Comments on UN General Assembly Central Asia Resolution (part 3)
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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.
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 extra-regional 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.
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.
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.
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.