Comments on UN General Assembly Central Asia Resolution (part 2)
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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.
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 bоth sides on such a serious problem as the territorial-border 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.
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 bоth 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. Uzbek-Kazakh 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.
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.
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.