of strategic partnership.
    • 15 agreements/documents including Bilateral Investment Treaty, Protocol amending Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Fiscal Evasion, Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in Health, Information and Communication Technology, defence cooperation were signed.
    • The bilateral relations were raised to the level of Strategic Partnership.During the visit Prime Minister also announced a line of credit of US $ 200 million for financing development projects in the Kyrgyz Republic.
    • A 5 year Road-map for Trade and Economic Cooperation was adopted during the visit of Prime Minister Modi in June 2019 ,aimed at creation of favourable conditions for accelerated growth of bilateral trade , diversification of products and increase in foreign investment.
  • The 10th India-Kyrgyz Republic Foreign Office Consultations took place in Bishkek on 20 April, 2019.

Economic

  • India-Kyrgyz Republic bilateral trade during 2018-2019 was US $ 32.60 million. India’s exports to the Kyrgyz Republic was US $ 30.02 million , while Kyrgyz exports to India was US $ 2.59 million.
  • Indian exports registered a growth of 8.75% on an year to year basis. Kyrgyz Republic’s share in India’s total global exports was 0.01%.
  • Apparel and clothing, leather goods, drugs & pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, and tea are some of the important items in our export basket to Kyrgyzstan.
  • Kyrgyz exports to India consist of raw hides, metalliferous ores & metal scrap, etc.
  • In 2004, Kyrgyzstan became a party to the Trilateral Transit Agreement between India, Iran and Turkmenistan (signed in February, 1997).
  • In 1995, India had extended a $5 million line of credit to Kyrgyzstan for purchase of equipment and machinery from India for projects to be set up in this country.
  • Government of India contributed US $ 2 million to Kyrgyzstan for holding SCO Summit in Bishkek in June 2019.
  • There are around 20 Indian companies in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Technical

  • Technical assistance under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, particularly in terms of Human Resources Development (HRD), is the cornerstone of India’s economic involvement in Kyrgyzstan.
    • More than 1274 professionals from Kyrgyzstan have received training in India since 1992. 80 ITEC slots were sanctioned for 2019-2020.
  • The training programmes have contributed to capacity building and HRD in Kyrgyzstan. The training programme is demand driven and subjects selected are a wide and diverse range of skills and disciplines in IT and Telecommunication.
  • IT center at Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transportation and Architecture, Bishkek; Potato processing plant at Talas; language laboratory at the Diplomatic Academy, Bishkek; tele-medicine links connecting six hospitals in Kyrgyzstan, Bhabhatron-II equipment and Imaging simulator for treating cancer patients are some examples of the technical assistance provided to the Kyrgyz side.

Education and Cultural

  • An agreement for cultural exchange programme was signed in 1992 between the two countries. It extended till 2000 and is due for its renewal.
  • India offers scholarships under General Cultural Scholarship Scheme of ICCR to Kyrgyzstan annually.
  • The Centre for Indian Studies was set up in Osh State University in 1997. This has been useful in providing an exposure to Indian culture and civilisation to academicians and intelligentsia in Kyrgyzstan.
  • In the past, the setting up of a Centre for Gandhian Studies at the Bishkek Humanities University in 1996, and an India Centre at the Kyrgyz State National University at Bishkek in 2004 have also facilitated greater exposure to India in institutes of higher education in Kyrgyzstan.
  • The Indian side appreciates the support extended by the Kyrgyz Republic to the Kyrgyz-lndia Mountain Bio-Medical Research Center.
  • India has set up an AYUSH Center (Center of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) in the Kyrgyz Republic to offer consultation and instruction in the field of Traditional Indian medicine, which also arranges yoga camps for instructors from all over Kyrgyzstan.
  • In March 2019, Yoga Caravan, Classical Indian dance and Vegetarian Indian cuisine festival was held in Naryn, Karakol and Bishkek to commemorate 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, in collaboration with ‘Altyn Taj’-India-Kyrgyz Friendship Society.

Defence

  • India has been extending assistance to the Kyrgyz armed forces through a MoU on Military-Technical Cooperation signed in 1997.
  • The two countries have been holding joint military exercise under the name Khanjar and the latest one was Khanjar V in 2018.
  • The third Joint India-Kyrgyz Army Mountaineering Expedition was conducted in August-September 2016.
  • India and Kyrgyzstan are jointly constructing the Kyrgyz-lndian Mountain Training Centre in the city of Balykchy, Issyk-Kul District of Kyrgyzstan. This Centre will provide instruction and training for personnel of the Armed Forces of the Kyrgyz Republic as well as host Kyrgyz-lndian joint mountain training exercises.

International ties

  • Political ties with the Kyrgyz Republic have been traditionally warm and friendly.
  • Kyrgyz Republic supported India in securing full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and also supports India’s bid for permanent seat at UNSC.
  • Both countries share common concerns on threats of terrorism, extremism and drug–trafficking.

Indian Community

  • About 4500 Indian students are studying medicine in various medical institutions in Kyrgyzstan. A few businessmen are engaged in trade and services in Kyrgyzstan.

Mutual Benefits

  • India’s engagement with Kyrgyzstan is presently at a nominal yet at steady rate. This needs to be enhanced for the following reasons so that both nations progress with mutual cooperation.
  • Closer Engagement with Kyrgyzstan will help India counter the growing power and influence of china. It will help Kyrgyzstan to reduce its dependency on china.
  • The importance of deepening cooperation between India and Kyrgyzstan in the international arena, including in the framework of the United Nations had reaffirmed the need to strengthen the role of the UN. Kyrgyzstan is supportive of India’s claim to the Permanent membership in the UNSC.
  • Deeper engagement of the two will help to address the challenges posed by terrorism and extremism in the world, as well as on the Asian continent, which is necessary in ensuring a stable and secure environment for peaceful economic development.
  • Kyrgyzstan is important for India’s Central Asian policy and connectivity plans and the India-Central Asia Dialogue forum.
India-Kyrgyzstan Relations

Challenges in Relations

Trade with India faces stiff competition from China, Turkey and CIS countries:

  • Lack of connectivity, and lengthy and unreliable surface trade routes become major hurdles for the export of goods from India.
  • Indian investments in Kyrgyzstan have not been forthcoming for various reasons like lack the investment climate in the country, the underdeveloped nature of banking system and financial institutions, which are essential for attracting FDI and repatriation of profits, etc.
  • The present visa regime of Kyrgyzstan also puts up numerous obstacles for travelling Indian businessmen.
  • There are frequent reports of extortion and regular police harassment of Indian medical students at several universities in Kyrgyzstan. Tension between Indian medical students and locals has brewed in Kyrgyzstan despite high-level diplomatic efforts to extend India’s soft power in the region.
  • Kyrgyzstan has opened up too much to China and as a result, India is not able to compete.

Future Prospects

  • India should explore the possibility of seeking joint venture projects for weapons manufacturing and testing in Kyrgyz facilities
  • Kyrgyzstan’s territory offers north-south and eastwest transit routes.
  • India should exploit Kyrgyzstan’s enormous hydroelectric potential and vast mineral resource.
  • India should enlarge its cultural engagement, especially in Osh region.
  • India needs to watch and understand the politics of air-base in the region as both US and Russia have their air base.

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