WHAT THE FORUM PARTICIPANTS HAVE TO SAY
Vladimir Norov, director of the Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan:
- The solution of a number of issues to ensure the sustainable development and security of all states in the region without exception is largely dependent on the level of mutual understanding between and among the countries of Central Asia and the effectiveness of regional cooperation.
In this regard, the President of our country, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has designated the Central Asian region as the key priority of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy, with which vital national interests are connected.
Tashkent’s new regional course has become a timely and effective response to the long-overdue request for regional rapprochement, the restoration of trust and mutual understanding, as well as the prompt resolution of the accumulated problematic issues on the basis of reasonable compromises and taking into account the interests of all parties.
The intensification of regional cooperation among the countries of Central Asia has radically changed the political atmosphere in the region, laying solid foundations for constructive interaction and consolidation of good-neighborliness. The adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution is undoubtedly an important stage in the emergence of Central Asia as a consolidated region, whose states are able to jointly solve common problems and ensure the well-being of its multi-million population.
In this context, I would like to draw your attention to the key factors that determine the uniqueness of this document.
First, it is the comprehensive nature of the resolution on the efforts and initiatives of the Central Asian states aimed at ensuring sustainable development and security of the region.
This is the first historical document of this kind adopted by the UN that reflects the common stance of all five Central Asian states on the principal issues of the region, starting from environmental problems and those related to the use of water, transport communications and ending with countering terrorism and religious extremism.
Particular attention is paid to the joint efforts of the Central Asian states designed to promote the peace process and socioeconomic development in Afghanistan.
Today every country of Central Asia introduces new emphases in its policy in the region and is ready to play an active, creative role for its development.
The nations of the region are more than ever concentrated on consolidating their efforts to increase their competitiveness in the world arena and bolster the international political posture of the entire region.
Speaking about the prospects for the development of Central Asia in the context of the adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution, I would also like to emphasize the existing historical prerequisites.
As the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev stated, “Central Asia is a single organism that for centuries has had a common culture. Historical community, linguistic similarity, the existence of common traditions and customs gives us tremendous opportunities to be together and jointly build our common future, turn Central Asia into a stable, economically developed and prosperous region.”
The broad and firm support of the strategic and closest partners of the countries of Central Asia, as well as an authoritative international organization such as the United Nations, and the emerging positive trends in the development of comprehensive and diversified constructive relations in the region deserve special attention.
Owing to its geopolitical and geostrategic importance, the region continues to be at the center of attention of the world community.
Consolidation and enhancement of interstate cooperation in the region is a guarantee of future prosperity and stable development not only of Central Asia, but also of other adjacent regions.
The resolution calls on the international community, in particular the specialized agencies, funds and programs of the UN system, to support the priority areas of regional cooperation, integration and sustainable development in Central Asia, as determined by the countries of the region themselves.
In general, this document, without any exaggeration, marked the entry of Central Asian countries into a new era of interstate relations.
Summarizing the above, it is important to note that to date there are all the necessary conditions in Central Asia for dynamic and fruitful bilateral as well as multilateral cooperation.
There is a huge potential for joint development of high-tech industries, improvement of the agro-industrial complex, tourism, attracting large-scale foreign investment in the real economy.
The presence of unifying factors in virtually all vital areas, reinforced by the people’s desire for peace, stability and prosperity, is a reliable basis for furthering the regional cooperation and overcoming differences through joint efforts.
To be sure, we all realize that we are only at the beginning of the road; we still have much work to do to ensure the security and common prosperity in Central Asia.
It is necessary to promote in every possible way the political, economic and cultural-humanitarian ties in the spirit of openness, inclusiveness, mutual benefit and trust.
It seems essential to focus on seeking out new points of contact in the field of transport and communication interconnectedness, to promote the ‘coordination’ of development strategies of our countries.
In this direction, in our opinion, it is advisable for Central Asian countries to develop a common strategic concept for the medium and long term by identifying specific goals and objectives in the field of ensuring regional stability, peace and sustainable development, and ways to achieve them.
Modern realities are such that peace, wellbeing, prosperity and stability in the region directly depend on the ability of the states of Central Asia to independently address emerging issues.
John MacGregor, OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan:
- It is gratifying that Uzbekistan shows great activity in improving cooperation and constructive dialogue among the countries of Central Asia. Consolidation and enhancement of interstate cooperation in the region is a guarantee of the wellbeing and sustainable development of not only Central Asia, but also the neighboring regions.
Alisher Kurmanov, Chairman of the Senate Committee on International Relations, Foreign Economic Relations, Foreign Investment and Tourism (Uzbekistan):
- The institution of parliamentary diplomacy has become an additional incentive for boosting regional cooperation. It allows to coordinate various issues, find mutually acceptable solutions, which, in turn, facilitates the creation of a real spirit of mutual understanding in Central Asia, and makes a significant contribution to the implementation of bilateral agreements. Uzbekistan is ready to further develop inter-parliamentary ties with neighboring nations in the spirit of constructivism. In the era of globalization, the international community’s support for regional efforts will have a tremendous effect not only in improving the well-being of the peoples of Central Asia and in stimulating the accelerated implementation of sustainable development goals, but also in strengthening the foundations of security and stability in the region.
Eldor Aripov, Director of the Information and Analytical Center for International Relations of Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
- The adoption of the resolution by the UN General Assembly became possible thanks to the fact that over the past two years the Central Asian states were able to jointly form a fundamentally new political atmosphere in the region in terms of political trust, interaction and mutual understanding. The leaders of the countries managed to make significant progress in coordinating the solution of such acute issues as delimitation and demarcation of borders, water use and others. A powerful impetus was given to the development of trade and economic ties. Last year, trade with the states of the region grew by 20%, and with individual countries – by 70%.
Industrial cooperation is expanding, interaction in the field of transport communications is intensifying. THus, for the first time in 20 years, air communication between Dushanbe and Tashkent was opened, high-speed trains between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan began to run. We began to talk more about what unites us. There is an understanding of the benefits of jointly resolving common issues on our agenda. Above all, we’ve seen the emergence of a perception of Central Asia as a common home.
For the first time in recent history, the standing of Central Asian nations has been consolidated as actors of world politics. According to experts, this owes largely to the open and constructive foreign policy of Uzbekistan, whose most critical priority today is to boost regional cooperation.
Still, for the full-scale integration of Central Asia into the global political and economic system, also necessary is the participation of world actors. In particular, in the new conditions of close and trustful regional cooperation, the role of such leading international bodies as the United Nations, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, inter alia, is in great demand.
The adoption by the UN General Assembly of the resolution “Strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian region” has become a truly historic event.
Counselor of the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in the Republic of Uzbekistan Kemel Sadykov:
- At the highest international level, the important role of Central Asian countries in securing peace, stability and sustainable development in the region is acknowledged. The Central Asian nations have come up with a number of important regional and international initiatives in the field of security and development that found support in the world community. I think there is no need to list these initiatives now, as they are reflected in the text of the resolution and we all know about them.
At the same time, it seems necessary to continue to take efforts to develop and promote mutually agreed regional initiatives in the world arena, to support each other on international platforms and during elections to various international bodies, and, if elected, to firmly defend, together with national interests, the interests of the region in general.
In light of this, I would like to note that following the suit of the Republic of Kazakhstan, currently the first among the Central Asian states to be member of the UN Security Council and adequately represents not only Kazakhstan, but the whole of our region, the Kyrgyz Republic nominated its candidacy for non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for the period 2027-2028.
As part of this governing body of the most authoritative international organization, Kyrgyzstan is ready to devote its activities to addressing security and sustainable development issues in the Central Asian region and the world as a whole.
An important role in the adoption of the resolution we are discussing today belongs to Uzbekistan, who drafted the document and organized its constructive discussion with interested parties. It cannot be said that the discussion among Central Asian countries was uncomplicated and absolutely at ease.
And this is quite natural, since all parties understood the great importance and responsibility of the work. Certainly, there were heated discussions, disagreements, which at times seemed insurmountable. But, as is known, it is in discussions that one can learn not only to listen, but also to hear, and also understand and respect each other, to make mutual concessions and compromises. And it is in disputes, as folk wisdom goes, that truth is born.
As a result, we managed to reach a common stance, and the draft resolution submitted to the General Assembly was unanimously supported by all UN member states. Thus, the countries of Central Asia have declared their readiness and ability to solve the issues of the regional agenda, counting first of all on their own strengths. The world community supports us in this. And now we have to prove this by joint practical actions.
The main direction of our common activity, of course, is to ensure security in the region. The problems of international terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and other contemporary threats and challenges require closer and more coordinated cooperation among the countries of Central Asia, as well as with international and regional organizations. In light of this, it is also important, as part of efforts of the international community, to take measures to promote the peace process and socioeconomic development in Afghanistan.
One of the indispensable conditions for the economic development of Central Asia is the extensive use of the transit and logistics potential of the region, the creation of a modern transport infrastructure, launch of new international transport corridors, air, motor and railway routes, the introduction of mutual preferences in the transportation of foreign trade goods.
Central Asia has a huge and diverse natural potential and ecosystems that require a careful attitude towards them.
In the meantime, there are problems of uranium tailings, the drying out of the Aral Sea, conservation of bio-resources, and also endangered populations of rare species of animals and plants. In this regard, it is essential to consolidate our efforts to meet the challenges of the region’s environmental security and ensure ecological balance.
Special attention should be paid to the expansion of cultural and humanitarian ties aimed at preserving the historical and cultural heritage of the peoples of Central Asia, supporting intercultural dialogue, developing youth and sports exchanges, and deepening contacts among educational and research centers and organizations.
In this connection, I would like to quote the statement of the classic in the world literature, the great Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, whose 90th anniversary this year will be widely celebrated not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also in Uzbekistan. It reads, “When people are obsessed with some common concerns, interests, ideas and even anxieties, they go to the same goal and equally understand the meaning of life, the value of life, the significance of the situation in which they are at the moment. They, somewhere differing, nevertheless, overcome misunderstanding and arrive at mutual understanding. From this they are enriched. Therefore, we must strive for mutual understanding in various aspects.”
The Kyrgyz Republic believes in the huge potential of Central Asia and is determined to actively continue working together to cement peace, stability and sustainable development in the region. We are willing to consolidate shared understanding and mutually advantageous relations with our partners, and we are firmly convinced that only by acting together will we be able to deliver the conditions needed for the prosperity of our peoples.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Tajikistan in the Republic of Uzbekistan Sodik Imomi:
- The adoption by the UN General Assembly of the resolution “Strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian region” is unprecedented in the history of the United Nations, and for our countries it was a landmark event. The fact that it was approved without a vote speaks about the weighty support of the world community for the positive transformation taking place in our region. These changes became possible largely thanks to the new policy of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who proclaimed Central Asia a priority vector. Thanks to this policy, supported by all countries of the region, which, incidentally, was demonstrated at the first Central Asian consultative meeting in Astana, a new atmosphere is emerging, one of the main characteristics of whose is the region’s greater openness and readiness for cooperation with the outside world.
This atmosphere has made it possible to resolve within a short span of time many of the most complicated issues on the basis of mutual consideration of interests, and our peoples are already enjoying the fruits of the new image of the region. In particular, during the state visit of Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Tajikistan, breakthrough agreements were reached, removing all barriers to constructive interaction in all areas, we found solutions that satisfied both sides on such a serious problem as the territorialborder issue. In short, according to Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s apt expression, a new era has come in Tajik-Uzbek relations – an epoch of creative cooperation.
It is known that all the countries of the region, including the Republic of Tajikistan, were the main co-authors of this document, which is a demonstration of the determination and readiness of the Central Asian countries to work together for peace, stability and development.
A solid foundation for multifaceted relations under new conditions is laid by the historical spiritual and cultural heritage, as well as the centuries-old traditions of mutual respect, friendship and good-neighborliness that unite the peoples of Central Asia. In addition, the region has enormous mineral, energy, scientific and production, trade and economic potential, transport and communications, and, crucially, the intellectual capacities for joint cooperation and co-development.
Along with these positive starting positions, the countries of Central Asia face a complex of challenges and threats to their security and sustainable development. The situation in the region is seriously affected by the instability in Afghanistan, international terrorism and extremism, drug trafficking and organized crime.
Lack of access to seaports, critical trends in the world economy, climate change, the consequences of natural and man-made disasters also affect the development of our countries.
Transformation of Central Asia into a region with a high degree of security, with a dynamically developing productive potential, with a businessfriendly investment climate, advanced infrastructure and the essential conditions for raising the living standards and quality depends on our joint efforts.
Looking at statistics, one can see that Uzbekistan’s foreign trade is connected with four Central Asian countries, and if we take Afghanistan, then it is with the five countries that surround Uzbekistan. In 2017, trade and economic relations with these nations all showed growth – from 20% to 70% growth in mutual trade. With the adoption of the resolution, the countries of the region – for the first time since 1991 – were able to come forward with a unified stance on the coordination of efforts in addressing common issues. In fact, the Central Asian nations have moved on to the next round in the evolution of regional interaction.
The countries of the region agree that weathering the impact of these phenomena is possible on the basis of the formulation of coordinated approaches, strengthening of dialogue, intensification of cooperation, including in promoting joint initiatives to ensure regional security, trade development and expansion of transport and communications.
In my opinion, the resolution of the General Assembly can be a good precondition for the cooperation of the countries of the region at all levels and the promotion of further joint coordinated initiatives. In addition, it can serve as an encouraging signal for external investors and development partners.
I hope the consistent implementation by our nations of the goals and tasks outlined in the resolution will allow in the near future to ensure a qualitative leap in the economic development of the region, which in turn will boost our aggregate potential for addressing common issues and neutralizing the challenges and threats we face.
Director of the Ma’no Center for Research Initiatives Bakhtiyor Ergashev:
- Uzbekistan places the greatest emphasis on cooperation with the countries of Central Asia. And, as it seems, the principle of refusal to participate in integration projects initiated by forces external to the region is synchronized today within the framework of the new Development Strategy, with the policy of intensifying regional cooperation in Central Asia. This is the core of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy, and this explains a lot.
The country still does not get into integration structures offered by external forces. At the same time, it is wrong to say that Uzbekistan is opposed only to Russian integration initiatives. We are talking, for example, about the intensively promoted idea of creating a free trade zone of the SCO, where only Uzbekistan dares to tell China that it is not in its interests.
A qualitatively new stage of regional cooperation has come, which allows us to say that we are moving to interstate cooperation with the participation of both state and non-state economic actors. And this was largely facilitated by the readiness of all countries in the region, and, of course, the completion of the process of forming the national identity of all states.
One of the principles of foreign policy is the active stance of Uzbekistan for the intensification of various forms of cooperation among the countries of the region. And this is already done. UzbekKazakh cars are being assembled in Kostanai for sale to the markets of the EAEU. Uzbekistan is setting up production of buses and cars in southern Kyrgyzstan in a test mode. It is planned to establish the production of agricultural machinery in Tajikistan to enter the markets of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Those changes that have occurred in Uzbekistan, indicate that Uzbekistan is ready to change the model of economic growth. And the markets of neighboring countries are promising for our entrepreneurs. Certain volumes of Uzbek products are already delivered to Tajikistan, ranging from petrochemicals, chemicals (mineral fertilizers), to textiles, cars and furniture. The same assortment is sent to Kyrgyzstan (especially southern parts of the country).
One can cite a small example of how Uzbek furniture manufacturers are actively developing neighboring markets. In Uzbekistan, there is no forest at all, it is brought from Russia, furniture is made and sold to other countries, probably will be sold in Russia itself. We have created a furniture industry from scratch, and it is ready for export. The Uzbek market, despite the fact that it is the largest in the entire Central Asia (more than 30 million consumers), still not enough capacious. And there are 70 million consumers in the region, and if we take into account the 30 million-strong Afghan market that will buy everything that would not have been offered to it. And so, for example, large poultry farms have begun to be built in the southern regions of Uzbekistan, which are focused mainly on Afghanistan (egg, chicken, everything goes to Afghanistan). It turns out that Uzbekistan, from pharmaceuticals to cars and electrical appliances, can provide not only the countries of Central Asia and Afghanistan, but also more distant markets. The development of the country has this as an objective.
Uzbekistan’s active foreign policy is aimed at opening the markets of neighboring countries for Uzbek products. In general, a good foreign policy is a good servant of the country’s economic interests. The better it serves economic interests, the more it wins. Such a policy is not liked by diplomats or foreign ministries, but in fact, foreign policy should serve the interests of business and the economic interests of the nation.
Today we are already seeing an increase in investment, but so far it is not very high. But we need to understand that in order for business to come up with investments, it must make sure that changes in the country take place seriously and for a long time. But our transformation is only a year and a half years old. Most of the investors are still looking closely, I personally heard about such plans from the mouths of Russian, Kazakh, Turkish, Iranian businessmen and producers who are interested in the Uzbek market. I am confident that the changes taking place will inevitably lead to favorable conditions for foreign investors. Such, for example, are preferential working conditions in the country in free economic zones, small industrial zones. All this can give a very good result.
In the pharmaceutical industry alone, Uzbekistan has created seven free economic zones where it is possible to grow, process and produce certain cultures for the pharmaceutical industry. Indian, Russian, Kazakh entrepreneurs are very keen on pharmaceuticals, free economic zones in Uzbekistan to invest. And we are talking about the formation of a pharmaceutical chain among Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, so the process is already there and the result will be unambiguous.
Chairman of the Central Asia – Caucasus Institute (CACI) under the American Foreign Policy Council (USA) S. Frederick Starr:
- Uzbekistan is a key driving force behind the emergence of a new stage of regionalism in Central Asia. The adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on consolidating cooperation in Central Asia was an unexpected development, since the West did not rule out delaying the process of its harmonization by all the states of the region. At the same time, the document became a case of a clear evidence of the Central Asian countries’ willingness to independently and jointly address common problems of regional security and development without third parties.
It is important that the text of the resolution does not contain the word ‘integration’, but refers to the development of close and coordinated cooperation among the nations of the region. All this demonstrates the lack of ‘political overtones’ in the Uzbek initiative, the non-direction of the idea of regional cooperation against the interests of extraregional actors. In turn, active participation in the elaboration of the document from Russia, China, the United States, the EU and other partners of the Central Asian countries testifies to the interest of the international community in facilitating the efforts of the states of the region to secure peace, stability and sustainable development in this part of the world.
Uzbekistan’s foreign policy to cement interstate cooperation in Central Asia, the engagement of Afghanistan in the political and economic ties in the region contributed to the intensification of US and EU policies in the Central Asian track. Currently, the West intends to enhance interaction with Central Asia, considering it as a “single and integrated region”. Moreover, Washington and Brussels are aware of the need to develop a special, more effective strategy for this part of the world without linking it to the Afghan campaign, to the policies of Russia and China, as it used to be in the past. Thus, the EU already plans to update, by 2019, its Strategy for Central Asia, designed to bring the interaction to a new level. In the United States, it is important to fill the C5 + 1 cooperation format with practical substance.
Along with this, in order to maintain the positive dynamics of regional cooperation, the West needs to adhere to the following principles: first, it is imperative to continue with support for the process of empowering the Central Asian states with political and economic sovereignty; second, it is essential to promote the preservation of the secular model of development in the states of Central Asia against the backdrop of the mounting tendencies of partial dismantling of secularism in some countries and regions of the world.
It is extremely important for these countries not only to do something, but also persuade others to understand and acknowledge what they are doing. This is what the 22 June 2018 resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations is about.
The strategic importance of the Central Asian region for the West will increase with the establishment and expansion of the trans-Caspian interaction between the region and the South Caucasus. Amid the ‘unfriendly’ policy towards the United States by Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan, the trans-Caspian course of cooperation is the most acceptable option for Washington in expanding ties with Central Asian nations. Previously, the US adhered to the erroneous approach, denoting the Caucasus region as part of Europe, and Central Asia as the South Asian region.
In this regard, Washington and Brussels welcome Uzbekistan’s policy of cooperation enhancement with Azerbaijan and Georgia in trade and economic, transport and communication areas, as well as in security issues. In the West they expect that Tashkent, as in the case with Afghanistan, likewise will take a strategic initiative to spearhead inter-regional cooperation between Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
American academics also appreciate the role of Uzbekistan in promoting the spirit of regional cooperation and coordination in Central Asia.
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United Nations Bakhtiyor Ibragimov:
- The priority task in developing this project for us was the adoption of the resolution not by vote, but by consensus. For this, it was required to observe a number of conditions: first, to ensure the universal nature of the document and the absence of provisions contrary to the interests of other states; second, to avoid duplication of its subjects with the previous decisions of the General Assembly; third, enlist extensive support from the UN member states and the regional groups for the draft document before it is submitted to the plenary session of the General Assembly.
To this end, in the framework of the United Nations, we conducted intensive work, primarily with its key member states – the United States, China, countries of the EU, Latin America and Africa, Russia, India, Pakistan and other countries, regional groups, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation – to explain the essence and key provisions of the resolution.
During several rounds of informal consultations through active diplomacy, we managed to preserve practically all the principles of the resolution, which are fundamental for the Uzbek side. At the same time, most countries showed a constructive attitude to the consideration of the document, welcoming the unity of positions of the Central Asian states on the draft resolution.
I would like to emphasize that from the very beginning of consideration of the initiative to adopt a special resolution of the UN General Assembly on Central Asia, a positive background was formed around it. According to foreign observers, this is primarily due to the growing eminence of the President of Uzbekistan in the international arena owing to his pragmatic foreign policy, which has caused a fundamental shift in relations among the Central Asian countries.
In the UN they note: it’s time for the world community to pay closer attention to the positive changes taking place in Central Asia. From their point of view, regional cooperation is the main key for maintaining peace, stability of the states of the region, their economic and sustainable development.
In general, the adoption of this resolution should be seen primarily as recognition by the international community of the relevance and timeliness of the initiative of Uzbekistan’s leadership and its full support. Central Asia that contributed for millennia to the dialogue and interpenetration of world cultures, languages and religions, today, having a significant energy and natural resource potential, unique transport and communication capabilities, once again acquires an important geopolitical significance as one of the key elements in the system of ensuring peace, stability, security and sustainable development of the entire Eurasian continent.
Today, Uzbekistan is under greater attention in the UN. This is explained by the noticeable intensification of the country’s activities in the international arena thanks to the open, constructive and comprehensively though-out foreign policy of the nation’s leadership. Thus, Uzbekistan has demonstrated lately unprecedented activity in promoting important initiatives in the field of regional security, ensuring interreligious tolerance and creating conditions for the self-realization of youth.
Director of the Central Asia – Caucasus Institute (CACI) in Washington Svante Cornell:
- The resolution of the UN General Assembly on Central Asia is important because the document not only demonstrates the positive dynamics of consolidating cooperation in the region, but also contributes to the international recognition of Central Asia as a unified space. Why do I stress this? Because in 1992, all the leaders of the states of the region gathered and announced that they are no longer “Middle Asia and Kazakhstan”, but instead “Central Asia”. Ever since, these countries have tried in every possible way to convince themselves and the world community that they represent a single region. For a long time, foreign nations, especially those in the West, as well as Japan and even Russia and China viewed Central Asia as a single region.
Unfortunately, then came the time of disagreements and misunderstandings. Russia viewed Central Asia as part of a large Eurasia. China, though sometimes, but it seems that perceives Central Asia as a separate space, nevertheless, the former is more inclined to see the latter as an integral element of an ambitious project called “One Belt, One Road”, which is distinct with huge geography. The problems with the West are even greater: for a time they have ceased to perceive Central Asia as a single area, preferring to see a number of individual states with their own policies. And for Washington, it was the road to a “gas station”.
Several years ago, the idea of a Greater Central Asia linking five countries of the region and Afghanistan was under active discussion in expert circles. In my opinion, this strategic vision will somehow become a reality for the simple reason that it refutes the outdated approach to Central Asia as a community of five states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Even while a college student, I found a periodical titled the Central Asiatic Journal in the library and was glad that I would finally read academic articles on the countries of Central Asia. But in fact, most of the journal material talked about Chinese Xinjiang. That was an eloquent testimony to a wider coverage of the Central Asian region. Geographically and historically, Central Asia is a much larger region than the territory of the five states mentioned above.
Historically, the Central Asian countries traded not with the northern states, but with India, Pakistan and China. The Russo-British geopolitical rivalry in the 19th century for the heart of Asia broke up these trade bonds by ‘tying’ Pakistan economically to India and Afghanistan, and the countries of Central Asia to Russia. Today, everything returns to normal. For example, the ‘connection’ of Uzbekistan to trade and economic relations in South Asia is very encouraging.
Thus, only the political definition of Central Asia is limited to five states, while all the main characteristics – trade, cultural, civilizational – have a much greater spatial coverage. Therefore, the emergence of Greater Central Asia is inevitable. And this is not necessarily a political project: there is no need for this. But “the reunification of old Central Asia with a new one” is an inevitable process, and it is already on its way.
Member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey Samil Ayrim:
- The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, from the first days of his leadership of the country, identified the development of constructive, mutually beneficial and good-neighborly relations with the states of Central Asia, strengthening of security in this part of the world as a priority of his foreign policy.
Uzbekistan’s leader presented his strategic vision of ensuring regional security and stability to the world community at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2017. Later, in November that same year, during the Samarkand Conference “Central Asia: One Past and a Common Future, Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Mutual Prosperity”, the President of Uzbekistan proposed a comprehensive program of joint efforts at the regional and international levels to secure lasting peace and stability in the Central Asia. At this historic conference, Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed the elaboration of a special resolution of the UN General Assembly in support of the efforts of Central Asian states to ensure security and bolster regional cooperation.
Uzbekistan has demonstrated its ability to create all necessary conditions for the timely implementation of this initiative, and on June 22, 2018, the UN General Assembly at its general session adopted a resolution titled “Strengthening regional and international cooperation for ensuring peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian region”. The document, drafted by Uzbekistan jointly with its neighbors in the region, was unanimously supported by all UN member nations. It is gratifying that Turkey not only initially supported this initiative, but also co-authored the draft submitted to the UN General Assembly for consideration.
The essence and substance of the resolution demonstrates, firstly, the significant success of the Uzbek diplomacy, and, second, the positive dynamics in the growing cooperation in the region, third, it uplifts the role and importance of Central Asia in the world, including its international recognition as a formed single region. From this point of view, the adoption of this document is a very important event, the essence and significance of which will need to be taken into account in devising mediumand long-term strategies for Central Asia.
In fact, it can be stated that this is the beginning of a new era in the formation of a modern Central Asian identity, a single regional space for security and prosperity.
Sayyed Shahabuddin Timuri, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Afghanistan to Uzbekistan
- Afghanistan has deep historical ties with the states of Central Asia, and is a trade and transport corridor in the region. Therefore, our country strongly supports any steps aimed at establishing regional stability. The resolution of the UN General Assembly is a step in this direction, which aims to, among other things, raise regional cooperation in Central Asia to a higher level, and also to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan. We warmly support this initiative. In this regard, I emphasize that Afghanistan is making great efforts to expand friendly relations with all the republics of Central Asia.
On the other hand, the countries of the region are trying to resist the challenges of our time, primarily terrorism. I am confident that the expansion of economic ties in Central Asia, the establishment of good-neighborly relations among the states of the region will contribute to this task.
I would like to note that in this issue Afghanistan does not want to be just an observer, but seeks to play a more active role in this process, in which the Central Asian nations contribute to the peace process in our country. Here I would like to express my deep gratitude to the government of Uzbekistan for organizing an international conference on Afghanistan and, of course, for supporting economic issues. Uzbekistan is the first country to build a railway in Afghanistan. This 75 km long line, Hairaton – Mazar-i-Sharif, has been operating since 2011 and is the first long-distance railway line of general use. And this fact will forever remain in the history of Afghanistan.
The railway heralds transport integration in the northern part of the country. Now we are working with Uzbek experts to continue this railway from Mazar-i-Sharif to Herat.
In addition, Uzbekistan is one of the main suppliers of electricity for Afghanistan, where there is an acute shortage of power. Because of the growth in consumption, we intend to further increase the purchase of Uzbek energy.
Negotiations are currently underway to build a new Surkhon-Puli-Khumri transmission line and then Uzbekistan will be able to swell the export of electricity to Afghanistan several times.