| ||Afghanistan endgame leads to Tajik gambit|
By Jayanth Jacob
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Dushanbe, Tajikistan - With the end game in Afghanistan at sight, India is stepping up its engagements with central Asian countries, the key neighbours of the strife-torn country.
India’s external affairs minister SM Krishna arrived in the capital of Tajikistan on Monday ahead of all major donor countries get down to discuss their future commitments to Afghanistan on July 8.
Tajikistan a key and strategically located neighour of Afghanistan, has remained on the same page with India on Afghanistan. Both the countries also supported the Northern Alliance in their fight against the Taliban regime. More importantly, India using the Ayni airbase in Tajikistan gives an impetus to the growing strategic ties between the two countries.
What will also top the agenda at the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan that Krishna will be attending is the international commitment to Afghan National Security Forces once the western forces exit most of their responsibilities.
New Delhi has been maintaining that whatever happens in Afghanistan is of direct national security implication for India. India also visualises the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) keeping Afghanistan as a top priority issue once the NATO forces withdraw from there. And the central Asian countries have a decisive role in the grouping.
Indian officials said that India will be giving special attention the Central Asian countries. Despite having robust ties with most of the countries in the area the trade with the region is pegged at 500 million US$, which is much beyond the potential.
“Energy, economy and counter terrorism are the three areas of our vital cooperation”, an official remarked. Besides his discussions with the Afghanistan leadership, Krishna will also meet with all Indian ambassadors in the Eurasian region. India is also looking the region for its energy purposes. The Chinese have a keen interest in the region, especially in Turkmenistan. The Chinese also have also ambitious railway plans for the region. While India is keenly working on the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan that passes through Afghanistan and Pakistan, it wants to firm up its energy ties with other countries in the region as well.