NEW DELHI: In a region of authoritarian regimes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has left no opportunity to lavish praise on the “political freedom” in Kyrgyzstan, the only Central Asian country to have held regular and free democratic elections.
In the penultimate stop of his six-nation tour on Sunday, Modi talked up democracy as the bond between India and Kyrgyzstan.
Modi’s media statement lauded President Almazbek Atambayev for his “contribution to democracy and development”.
One of the four agreements signed on Sunday was for cooperation between the Election Commissions, with a Parliamentary delegation set to visit India after elections later this year.
The joint statement was even more generous. “The Indian side recognises the achievements of the Kyrgyz Republic in providing political freedom for its citizens,” it said.
It would, perhaps, have been the first time that the D-word has been mentioned by Modi in the last one week since he left India for his marathon foreign journey.
In Uzbekistan, President Islam Karimov has been president for 25 years. Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in the saddle since independence in 1991.
Even though Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has been President only since 2006, but he continues the authoritarian system led by ‘Turkmenbashi’ President Saparmurat Niyazov.
In Modi’s last stop, his host will be Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has been head of state since 1992.
Therefore, New Delhi pulled no punches in talking up democracy as the bond which links India with the mountainous Kyrgyz Republic.
“Your journey to parliamentary democracy in the short period since independence has been paved with struggles and challenges. Your success is deeply admired in India,” the Prime Minister reiterated in his banquet speech.
He described the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, unveiled on Sunday, as a “tribute to the spirit of peace and democracy of the Kyrgyz people.”
“This will also be a symbol of the values that unite our two people across the forbidding heights of the mountains,” noted Modi.
India seems to have stopped feeling shy about asserting its democratic credentials.
In relations with Japan, Australia and the US, democracy is often talked about as the main bonds, in contrast with relations to China.
India is also pitching for stronger defence ties. A defence cooperation agreement signed between India and Kyrgyzstan will deal with all matters related to military education and training, conduct of joint military exercises and the exchange of military instructors and observers.
During his visit, Modi also donated medical equipment for a Level-II field hospital. He also inaugurated first telemedicine link between India and Central Asia at the National Center for Cardiology and Internal Medicine in Bishkek.