Central Asia: from regional collaboration to sustainable growth
Central Asia is located in a unique geostrategic region. For millennials, the current region has served as a bridge linking Europe, the Middle East, South and East Asia. There are tremendous amount of energy and mineral resources, rich cultural-historical heritage, and especially huge human potential. Moreover, competitive interests of major global powers intersect in the territory of Central Asia.
“How sustainable can Central Asia be?”, “How regional corporation is developed?”, “What are the common threats and challenges for countries during the post pandemic period?”; These and further information were in the epicenter of the participants. This session of the Tashkent International Discussion Club was devoted for matters regarding regional corporation and sustainable development in Central Asia.
First Deputy Chairman of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sodik Safayev, Director of the Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies under the President, Eldor Aripov, Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University's, Frederick Starr (the USA), Chairman of the Institute of International Studies within the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Ivan Safranchuk, Deputy Director of The Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies under the President, Sanat Kushkumbayev, and representatives of leading international/national “think tanks”, academic community, ministries and department, media participated in the meeting.
For information: Sodik Safayev was entitled as Director of the Tashkent International Discussion Club.
According to experts, Central Asia has recently demonstrated a positive development dynamic. Regional cooperation in all areas is being strengthened. The most acute problems are being systematically addressed including intraregional security, State borders and water management. Two consultative meetings were conducted with the participation of the heads of States of Central Asia. Regular meetings of heads of States and heads of foreign policy departments of the States.
— In Central Asia, there is interest in both regional and global vision of the region. Central Asian states are not interested in being trapped in the depths of Eurasia, far from the main trade routes. However, they don’t need full disclosure either. In absolute numbers, the entire region is extremely small in the global economy. With the complete removal of barriers, countries risk losing economic sovereignty, becoming an exclusive land transit space and some of the major infrastructure and energy projects that will generate rents, especially for elites. (Ivan Safranchuk)
According to the Russian expert to maintain long-term social stability, the region needs broad-based economic development with re-industrialization to create jobs. Both globalization and regionalization can objectively contribute to this. The main thing is to define a safe balance.
According to Frederick Starr, consensus in the region has emerged with the election of Shavkat Mirziyoyev as President of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan leads transformational processes and efforts in the region, bringing countries together. Four years of successful fundamental evolutionary changes in Uzbekistan have given the republic well-deserved confidence and the status of a regional leader. This by no means diminishes Kazakhstan’s achievements. On the other hand, Kazakhstan has its own problems and concerns, and will become, with huge commitment, a full partner, and perhaps even a partner in leadership. But the first steps must be made by Uzbekistan.
Frederick Starr believes that by institutionalizing cooperation, countries could create a common platform. And the only way to do that is to organize regular regional meetings that will cover one sphere after another.
Involvement of Afghanistan in political dialogue, multilateral events and projects in Central Asia are part of the important changes made during the past years. The country is being perceived as an integral part of regional processes, opening new avenues for promoting the peace process in Afghanistan.
Analysts state that there are practically no unresolvable problems, only political will is of necessity to solve them. As early as 2016, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev made it clear that his regional policy will be based on the principle of “not avoiding acute questions but looking for reasonable compromises”.
— Unprecedented results have been achieved in the resolution of such sensitive matters as borders and the hydro-energetic issues. Uzbekistan has started the demarcation phase with Kazakhstan, almost 100% of the border parcels have been agreed with Kyrgyzstan and 99% of the previously undivided border sections have been agreed with Tajikistan. Practical measures are being undertaken to launch the full operation of a single energy ring in Central Asia. Today, we have a unique opportunity to change the situation and to determine development trends not only within the region but also outside it. An international conference on the interconnectedness of Central and South Asia is therefore planned for Tashkent by the end of this year. (Eldor Aripov)
It was noted that Uzbekistan’s cooperation with all the States of the region had in fact become a strategic partnership. Trade and economic ties have been considerably strengthened. All the countries of the region are benefiting from the increasing pace of cooperation. The enhancement of regional cooperation is an objective, stable and irreversible trend. It is based on the firm political will of all the countries of the region and has deep historical foundations.
The States of the region, through their own State programs for the modernization of transport infrastructure, have generally common interests in reduction of transport costs and attracting transit flows through their territories. In doing so, they are seeking to diversify transport routes mainly from China.
According to Sanat Kushkumbaev, the measures taken to find and develop alternative transport corridors are an indication of willingness to reduce transport costs. The modernized transport system will allow Central Asian countries to have their own competitive advantages, for example, increase the volume of trade and international trade between the countries in comparison with the sea routes of the "One Place, One Road" project. The proposal of the President of Uzbekistan "On the feasibility of establishing a regional council for transport communications of the States of Central Asia, which will become a coordinating structure in solving problems in the trans-logistics sphere " is considered as topical/important.
At the end of the discussion, the participants agreed that in recent years in Central Asia there is a growing positive trend in building trust, interaction and cooperation. Overall, it was acknowledged that the situation was much better than it had been until 2016.
– This is a great common achievement, the contribution of all countries. We can look to the future with optimism. This is a major and enormous positive result of the foreign policy of all our States in recent years. This began with the initiatives of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. However, it is generally agreed that only a first superficial layer of problems has been solved. Therefore, huge deficiencies are still to be resolved and we should not lessen our concentration. There are many challenges ahead. It is our common duty to make the emerging confidence-building tendencies among the countries of the region irreversible. (Sodik Safayev)
Sodik Safayev believes that there is a need to create a legal and, in the future, institutional framework for cooperation, including through research structures. The strengthening of confidence-building measures is a key factor in making the enabling environment in Central Asia irreversible. It is not linked to a declaration or general appeals, but it is important to formulate principles and conceptual bases for giving depth to confidence-building measures that include not only State and non-State actors, but also business entities.
According to the experts, the time has come for Central Asia to consider a system of collective responsibility for the destiny of the region. Issues such as water management and environmental problems require the development of not only State rights but also responsibilities. Because we are responsible for the sustainable development of the region, for the destiny not only of present but also of future generations.
Session was conducted by the initiative of the Nationwide movement “Yuksalish” in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation representatives in Central Asia.
Our certificate: In accordance with the Presidential Decree of March 2, 2020, the International Discussion Club was established under the Nationwide movement “Yuksalish”. Its tasks include discussion of topical socio-economic and socio-political matters, formation of tendencies in various spheres, elaboration of proposals, promotion of innovative ideas and perceptions with the invitation of experts, including foreign and international organizations.
The first meeting of the International Discussion Club was held “On quarantine restrictions regarding COVID-19: world circumstance” on 8th of July of 2020. The Nationwide movement “Yuksalish” with the collaboration of the partners conducted a second meeting in the framework of the International Discussion Club “On financial support for socially vulnerable segments of the population during the pandemic: the experience of Uzbekistan and Germany” on 12th of October of 2020.
The press service of the Nationwide movement "Yuksalish"