Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi has been on a whirlwind tour of Central Asia, taking in the sights of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the space of a week. Modi is doing one hell of a PR job currying favour with his politically authoritarian and economically underrated near-neighbours, and it’s not because he’s fond of the scenery.
India needs energy – or rather the natural resources that produce energy. As the most populated country on earth, and the second fastest economically developing – soon to become the fastest developing country, overtaking China, according to the World Bank – they need oil and gas, which all these countries are rich in. A long time coming is the cross border gas pipeline, TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). This plan is far from being realised with the current security situation in Afghanistan, but Turkmenistan and India view the project as a “key pillar” of economic engagement between the two countries.
Perhaps even more interestingly however, is his interest in nuclear energy potential; India signed a fresh deal with Kazakhstan to secure 5,000 tonnes of uranium supply over the next four years. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of uranium and the deal has ensured a steady supply of fuel for India’s 21 operating nuclear reactors. India, with United States acknowledgement, has been developing nuclear energy facilities for the past 20 years, however, considering that Modi was until recently gracing the top tiers of the US terror list, the US might not be so keen to have nuclear developments continue.
Simply put, India’s population needs these resources; I doubt the 23% of the population without electricity give a rat’s ass whether or not their Prime minister is on a US hit list. Considering that India’s population is now over 1.2 Billion, that means approximately 278 million people (equivalent to 4/5ths of the US population or just over half of the European Union’s population) live without light or heating facilities.
On the other side of the coin, Central Asian states deals with India are far more straightforward than anything they could obtain from Europe of the US. India isn’t dictating conditions for democratic reform, gender partiality and capitalist market engagement, they are letting these countries un-tempered human rights records lie.
The situation should not be taken as mere posturing, there are clear gains for all, but the question left unsaid is what will be the human cost?