Dialogue  October-December, 2004, Volume 6  No. 2

Historical and Cultural Relations between Kazakhstan, Central Asia and India from Ancient times to the beginning of the XX century

Dr. M. Kh. Abuseitova

Ethnic-cultural and trade contacts between Kazakhstan and India has lasted for many centuries and go back to migration of Aryan tribes from steppes of Eurasia to plains of Indostan subcontinent. Vedic literature, for example Rigveda, Atharvaveda, Samhitas etc., contains information about the presence of Indoarian tribes on the territory of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, though it is fragmental.

In the Neolithic epoch most of the territory of Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Northern India was a part of large area inhabited by agricultural cultures close to each other, which went through similar processes of social development.

Comparable research of the Neolithic cultures of Kazakhstan, India and Central Asia allows us to review in details the sources of the agricultural cultures of the South of Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the Northern India, particularly to observe stages of development of pre-Harappa and Harappa settlements.1 Archeological excavations in the north-western regions of India, in the centers of the Harappa civilization display an existence of intertribal exchange of goods already in ancient time. From Central Asia towns of the Harappa civilization acquired gems. In its turn there were discovered harappa handicrafts in Central Asia. These facts display that there were processes of different goods exchange in Central Asian and Indian regions, before the appearance of the Aryans in India.

*Professor & Director of the Institute of the Oriental Studies of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan

The recent researches of archeological relics display that there existed contacts between towns of Sindh river valley and Central Asian and Kazakhstan settlements. These discoveries belong to the period of golden age of the Harappan culture. Some items are similar with those of the Harappan culture (metal goods, beads made of faience, pottery, ivory). Handicrafts from India as well as the local items that had obvious signs of Indian influence were discovered in Central Asia.

Archeological materials from Central Asia and Kazakhstan revealed facts of similarity of material culture of the Vedic tribes and Central Asian culture. For example, items found in tombs turned out to be similar with items that the Vedic tribes used in burial rituals mentioned in Rigveda, and that is very important.

An appearance of nomadic conquerors might explain discovery of iron plates of armor of katafraktaries in Taksila, in the layer of the first half of the 1st century AC. Heavy armor and heavy armored soldiers’ tactic were worked out during many centuries in steppes of Eurasia, including tribes of the northern areas of Central Asia and Kazakhstan (iron plated armor of IV-III c. BC in Chirik-Rabat in the lower run of Syr-Daryya).2

Specific double-edged short iron swords with straight and crescent knob on a handle that were recently discovered in the second layer of Sirpak in Taksila (the first half of the 1 c. AC) are connected with the culture of the tribes of Eurasia steppes. Their shape was formed among Skiff-Sarmats tribes of the Volga and western Kazakhstan steppes. In Central Asia they were found in Northern Baktra in tombs of Tulkhar (II-I c. BC).

Disk-shaped bronze mirrors with a relief roller on the edge, cone-shaped salience in the center and a small flank ledge that is a pin for handle of the type, which is known also on the territory of Central Asia were discovered in Taksila (the second layer of Sirpak).

Discovery of proto-Indian seal with two pictograms in Altyn-dep allowed to make an assumption that some of the inhabitants of Altyn-dep were able to read this “text”. There is an assumption that one part of the ancient population of Central Asia, probably, spoke Dravid language.3 Cornelian beads with white ornament were found in Central Asia and South Kazakhstan in tombs near Varuh valley (Isfarin area), Tura-Tash, Shaushukum, Ungur-Kura, Taigak and others, and also in Horezm and Farhadstroy. In Central Kazakhstan such beads were found in Sak complexes of the same period.4

There were no large deposits of good cornelian in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Jewelers got it from Arabia, Iran and India. Professor Lemmlein G. G. thinks that the beads are Indian-made (Kambei, Gudzharat).

Linguistic data of Beily H., who analyzed the origins of Avesta terms ‘instrument’, ‘weapon’ and adjective ‘armed’ in his work “Ariana”, is very important. Later they entered Sogd language and Sanskrit. In Sanskrit and Prakrit this word forms complicated epithets and is met in the meaning of ‘horse armor’. Sanskrit started to use Iranian terms with the meaning ‘horseman’ and ‘saddle’.5 We might assume that corresponded words could penetrate to the Indian languages not earlier than VII-IV c. BC as a result of contacts with nomadic tribes of Central Asia, and namely with the Sak tribes. Contacts between India and Central Asia in the sphere of weaponry are witnessed by the fact that term for ‘chest armor’ came to Sanskrit from Iranian.6

Ethnic-cultural contacts between Central Asia, Kazakhstan and India became more intensified and regular in the period of emergence of the first large state formations on the territory of India (the Mauryas and Kushan empires), Buddhism and the campaign of Alexander the Great.

Buddhism played a great role in development and intensification of contacts between India and Kazakhstan. The penetration of this religion into Kazakhstan and Central Asia started a new era in the relationship between these two regions. The influence of Buddhism was so strong and diverse that a new culture was formed in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. This culture gathered the best that was made by Indians and population of Central Asia and Kazakhstan in the previous centuries. We shall review some typical facts of the mutual influence of India, Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

Presence of many Buddhist temples and centers in Central Asia and Kazakhstan can be a nice example of mutual contacts and prove evidences of the Buddhist tradition about spreading of Buddhism over Central Asia and Kazakhstan under Kushans.

Spreading of Buddhism in Central Asia under the Kushans was accompanied not by blind acceptation of the ideas of ancient Indian culture, but by their understanding and combination with local cultural traditions.

The most interesting from archeological discoveries is written Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts in brahmi and kharoshthi. Paleographically they are close to Gilgit manuscripts of “Pradzhnyapa-ramit” literature (“Vinayapitaka”) and dated approximately by VII-VIII c. AC. Of a big scientific interest is Buddhist Sanskrit manuscript of Sarvastivad’s school. Approximately it is dated V-VI c. AC.7

Adherents of Buddhism in Central Asia and Kazakhstan did not just translate from Sanskrit and Prakrit, but interpreted it themselves. Local variants of Indian types were worked out. Great similarity of Kara-tepe inscriptions with some Indian epigraphic relics indicates the penetration of written traditions directly from India.8

Having researched temple complexes and Buddhist works scientists came to the conclusion that there were adherents of Buddhist schools of Sarvastivad and Mahasanghik under the Kushans in Central Asia and Kazakhstan.9

Sources inform that there were a lot of adherents of Vaishbhashik’s school in Balh under the Kushans. His adherents were Central Asian theologian-monks Ghosaka and Dharmamitra known for their comments on Buddhist religious texts. Ghosaka was ascribed to make a huge commentary on “Abhidharmapitaka”. Dharmamitra, Termez born, was a commentator of “Vinayasutra”. The sources name 5 more Buddhist monks, natives of Central Asia and Kazakhstan who worked in China in II-IV c. AC on translation to the Chinese and interpretation of Buddhist texts.

And finally, Indian graffiti inscriptions discovered in Central Asia and Kazakhstan, display that Indians (or people who knew Indian languages and writing) continued to visit this region after the III c.10

According to the inscriptions discovered in Central Asia, in the Kushan and Gupta periods, Indians settled there and built large temple complexes. There are also written evidences of the direct contact between Central Asia and India. These are Buddhist manuscripts on birch bark and palm leaves, which were found in Central Asia.

Decline of Buddhism in Central Asia and Kazakhstan took place by the VII-VIII c. AC. According to a story of a traveler who visited Samarkand in 630 AC Buddhist temples did not function and population was hostile to Buddhists. Another traveler in VIII c. witnessed the same.

Apparently, with the coming to power of Gupta dynasty in India (IV-V c.) that led to state disconnection between India and Central Asia, the direct contact with Indian culture was impeded.

New Kazakhstan archeological materials and analysis of written sources allow us to assume that Eastern Turkistan and Chinese influence on spreading and development of Buddhism in Zhetisu was dominating. Information about the constructions of Buddhist temple in Suyab proves that the temple was build in 692 by the order of Van Chzhen Zyan, a military viceroy of Beshbalik, after he captured Suyab.11

We should share the opinion that an influence of India-China-Eastern Turkistan direction on development of Buddhism in Zhetisu was dominating.

New researches displayed that Buddhism was spread over Zhetisu even after X-XI c. when Islam was dominating and the Buddhist temples were destroyed. That was mentioned by Kahsgari. But already in the middle of the XIII c. Rubruk G. the ambassador of Luis IX to the Mongol Khan Munke, informed about Buddhist temples in the northeastern Zhetisu.

Spread of Buddhism over Zhetisu in this period was connected with Naiman invasion headed by Kuchluk. According to “Tarikh-i Rashidi” by Mirza Muhammed Dulati, there was a furious struggle between Kuchluk and Gurkhan of Karakitais were Kuchluk was a winner. Kuchluk seized Kashgar and Hotan, and his tribes settled alongside the Emil and Kiiyalik rivers. Then he forced local inhabitants to reject the religion of Muhammad and to choose another religion. According to Dulati, people began to wear Chinese clothes, i.e. Buddhist.

As it is known after the destruction of the Zhungar khanate by Zin empire in 1758, the Chinese conquered Eastern Turkistan and seized some part of the territory of Big and Middle Zhuzs, including Zhetisu. One part of the Kalmaks was used by the Zin empire in guarding its western borders. The Buddhist temples and monasteries belonged to those Kalmaks.

In 1863 anti-Chinese rebellion of Dungans began under the religious slogan of fighting for Islam. Soon the rebellion involved Zhungariya. The Uigurs of Kuldja region actively participated in the same.

In 1864 the rebellion spread over the whole Eastern Turkistan. The Chinese garrisons were eliminated, their fortresses and settlements were destroyed and the Buddhist temples and monasteries were destroyed too.

That year was the last Date of Buddhism’s existence in Zhetisu and Eastern Turkistan. One of those destroyed monasteries was the monastery of Sumbe. It was mentioned by Valikhanov C. C. in 1854. Ruins of this monastery were discovered on the right side of the Sumbe river, near Shaartas mountain in Almaty oblast 320 kms away from Almaty.

In its turn, apparently, in Central Asia and Kazakhstan was formed an image of Buddha with a belt of stylized flame (connection with Mazdeists’ ideas) (Kara-tepe complex).

We can mark two periods of penetration of Indian elements into Central Asian painting: Kushan period (I-VIII c.) when influence of Indian art was direct; early medieval (V-VII c.) when influence of Indian art was indirect.12

Archeological discoveries of the last decade revealed Buddhist memorials of the I-VIII c. on the territory of Central Asia: in Ayrtam, Kara-Tepe, Fayaz-Tepe (near Termez), Adzhini-Tepe and Kalayi-Kafirnigan (in south of Tadjikistan), Ak-Beshim (north of Kirgizstan).

The first period is represented by small amount of Buddhist literature.

At the next stage (V-VII c.) Buddhism extended its borders and Buddhist art in Central Asia reached its pick. Simultaneously cultural contacts between Central Asia and India became more intensified. As an example we can consider Central Asian painting, represented by large number of relics, including wall-paintings of Buddhist temples in Adzhina-Tepe and Kalayi-Kafirnigan, paintings of palaces in Varakhsha, Pendzhikent, Afrasiab, Balalyk-Tepe, Shahristan, where Central Asian and Indian elements are joined together. Influence of Buddhist art is obvious. However, Central Asian artists did not obey all the canons blindly. Local sculptors and artists, builders and architects used traditions and skills that had already been developed in Central Asia and Kazakhstan, and they managed to combine them with cultural norms of neighboring countries, especially of India and Afghanistan. Anthropo-morphologic and zoo-morphologic terracotta (monkeys, elephants, rhinoceros) from Dzhanbars-kala, Angka-kala, Torpak-kala, Gyaur-kala have many analogies with the famous Ajanta paintings. Indo-Central-Asian contacts are vividly seen in architecture of the “hall of black-skinned warriors” of Torpak-kala palace.

Central Asian and Kazakhstan Buddhist painting has an image of Indian heavenly body that is sun (Surya). We find a parallel to this in images of sun chariot in the sculpture of Bodh-Gaya (I c. BC) and Hair-Khan (V c. AC) and in Bamian painting (V c. AC).13 There are parallels of winged lions in the Indian art (sculptural disk from Bharhuta).

Images of the Indian mythology penetrated into Central Asia together with the Buddhist ideas and iconography. There are some pictures in Central Asian painting that are connected with iconography of Shiva. Pick-topped “skiff” hat, which is unusual for India, is painted on several other sculptures from Mathura, and some terracotta14 from Taksila. Influence of the Indian artistic methods was reflected on different statues of dancers, which were found in the hall of the object III in Pandzhikent.

After the Arab conquest of Central Asia, and later of India, the old cultural traditions were transformed and even abolished. The tradition of monumental painting weakened and was limited by decorating of palaces and other secular buildings. Book miniature, which illustrates only secular books, became the leading form of painting in the medieval period.

Many Chinese pilgrims of V-VIII c. crossed Kazakhstan and Central Asia on their way to or from the Indian holy places. Travel notes of those pilgrims display that the routes existed for a long period. It allows us to assume that the contacts between Kazakhstan, Central Asia and India were quite stable in the early medieval period.

There are some evidences of spreading over Kazakhstan and Central Asia of fairytale plots from “Panchatantra” (III-IV c.), Indian story-collection of worldly stories, which were translated into Sogdian language.

Turkic element itself began to appear in India quite long ago. Tribes of the Northern India in V-VIII c. many times fell under the power of Ephtalite or Turkic conquerors, thus entering into political and ethnic contacts with Central Asian tribes. At the same time Epthalites and Turkic governors were affected by the developed and ancient Indian culture and very often promoted its spreading over their northern domains, i.e. Central Asia. For example, many sources give information that there were a lot of Buddhist memorials in Badiyan, the capital of the Ephtalites.

The Turks regularly invaded India under the leadership of Gazni governor Mahmud (998-1030) from 1001 till 1026. Under the successor of Mahmud the capital of Gaznevids was removed to Lahore. In the 70s of the XII c. governors of a small vassal princedom Gur got advantage from disturbance and seized Gazni in 1173, and in 1186 they seized the capital of their former master Lahore city. Brother of the governor Gur Muhammed Guri defeated Indian princes quarreling with each other and seized the whole valley of Yamuna and Ganga.

After a murder of Muhammed Guri one of his Turk slaves, a commander of his guard and viceroy of the northern India Kutb ud-din Aibek (1206-1210) declared himself an independent sultan of the Indian domain of the Gurids with the capital in Delhi. Thus the Delhi Sultanate emerged. Under the Iltutmysh the superiority of Turkic-Muslim commanders was formed. In commemoration of Illtutmysh there was erected Kutb-minar minaret in Delhi. Its construction began under Kutb ud-din and was finished under Iltutmysh. Military aristocracy was formed from Central Asian Turks at that period. They created powerful organization “Forty”, called so due to the number of its founders.

At that time the Mongols often conducted raids, and in 1241 they managed to seize Lahore. Giiyas ud-din Balban (1265-1287) got the power in 1265 after death of Nasir. After he became a sultan Balban managed to fight back the Mongols and build a number of fortresses on the northwestern borders. His ruling was full of fighting for strengthening his power. It were the Turks who due to their knowledge of Mongolian war methods managed to resist and even fight back the Mongols, and thus save the country from terrible pillage.

The Delhi sultanate was the beginning of intensive penetration of Turkic culture into India.

At first the conquest of India by natives of Central Asia led to the growth of caravan trade between India and Muslim East. Coins of Delhi sultans are found not only in Persia and Central Asia, but even near the Volga. So far as the main force of the army of Delhi state was cavalry, and horses could not be bred due to the absence of pastures in India, horses were the major item of Indian import. However, soon the conquest of the Mongols and destruction of several towns in Iran and Central Asia led to decline of the Indian caravan trade.

Under Aibek such Indian regions as Gwaliar, Ajamer, Benaras, Ratanpur, Patna, Kalanjhar and Bengal recognized the power of governors of Delhi sultanate. And that promoted the consolidation of India and spread of Islam over India.

The most influential part of gulyam’s guard consisted of representatives of Kipchak tribe Ilbari, whose domain was situated in Western Kazakhstan and lower run of the Volga before Mongolian invasion. Under Eltutmysh who was a native Kipchak (Ilbari) gulyam emirs formed the most influential group in the ruling elite of the Delhi sultanate. Eltutmysh’s policy was directed to consolidation of Turkic gulyams near him by appointing them to different posts both in the military and the state apparatus. According to Dzhuzdzhani, Eltutmysh had 25 commander-maliks from Ilbary tribe, Turki-karakitais, and other Kipchak tribes and natives of southeast Kazakhstan.15

A consolidating effort of the Turkic governors of India made a positive effect and in the XIII c. Delhi was one the most important cultural centers of India. Basis of that Indian culture that later became known as Indo-Muslim were founded under the Delhi sultanate. This culture was a result of combining of cultures of different people, of their mutual influence. Scientists and poets from Otyrar, Samarkand, Bukhara, Gerat, Balh and other towns found “new Motherland in India and enriched its culture by their work and increased its glory”.

An important feature of the cultural development of the Delhi sultanate in the XIII c. was formation of a style of Indian historic chronicles in Farsi. An outstanding representative of this style was a historian Dzhuzdzhani, native of Gurgan, who was under the protection of sultan Eltutmysh. His works saved for history an information about an important role of Desht-I Kipchak natives, ethnic ancestors of the Kazakhs and other modern Turkic people.

The empire of the Great Mogols emerged in the northern part of India in 1526. Emir of Fergana Zahir ad-din Muhammad Babur (1526-1530) started this dynasty. Establishment of a strong and organized state in India governed by Turkic-Muslim dynasty intensified penetration of new traditions, which were connected with culture and art of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, into this region.

He was very educated and observant person, thus he understood art very well. His memoirs “Babur-name” were written in simple, clear manner.

According to “Babur Name”, Kazakh tribal aristocracy along with number of other fellow Turkic soldiers took active participation in the campaign of Babur. Turkic aristocracy made great influence over development of Mogul empire. Sources testify that Indians have preserved the genealogical tree and the tradition of shadzhara (shezhere). It is well known that founder of Kubt Shah (Kuli Kubt-al-Mulk) dynasty was from Turlestan and his encirclement was from this town. It is possible to discover other examples/dynastic chronicle, which testify wide phenomenon and significance of Turkic influence in life of Indian society. During this period, great traditions of cultural intercourse and contacts of Central Asia and Great Mogul Empire existed. Central Asia played special role in promotion of Indian culture. From the beginning of the 16th century Indian merchants from Northern India started trading in the north to Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia and Kazakhstan. However, new aspect of Kazakhstan-Indian relations during 16th to 18th centuries is not well explored. Peculiarities of Kazakh-Indian trade was that it was conducted through the mediation of Central Asian, Indian and Afghani merchants. Kazakhs mainly traded with cattle, which was driven through Central Asia to India. Among the goods, transported in caravan included horses. Considerable quantity of horses were driven to India from Bukhara; horses of Kazakh strains were especially preferred. There are documents giving data that Kazakh merchants drove about 40 thousand horses to India.16

Important information is available in written sources of Indian historiography such as “Bukhar-Nama”, “Tarih-I Rashidi”, “Akbar-Nama”, “Alamgir-Nama” and others. In this connection it is necessary to pay attention to these manuscripts, archive materials, which are in custody of India and abroad, particularly in India Office in the Great Britain, which are yet to be studied properly.

According to sources there was regular diplomatic relationship between the Mogol empire and Bukhara. From the 2nd half of the XVI c. an intensive development of Indian-Central Asian trade took place in regard to seizure by Portugal of such big trade ports as Goa, Diu, Daman. As a result the Mogol empire lost its sea trade routes. Under these conditions the role of ancient caravan routes through Afghanistan to Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Russia increased. Positive effect was made on the development of Indian-Central Asian trade by the capture of Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1556) by Russia. From that time onwards the role of Central Asian merchants as mediators of Indo-Russian trade significantly increased.

Growing economic ties became a precondition for strengthening political relationship between Central Asia and India. Already in 1572 Akbar received the first ambassador of Bukhara, Hodzha Altamysh.17 According to Abdulfazl Allami, the author of “Akbar Shah’s history”, the ambassador had a letter from Abdullkhan to Akbar. The next mission from Abdullkhan came to India in 1575 with a proposal to divide Iran. Akbar send reciprocal mission to Bukhara with Mirza Fulad as ahead.

Bukhara ambassadors visited India in 1585-1586 once more. The head of the mission was Mir Kureish. The mission brought some pedigree horses and camels, furs and luxuries as presents. At the same time there was a reciprocal mission from India to Bukhara headed by Hakim Humam and Sadr Dzhahan, which went together with the Bukhara mission from Lahore on 28.08.1586.

In the following years the Mogol empire and Central Asia and Kazakhstan exchanged missions for many times. The main purpose of those missions was solution of political and economic-trade problems in the region.

Aforementioned facts display that political ties between India and Bukhara in the second half of the XVI c. were very intensive and both sides aspired to peaceful relationship between each other, taking into consideration their own interests.

Conquests of Babur and his successors extended the borders of the Mogolian state. Numerous Indian and Muslim princedoms and states were replaced by centralized state, which stretched from the Himalayas to the Narbada river and from Arab sea to Bengal gulf. Consolidation of almost whole territory of India under one power promoted development of trade and crafts. Culture and art were also at the stage of raising. In architecture a nice example of the symbiosis of Central Asian and Indian art is Taj-Mahal. To build it emperor Shah Jahan gathered famous architects, craftsmen and masters from India, Central Asia and other countries. Thus Muhammad Hanif came from Kandahar and Muhammad Said from Multan. Masters of a cupola building such as Ismail-khan Rumi (local), Muhammad Sharif from Samarkand and Kazim Khan from Lahore were also invited. Besides that decorators and calligraphy masters from Bukhara, Delhi, Lahore, Kanauj and other towns took part in construction. From Bukhara came two “flower sculptors Ata Muhammad and Shukur, Muhammad. That international group first created wooden model, and then started its construction that lasted for many years. Central Asian architectural tradition and Indian one, which originated from constructions of the VI and VII c., were vividly reflected on this building.

Babur in his “Memoirs” indicates that 200 stonemasons from Hindustan, Azerbaidzhan and other countries took part in construction of Timur Beg’s mosque in Samarkand. When Babur came to India he brought many builders, including the Indians who earlier worked in Samarkand and Bukhara.18 An interesting sample of construction that probably originated from nomadic yurtas of the ancestors of the Great Mogols is an image of yurta in the picture showing the birth of Salim.

It is known that Central Asian miniature masters Muhammad Murad and Muhammad Nadir Samarkandi worked in the court workshop of the Great Mogols.19 Several miniatures of Mogolian school had signatures of artists, which proved their ties with Central Asia. Muhammad Nadir Samarkandi was one of those artists. His nisba tells that his ancestors and he himself were from Samarkand. Works of this master that were made in siyahi kalam technique are quite famous. They are portraits of Jahangir, Shah Jahan and some courtiers.

In its turn the Indian miniature school influenced Central Asian miniature painting. As a result of such cooperation some artistic methods appeared in the Bukhara painting. They are typical for the Mogolian school of miniatures.

Emergence and rapid development of a fine miniature school in the courts of the Great Mogols were prepared by the whole history of painting development in India itself, and also by specific historic conditions in India in XVI c.

Miniature painting of Central Asia developed as a secular art in the medieval period. By the time of emergence of the Mogolian school miniatures of Central Asia had been developed and improved for a long time, and thus its influence on the Indian painting was natural. However, several decades later it in its turn got an impulse for development from the Mogolian miniatures. There was fruitful process of mutual enrichment and renewal. Achievements of the Indian and Central Asian schools, each of them having its own old traditions, always were accepted creatively.

Exactly under the Mogol empire India was dramatically affected by the Turkic culture and the Turkic people. The Turks promoted the golden age of Muslim culture in India. Literature and lyrics in the Persian developed, elements specific for the Muslim architecture appeared, basis of the Indian miniature school were founded. From the time of the Turki appearance under the leadership of Babur, Indian culture develops in absolutely different way. Significant changes happened in the social life of Indian people. The basis of the caste system was undermined.

In the XIX c. Indian-Kazakh relationship bacame absolutely different due to the changes in the geopolitical situation in Asia. Epoch of great geographic discoveries that began little earlier and covered many parts of the world unknown to Europeans reached Central Asia, including Kazakhstan.

Indian-Kazakh relationship, in addition to the traditional trade-economic and social ties, became military and politic one. The main problems was of competition between England and Russia in Central Asia and Russian offense to Kazakhstan. Persistent struggle between British India and Russian defined military and political climate in the region, and character of relationship between India and Kazakhstan.

In the XIX c. relationship between India and Kazakhstan became more intensive and diverse than in the previous centuries. There were some reasons for that. The first, that relationship developed during changes in geopolitical situation in Central Asian region where the interests of 3 powers (Great Britain, Russia and China) collided. So-called “Great game” involved Kazakhstan also. Economic, cultural and political contacts between Kazakhstan and India proceeded against a background of intensification of interests of the powers that were fighting for the leadership in Central Asia. The second, Kazakhstan was not independent state any more and its contact with the world was under the control and was defined by Russia. That circumstance made a certain effect on the relationship between Kazakhstan and India. The third, English travelers actively began to make researches in Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

Movement of the English from the British India to Central Asia and Kazakhstan was accompanied by the same action of Russia on the north. It promoted activation of intercultural, trade and political contacts between two regions. The territory of Kazakhstan as well as the territories of other states of the region became an object of attention of research centers of the British India.

There were several English expeditions to the region that had scientific, political and economic purposes. Thus, Kazakhstan and Central Asia were visited by Ashton Dilke (1873), Delmar Morgan (1880), Landsdel (1882, 1892), count Danmore (1892), Littledeil (1890, 1893), 20Clive Bigham (1895), Kobbold (1897) whose reports were published in the British India, were discussed in the meetings of the Royal Geographic Society. That process was very useful for closing in between two countries. Thus Indian scientific and social circles got information about culture, history and ethnography of people of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. They made detailed description of geography, political and economic situation in Kazakhstan and neighboring regions of Central Asia.

In the sphere of military contact we can mention visits of Indians to Central Asia and Kazakhstan who sought help in their fight against the English. Thus, two representatives of Kashmir maharadzha visited Tashkent in November of 1865.21 Turkistan was visited in 1867 by an envoy of raja Indor who sought friendship and proposed help in the case of a war between Russia and England. Baba Ram Singh who sought help for the Singh’s struggle against the English visited Samarkand in 1879.

Specific feature of Indian-Kazakh trade relationship was that it was realized by merchants of India, Turkistan and Central Asia who delivered goods to both countries.

As a result of aforementioned processes by the end of the XIX c. India got a certain scientific image of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. Basis of future scientific and cultural contacts between India and Kazakhstan was founded.

The second aspect of the Indian travelers’ activity in the XIX c. was the formation of Central Asian policy of the British India and later of Indian Republic. The main ideas and concepts of the modern Indian policy towards Central Asia were developed exactly in that period, and the reasons of many present geopolitical and political contradictions emerged in the XIX c.


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Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

Astha Bharati