Uzbekistan Foreign Policy Part I

News ticker / abroad:

  • Will Tashkent get involved in the Afghan game again ?
  • Human rights activists demand: Refund of corruption money to Uzbekistan only in the event of reforms
  • Taliban liaison office set up in Tashkent: government in Kabul is left out
  • Terror from Uzbekistan: “Central Asia is a recruiting region for Islamist extremists”

Relations with neighboring states. Water allocation disputes and energy supplies, as well as distrust and jealousy for the leadership role (Uzbekistan vs. Kazakhstan), prevented the creation of a Central Asian regional consciousness under President Karimov, who died at the end of August 2016, even though Central Asia is a region from a European perspective. In the course of nation building and the preservation of sovereignty as well as power centralism, statements made by the political elites for the development of regional cooperation are therefore only mere political rhetoric. The fact that, against this background, the borders between the five Central Asian countries are transforming from current barriers into territorial enclosures with the character of good neighborliness seems to be more a question of ‘if’ than ‘when’.

During the Karimov period, a dispute between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan over the planned construction of the Roghun power plant escalated. Uzbekistan severely criticized any construction plans and even carried out acts of sabotage, seeing as it saw the water flow of the Wachsch and, as a result, of the Amu-Darya severely impaired. The water, which is collected in the dams in spring during the melting of the snow, the farmers in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya lack sowing, especially since it is estimated that it will take 7-12 years before the dam is filled. Uzbekistan, fearing essentially losses for its state cotton industry, urged an international investigation to investigate the effects of the construction on the water flow of the Amu-Darya. Although relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are worlds better than under Karimov, there is still considerable potential for conflict in the water issue. A similar water dispute with Kyrgyzstan escalated on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. President Mirziyoyev is trying to solve such problems quickly through lively telephone diplomacy with his Kyrgyz counterpart.

The New Silk Road “, which was announced by Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan in 2013, consists of two routes: The first, northern (“Arctic”) route, is to run through Central Asia and via Russia and / or Iran to Europe. The second route is divided into three corridors: from Pakistan to the port of Gwadar, from Burma to the port of Kyaukphyu, and from Laos to Singapore. On the further sea route it will lead via Piraeus in Greece to Central Europe. The original name OBOR (“One Belt One Road”), which was felt to be too expansionist and one-sided, was quickly abandoned. Beijing has moved to the more humble name of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This initiative has different characteristics: the routes should be realized as rail and road transport, by ship, digitally and in the airspace. The second International Forum, dedicated to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, took place in Beijing from April 25 to 27, 2019. The Central Asian states, with the exception of Turkmenistan, were represented by high-level delegations at the forum. Unlike its predecessor, although Chinese Investititonen called and political support from China for his regime welcome but no Chinese personnel to the country, let opens Mirziyoyev Uzbekistan towards China not only for cooperation in the economic, but also in the cultural and educational sectors.

New president and zero problems (?) With the neighbors

According to computerannals, under Karimov, Uzbekistan became increasingly politically and economically isolated within Central Asia and the international community. Relations with all neighbors were dominated by distrust and hostility. Mirziyoyev is now obviously striving to solve old problems through a policy of “zero problems with neighbors” and to bring his regime out of isolation. At the end of December 2016, the Kyrgyz President Almasbek Atambayev came to Tashkent for a visit that the Uzbek media rated as a “breakthrough” in relations between the two countries. During Mirziyoyev’s return visit to Bishkek in early September 2017, more than a dozen intergovernmental agreements in the fields of culture and trade were concluded, Transport (including car and rail lines to China), counter-terrorism, irrigation signed.

Mirsiyoyev’s first visit abroad took him to Turkmenistan in early March 2017, where there were plenty of expressions of friendship and even more government agreements on energy cooperation. At the end of March, the Uzbek president made a “historic” visit to Astana to see his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, with whom, unlike his predecessor, he got along well. Nazarbayev’s return visit to Tashkent followed in mid-September 2017, during which several agreements on cooperation in the border and energy sector, irrigation, exchange in the military sector, combating smuggling, railways and cross-border cooperation were signed. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have been in competition with each other since they were founded within the Soviet Union. This competition in many areas it now also shapes their independent development.

Uzbekistan State flag