Indian and Mongolian troops are currently holding a two-week military exercise in Mongolia, following a visit by the Indian army chief to the Central Asian country. In an email interview, Sharad K. Soni, an assistant professor of Mongolian and Central Asian studies at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, discussed India-Mongolia relations.
WPR: What is the recent history of India-Mongolia relations?
Sharad K. Soni: The two countries, known as "spiritual" neighbors, have been in close contact not only on the basis of their historical relationship, but also on the basis of post-Cold War realities. The Treaty of Friendly Relations and Cooperation, signed in 1994, laid a solid foundation for improving relations. However, the 2009 visit of newly elected Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj to India changed the extent and pattern of India-Mongolia relations. The move from bilateral ties to a comprehensive partnership reflected the ways in which both sides have redefined their geostrategic interests. Mongolia is critical for a rising India's Asian strategy, while India figures prominently in Mongolia's external relations, now characterized by its "third neighbor" policy. This pragmatic approach recently got a fillip when Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil visited Mongolia on July 27-30, the first visit by an Indian president in 23 years.