Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 27 November 2017
General Raimberdi Duishenbiyev, Chief of General Staff, Armed Forces of the Kyrgyz Republic is on 6 day India visit starting 26 November till 01 December, when he is scheduled to meet Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. He inspected a tri-services guard of honour at South block soon after laying wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti.
General Raimbedi, today. has had meeting with Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat with whom he discussed issues of mutual concerns. He also called on Vice Chief of Air Staff and Vice Chief of Naval Staff, according to defence ministry sources. He is accompanied by his Chief of Air Defence, Chief of International Military Cooperation and Chief of Finance. The delegation also comprises the CGS’s assistant and officer dealing with bilateral defence cooperation with India.
Gen Raimberdi Duishenbiyev is the man behind restructuring of Kyrgyz Armed Forces. Bilateral Defence Cooperation between the two countries has been on the rise, with joint exercises, IT related projects, joint mountaineering expeditions, and many other collaborations. As a mark of our deep relations, the CGS Gen Raimberdi has been invited as Reviewing Officer of the NDA POP scheduled on 30 Nov.
India and Kyrgyzstan share close bilateral relations. The military to military contacts have also risen over the years. Kyrgyzstan has no sea border but only has a lake. It does not has a navy and a full fledged air force. It has only a helicopter unit, a source who is closely familiar with Kyrgyzstan told National Defence. Both countries have started bilateral military exercise codenamed ‘Khanjar’ held in New Delhi in 2011. The Khanjar-II exercises were held in March 2015 in Kyrgyzstan, Khanjar III in March-April 2016 in Gwalior. The Khanjar-IV exercises were held in Kyrgyzstan in February-March this year.
However, while India has chosen to stay out of BRI for sovereignty reasons. Kyrgyzstan had long crossed India’s sovereignty red lines when Kyrgs signed the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) with Pakistan in 1995 to use the Karakoram Highway passing through Gilgit-Baltistan as a transit corridor. “It is a different matter that QTTA has not been effective for facilitating traffic, but it did nullify India’s objection much before even BRI came into being”, a defence expert said on condition of anonymity.
Kyrgyzstan is a border state of China, where Chinese are mutely expanding their influence, especially on the economic and strategic front. At the same time Kyrgyzstan is also a trouble-spot for China. The Chinese embassy in Bishkek has been attacked in August last year by Uyghur militants.
Defence experts believe that Kyrgyzstan is under the sphere influence of both Russia and China while later coming closer is no hidden a fact. In June this year, the border guarding forces of Kyrgyzstan and China held collaborative exercises to bolster their ability to counter weapons smuggling in China’s Xinjiang region.
India’s trade with Central Asia is paltry $1.4 billion and meagrely $27 million with Kyrgyzstan, one sixth to that of China standing at $1.6 billion in 2016. China has also engaged heavily in transport and infrastructure projects in Kyrgyzstan, as Central Asia forms a key component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
However, Kyrgyzstan supports India’s bid for permanent membership in UN Security Council and India’s membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Experts believe, Kyrgyzstan can help India create new connectivity opportunities under the SCO’s regional initiatives for opening new routes and transport operations and services through intergovernmental agreements.
Kyrgyzstan is of enormous geostrategic significance for regional security and great power games. It is a geostrategic melting hotspot for Russians, American and Chinese and occupies literally the same position as Djibouti in Oceanic geostrategic terms. China must be closely watching the visit of Gen Raimberdi Duishenbiyev in terms of India’s stand on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of OBOR.
The time is ripe to carry forward the deep relationship while being conscious of the growing sphere of influence of (Pak, China and Russia triad) over Kyrgyzstan over the years.