India and Kazakhstan recently signed a series of energy deals during a visit to the Central Asian country by India's prime minister. In an email interview, Emilian Kavalski, a lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, discussed relations between India and Central Asia.
WPR: What is the recent history of India's relations with Central Asia?
Emilian Kavalski: In a nutshell, India's recent relations with Central Asia have been motivated by a search for influence in what New Delhi considers to be its strategic neighborhood. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, India has pursued strategic depth not only to secure access to the region's natural resources, but also to signify India's rise to global prominence. To that effect, India has articulated a "Look North" foreign policy to secure its interests in Central Asia. Yet, due to several inconsistencies in its post-Cold War strategic vision, this approach never amounted to anything more than a rhetorical practice emphasizing the "civilizational" and "historical" connections between India and Central Asia. Therefore, in the late-1990s and early 2000s, New Delhi began to develop strategic bilateral relations with some Central Asian states, with Kazakhstan and Tajikistan becoming the symbols for this strategy. The emphasis on bilateralism allows India to focus its resources and develop much more targeted and convincing relationships in Central Asia.