China is trying to woo Central Asian countries, what is Jinping’s planning behind his visit to Tajikistan-Kazakhstan

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Astana, Kazakhstan on July 2. Here he will attend the 24th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). After that, he is expected to fly to Tajikistan. The visit, which includes a meeting with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and a visit to Tajikistan at the invitation of President Emomali Rahmon, is seen as part of Beijing’s broader strategy to increase its influence in Central Asia. China has deep interests in the Central Asia region and is looking for an opportunity to fill the void in the area. To fulfill that goal, Beijing has already prepared a plan for the region.

Power vacuum in Central Asia

Since 2021, the Central Asian republics have faced increasing internal and external challenges. Border skirmishes and internal unrest have increased regional instability. Russia’s military and political focus on Ukraine has weakened its historic role as a security guarantor in Central Asia, creating a vacuum that China is eager to fill. The diminished influence of the United States in the region, especially after its troops pulled out of Afghanistan, is another strategic opportunity for Beijing to increase its role in the region. China’s growing activism in Central Asia is a calculated move to secure its interests amid these changing dynamics. Beijing aims to leverage its economic power and political influence to establish a strong presence there, taking advantage of the region’s strategic importance and its rich natural resources.

China’s interest in the Central Asian republics

Central Asia holds great strategic and economic importance to Beijing. The region has vast reserves of energy resources, including natural gas and oil, which are vital to China’s energy security. According to ORF, after the 2008 global financial crisis, China extended significant loans to energy-rich Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, cementing its role as a major economic partner. Turkmenistan received US$3 billion, while Kazakhstan secured US$10 billion under an oil-for-loans agreement that gave China easier access to its natural gas reserves.

India and Central Asia

Peace and security in Central Asia is crucial for peace and stability in India. It is deeply linked to peace and security in Afghanistan. The three Central Asian republics – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – share borders with Afghanistan. India and Central Asia need cooperation with other regional powers such as Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan, as well as the US and the EU, to promote security and stability in Afghanistan. The Taliban occupation of Kabul, following the sudden and unofficial withdrawal of the US and NATO countries from Afghanistan in August 2021, has created several challenges for connectivity between India and Central Asia. The region is also rich in natural and mineral resources such as oil, gas (Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas), uranium (Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of uranium ore and has the world’s second largest reserves of this mineral), lead, iron ore, coal, rare earths, water, etc. The region can contribute to India’s energy security through fossil fuels and hydropower and meet the requirement of many critical minerals and metals. The area is ideally located to provide seamless connectivity between Europe and India.

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