The Consultative Body Decides…
The Uzbek President’s international initiatives are materialized step by step.
Back in September 2017, speaking at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Shavkat Mirziyoyev came up with a number of key proposals, including that pertinent to the adoption of a special resolution on Central Asia within the framework of the UN General Assembly.
As part of this initiative, an international conference “Central Asia: One Past and a Common Future, Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Mutual Prosperity” was organized in Samarkand last November. The participants of the event, including foreign ministers of Central Asian nations and Afghanistan, countries of the CIS, Europe, Asia, as well as the USA, along with representatives of international organizations like the UN, EU, OSCE, SCO, EBRD, voiced their unconditional support for that initiative.
And the other day, following a monthslong thorough discussion of the draft, the document was put into practice. It was interesting that the adopted resolution “Strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian region” was adopted with coauthorship from 55 countries of Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and other continents, which indicates recognition by the international community the urgency of the initiative of the head of the Uzbek state. In addition to our neighbors, Germany, Italy, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, South Korea, Turkey, Singapore, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, India were among those who contributed to its realization.
WHAT IS IN THE DOCUMENT?
The resolution included key initiatives of Uzbekistan. It mentions the main results of the Samarkand Conference, during which important decisions were made and the commitment of the countries of the region to strengthening bilateral and regional cooperation was confirmed. The document also expresses full support from the world community to the initiative of the leader of Uzbekistan on convening regular consultations of the heads of state of Central Asia.
Special attention was paid to the efforts of the Central Asian states to promote the peace process and socioeconomic development in Afghanistan, their participation in regional political and economic processes. In this context, the document highlights the importance of the Tashkent International Conference on Afghanistan “Peace Process, Security Cooperation and Regional Connectivity” ( March 2018) as a continuation of the efforts of the international community in support of the Afghan- led Afghan- owned reconciliation process.
The unanimous adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution attests to the comprehensive support of the international community for the current foreign policy of Uzbekistan on the establishment of close regional cooperation based on the principles of good- neighborliness and mutually beneficial partnership for the effective use of the potential of countries in the trade, economic, transport, communication, cultural, humanitarian and other spheres for the purposes ensuring the peaceful and sustainable development of Central Asia.
POINTS OF VIEW
According to experts, owing to the bold policy led by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, relations among the countries of the region have undergone a fundamental shift, which led to the creation of a completely new political atmosphere in Central Asia characterized by the consolidation of political confidence and the intensification of interaction.
Director of the Ma’no Center for Research Initiatives Bakhtiyor Ergashev:
- A qualitatively new stage of regional cooperation has come around, which allows us to say that we are turning to interstate interaction with the participation of both state and non- state economic factors. And this was largely helped by the readiness of all the countries of the region, the completion of the process of forming the national identity.
As far as integration processes are concerned, I always said that if there is any integration in Central Asia, it is only on the basis of transport systems. And this association can arise only in the case of the unification of transport systems of at least three countries of the region – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Central Asia has never become an independent entity and is still an object of external forces. The countries of the region are still in the process of forming their identity as an actor. This is a very long process, the indicator of which is that the states were not able to independently form their own regional integration agenda. And all regional integration projects were stillborn. Therefore, now the countries of Central Asia are participants of integration projects proposed by external centers of power – the CSTO, EAEU, SCO.
It seems to me that the agenda for the region proposed by Uzbekistan has a chance to become a platform for boosting the regional cooperation and Central Asia gaining its geo- economic and geopolitical entity status.
The subject of formation by Central Asian countries of their own actor status in the international arena has been commented also by Farhod Tolipov, director of the non- governmental scientific institution Caravan of Knowledge:
- After the Astana meeting of the heads of state of Central Asia in March 2018, it was evident that Russian expert and analytical circles, as well as their media, were actively expressing strange, in our opinion, aching reactions about this summit. The quintessence of such a reaction from different sources boils down to such a simple formula: that the Central Asian countries have gathered without Russia. The very statement “how did they allow themselves to meet without the participation of Russia?” is not just some nervous response by Russian experts or journalists, but in a sense, it hurts, if I may say so, the Central Asian countries. Because inadmissibility of such meetings is hidden in such expressions as “met without the participation of Russia”, thereby denying our right to independently take such decisions. This can also be evaluated as a denial of the right to independence. That is, we can ask these experts the question arising from this situation: do you doubt our right to meet on our own, make decisions independently, and therefore, refuse our independence?
Perhaps, you did not mean exactly this, but all your articles and comments, unfortunately, sound in such a manner.
Well, if we take a more fundamental assessment of such statements, we must remember the history of Central Asian summits, starting from 1991. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, as independent states now, the five republics of Central Asia convened for various meetings and established a regional association that existed through to 2005.
Responding to similar statements by experts, I note that Russian participation in Central Asian summits began in 2004, when Moscow applied for membership in the CACO ( Central Asian Cooperation Organization). This name was given to the Central Asian Association in 2001, which was previously called the Central Asian Union ( from 1993), and from 1998 it became known as the Central Asian Economic Community. The names changed in connection with tasks that were becoming more and more ambitious.
And the most interesting happened afterwards. In 2004, Russia joined the CACO, and a year later, in 2005, the CACO ceased to exist. You can agree with me that the very accession of Russia into the CACO was rather strange, because this was a purely regional association. It is barely clear how extra- regional powers ended up participating in it.
And here I would like to ask the experts who were indignant at the Astana meeting without Moscow’s participation: what did the Russia’s history of participation in the Central Asian association result in?
The former resulted in that the latter ceased to exist! The reason cited for that was that the CACO began to duplicate the Eurasian Economic Community. But it could not duplicate in any way. Even in its composition it was different, as there was Belarus in the EEC as member, while Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine were observer nations.
As a result, the region has lived separately since 2005, which in turn led to the accumulation of a mass of unresolved problems. Summits convened previously were poor, somehow localized or froze the potential for conflict between and among the countries of Central Asia. Sure, water and border issues had not been solved, and the conflict potential had only mounted since 2005.
The ice moved aside in 2017, when Shavkat Mirziyoyev, speaking at the conference in Samarkand, came up with the initiative of annual meetings of the heads of state of Central Asia, which was immediately picked up by Nursultan Nazarbayev and the first meeting in Astana was proposed.
And today we can observe the rapprochement not only of the peoples of the Central Asian states, but also of the equally important rapprochement of the governments of the Central Asian nations.
As you can see, the Astana summit, which was modestly called an advisory meeting, did not start from scratch, it has a good and substantial background.