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However, this does not suggest the existence of an absolute unity between Kabul and the post-Soviet states: As such, despite the growing interactions that have appeared over the last twenty years, their trajectories are bound to be linked, but not necessarily to become parallel. The second paradox from which this book was born concerns Indian knowledge of Central Asia.
Compared to their Chinese, Russian or Central Asian colleagues, Indian researchers are lucky in that they belong to an open, democratic country, in which science interacts broadly with the international community, in which it is considered normal to undertake studies abroad, and in which the scientific language is English. However, it is impossible not to notice the misreading, outside oflndia, of Indian research on Central Asia, which is almost never taken into consideration in Western research, whereas Indian research on this region is sometimes poor on dialogue with international works.
All the same, there is a long tradition of Indian knowledge of Central Asia, both under the umbrella of Orientalist studies as well as within the practice of Indo-Soviet scientific exchanges. The aim of this work on India and Central Asia is to give a voice to the actors of these relations.
Nonetheless, the point is not to fall into the facile stance of denouncing a "Western-centric point of view," since, by definition, all viewpoints are part of the cultural context in which their authors express themselves and their readers interpret them. Rather, it is to stop conceiving India and Central Asia as virginal terrains, as fields devoid of their own specific discursive traditions.
The Indian point of view has the advantage of being able to express itself in English. For this reason, we have decided to shed light on the Indian narrative on Central Asia in the present volume.
Naturally, the absence ofreciprocity is to be regretted, since the Central Asian viewpoint on India is not included. However, it does exist.
Consider, for example, the popular memory of historical links between both zones; Uzbek pride in having constructed the Taj Mahal, a symbol of tourism for India today to which the Timurid museum in Tashkent has devoted an exhibit; the Tajik feeling of sharing with India a specific linguistic and historical relation based on a mythical Aryan past; the openly pro-Indian discourses articulated by figures, such as Murat Auezov in Kazakhstan, who seek to counter Chinese domination, but also the Central Asian politicians and experts who express their major disappointments in relation to India, which is big on talk but not on action.
The world as viewed from Central Asia merits having its own, independent work, taken to a level of analysis that is not feasible for the present volume. This book can, therefore, be read at two levels. First, it is a classic academic work, which offers a collective viewpoint on the different facets of India's engagement in Central Asia and studies New Delhi's strategies in this region of the world, deemed crncial to its interests.
Second, it is conceived as a testimony designed to give a voice to Indian scholars who, each in their own way, reflect India's perceptions of the region. All academic research takes root in a specific cultural context, stamped by particular intellectual traditions, even if such traditions are gradually becoming internationalized.
Mapping Central Asia | Indian Perceptions and Strategies | Taylor & Francis Group
Scholars are not machines that, insensitive to the context in which they live, simply produce objective knowledge. Indian research on Central Asia, like that produced in Europe, the United States, Japan or China, attracts a set of identity biases, of historical myths, of political presuppositions and of media commonplaces, which form an integral part of the narrative on the region. The organization of this volume is accordingly split into three parts. The first part aims both to provide historical background to India-Central Asia relations, and to reflect on the role of historical myths in contemporary discourses.
In this way, where Suchandana Chatterjee and Surendra Gopal delve into the major role played by the end of the 19th century and the Soviet period in the establishment of India-Central Asia connections, Anita Sengupta and Sreemati Ganguli examine the influence of historical and geopolitical perceptions in the formulation of India's strategies in Central Asia.
Indian Perceptions and Strategies. With renewed American involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan's growing fragility, and China's rise in power in the post-Soviet space, Central Asia-South Asia relations have become central to understanding the future of the Eurasian continent. Mapping Central Asia identifies the trends, attitudes, and ideas that are key to structuring the Central Asia-South Asia axis in the coming decade.
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Structured in three parts, the book skillfully guides us through the importance of the historical links between the Indian sub-continent and Central Asia, the regional and global context in which the developing of closer relations between India and Central Asia has presented itself since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the precise domains of Indo-Central Asian cooperation, and studies three conflict zones that frame Indo-Central Asian relations: