Young People from Central Asia Embark on Week-Long Journey Across India

NEW DELHI – The youth delegation from Kazakhstan visited India on March 5-13 to attend the Central Asia – India Youth Forum as part of a broader 100-member youth delegation from all Central Asian countries at the invitation of the government of India.

Kazakh youth in front of Agra’s Taj Majal. Photo credit: India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

In a world often divided by borders and beliefs, the visit of the delegation to India in March fostered the power of cultural exchange and mutual understanding. 

Along with Central Asian fellows, the 20-member Kazakh delegation visited Delhi, Agra and Ahmedabad. 

Formal connections

As part of their visit, the delegation met with India’s senior government officials, including Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Minister of Youth and Sports Anurag Thakur.

Minister of External Affairs and Central Asian delegation before the meeting in Delhi. Photo credit: India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

Addressing the hall with Central Asian youth, Jaishankar noted Central Asia and India have centuries-old bonds. 

“We should look for what unites us, not what separates us. If we do that, that means really the way towards building a better world,” said the Indian minister. 

Anurag Thakur, Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports, and delegates from Kazakhstan at a gala dinner. Photo credit: India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

These meetings with the ministers stood out the most to Abira Kuandyk, a delegation member and a specialist working to improve children’s rights in Kazakhstan.  

Their genuine interest and interaction with young people, along with their impactful speeches and openness, greatly enhanced my appreciation for this visit,” said Abira Kuandyk in a comment for this story. 

Abira Kuandyk at the Dandi Kutur, India’s leading museum, built on the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Photo credit: Kuandyk’s personal archive

Immersing in architectural wonders 

Arriving late to India’s capital city, Delhi, the group had a few hours of sleep before taking on a journey to the iconic Taj Mahal, a symbol of love that transcends time and geography. Though tired after the flight and a nearly five-hour drive from New Delhi to Agra, for many of them, it was a dream realized. 

“Exploring the Taj Mahal in India was an enchanting experience that left a lasting impact on me. This globally renowned masterpiece, steeped in history and architectural brilliance, is a true marvel to behold. Every aspect of the monument, from its meticulously manicured gardens to the exquisite calligraphy gracing its walls, tells a tale of romance and devotion,” Bauyrzhan Auken, a delegation member who works in Astana-based think tank, said in a comment for this story.

Bauyrzhan Auken. Photo credit: Auken’s personal archive

He was astounded by the scale of the project and the incredible skill of the craftspeople involved, noting how over 20,000 artisans from diverse backgrounds converged to bring Shah Jahan’s vision to life. 

“As I stood in front of the Taj Mahal, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder. It is more than just a structure – it is a timeless symbol of love, craftsmanship, and human creativity. My visit to this extraordinary monument will forever remain in my memory as evidence of the enduring legacy of one of the most remarkable architectural achievements in the world,” he said. 

While in Agra, the delegation also toured the Red Fort, which served as the residence of the Mughals until 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. The fort encompasses an area of approximately 380,000 square meters. Inside, it houses a complex of palaces, mosques, and gardens, showcasing a blend of Persian, Islamic, and Hindu architectural styles.

The Red Fort and the Taj Mahal are both UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage sites.

In Delhi, the Central Asian youth witnessed the grandeur of Humayun Tomb, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and a pioneering example of Mughal architecture, which was built in 1570. 

For Yerdana Yerzhanuly, a journalist from Astana, visiting India’s major sights made him “feel a sense of warmth and connection.” 

“It was like uncovering a hidden thread that tied our histories together, creating a colorful tapestry of shared experiences and traditions. It was a reminder of the beauty of cultural diversity and rich human history that we all contribute to,” he told The Astana Times.

Yerdana Yerzhanuly in front of  India’s External Affairs Ministry. Photo credit: Yerzhanuly’s personal archive

Visiting the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram (a spiritual hermitage or monastery) and Dandi Kutur Museum in Ahmedabad was an incredibly moving experience. It offered a glimpse into the life and legacy of one of history’s most extraordinary figures. 

Located on the banks of the Sabarmati River, Gandhi founded the ashram in 1915 and became the heart of his nonviolent struggle for India’s independence.

Walking through the ashram, one can feel a profound sense of peace and simplicity that Gandhi advocated throughout his life. The living quarters and the items on display painted a vivid picture of his day-to-day life, emphasizing the principles of self-sufficiency, non-violence, and truth that he lived by. It was enlightening to see his spinning wheel, spectacles, and writing desk, making his presence almost tangible.

Engaging with India’s youth

One of the most enriching parts of the journey for delegation members was the time spent at India’s leading universities. In Ahmedabad, the delegation visited the Indian Institute of Management and the National Forensic Sciences University. In Delhi, they toured the Indian Institute of Technology. 

In Ahmedabad, the group visited the Indian Institute of Management. Photo credit: India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

Engaging with Indian students and faculty opens eyes to the vibrant spirit of India’s youth and their openness and hospitality to meet people from other countries. 

The delegation visits the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. Photo credit: India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

“This kind of exchange are useful for strengthening diplomatic relations between countries. Young people are the future leaders and decision-makers. Fostering relationships, mutual understanding, and getting to know each other through education and culture is important for current and future partnerships,” said Abira Kuandyk.

“Personally, I return home with several ideas on how to connect the youth of India and Kazakhstan that I want to implement for even more strengthened relations,” she added. 

The group also had a chance to learn more about India’s textile industry during their visit to a textile production facility in Ahmedabad. Photo credit: India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

While in India, Kuandyk observed similarities between India and her home country. 

“Indians and Kazakhs share profound similarities, notably our inherent hospitality and caring nature towards others. Both nations prioritize peaceful and respectful relations, fostering an environment where all ethnicities and religions are respected. Additionally, we cherish strong family traditions, tight-knit family bonds, and vibrant celebrations and festivities, which I believe are great to have for one nation,” she said. 

Shared moments, lasting impressions

But it wasn’t all formal exchanges. The delegation enjoyed casual strolls through bustling markets, tasted the myriad flavors of Indian cuisine, and experienced the warmth of Indian hospitality. 

The delegation from Kazakhstan presents a cultural performance at a gala dinner. Photo credit: India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

“One of the most fascinating experiences and also discoveries I had while in India was exploring the deep historical bond between our communities, particularly through the shared architectural heritage found in both India and South Kazakhstan. It was truly enchanting to observe the common peculiarities in the buildings, their planning and ornaments, which spoke volumes about the enduring connections between our cultures,” said Yerdana Yerzhanuly. 

He believes such visits are profound not only because they foster cultural exchange and understanding between different regions but also “cultivate a sense of unity within Central Asia itself.” 

“By exploring shared histories and cultural heritage, participants were able to develop a deeper sense of connection and solidarity,” he added. 

Bauyrzhan Auken also sees the importance of such exchange in “fostering mutual understanding and strengthening international relations by facilitating people-to-people connections and cultural exchange.” 

“Through these exchanges, individuals gain profound insights into diverse ways of life, beliefs, and values, thereby nurturing mutual respect and understanding among communities,” he added. 

The beauty of this journey lay not just in the places the delegation visited but in the hearts and minds of the people they met. It shows that despite differences, there is so much we share: hopes, dreams, and the desire to make the world a better place.

Get The Astana Times stories sent directly to you! Sign up via the website or subscribe to our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube and Tiktok!