2017 is a historical year for Central Asia. Central Asian states (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan) inaugurated an ambitious cooperation process to become once again, the centre of geopolitics and the hub for transport and transit corridors in Eurasia, as it once was during the epochs of the ancient Silk Road. This new approach is also about promoting again the region as a single cultural and civilisational space to position themselves in the context of the shifting Eurasian balance of power.
The international conference « Central Asia, Shared past and Common future, Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Mutual prosperity ». organized in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on the 10 and 11 November 2017, marked a breakthrough in this respect and aroused great interests and high ranking guest represented states and international organizations. It was organized by the government of Uzbekistan, the UN regional centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia and the UNDOC Regional office for Central Asia.
This event was a great success for Uzbek diplomacy. Were present a the conference, the president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, all foreign ministers of the 5 Central Asian states, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mrs Mogherini, EU special representative for Central Asia Mr Burian, UN Secretary general Mr Guterres through a video address, foreign ministers from Iran and Afghanistan, ministers from Russia, India, Turkey, representatives from Pakistan, South Korea, Japan, Unites States, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany and representatives from international organizations like UNDP, SCO, CIS, EU, NATO, OSCE.
In addition to Central Asian states, all major states of the Eurasian continent expressed their support to the initiative. The representatives of the different countries enunciated their diplomatic posture regarding the initiative according to their own interests. This is goods news for the initiative since it proves participants found that the next implementation phase was credible. As a consequence, they all wanted to be present on the future geopolitical map in order to take advantage of the project from their specific geographical position. Interests of world powers overlap in Central Asia and careful diplomacy is required. This also means the Central Asian states can expect to negotiate common projects on transport infrastructure, and engage in economic, diplomatic, security and cultural projects in all directions, East, West, North South, and in doing so, maintaining an appropriate geopolitical balance.
Since the election of the new president of Uzbekistan, Central Asia became the core priority of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy, and the new doctrinal focus is about creating stability, security and good-neighbourliness belt around Uzbekistan. The objective is to take advantage of the huge unrealized potential of the region. Uzbekistan has a common border with all other Central Asian states. This new process is not about creating a new international organisation in Central Asia or any integration structure with supranational bodies, but to organize regular meetings of the Head of Central Asian states and Central Asian foreign ministers to implement a program of cooperation on borders security, terrorism, distribution of water resources, trade, transport and energy infrastructures (Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China; Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman corridors…), but also in education, science, tourism and culture. A first programme for the years 2018-2019 was signed on the sidelines of the Samarkand conference. Uzbekistan was always keen on importing new inspiring ideas from abroad, but also keen on building its own model adapted to its specific, history and culture, and geographical position.
This initiative is also a new geopolitical laboratory to strengthen synergies between international organizations like EU, NATO, OSCE, SCO, CIS under UN coordination and reinforce bilateral relations, to achieve stability under the principle of «indivisibility of security», on the Eurasian continent with a better balance of interests. SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger met in Samarkand on 10 November 2017 on the sidelines of the international conference and confirmed the OSCE’s intention to strengthen cooperation with the SCO in light of the common challenges and threats facing Eurasia. The participants of the conference also supported the proposal on drafting a UN general Assembly Resolution by the Central Asian states on enhancing regional and international cooperation in the region.
This is a very early process and many challenges need to be met in order to secure a decent future, has stressed the Uzbek president. This is why this initiative needs active support from European states and EU, since it matches European geopolitical interests. It is in the interest of European nations and EU to face a more stable and multicentric world as it would offer new opportunities for European nations and states on the Eurasian continent.
This initiative, if successfully implemented, is likely to modify the future geopolitical balance of power of the region since Central Asian states wants to be more united vis-à-vis surrounding great powers, and projects stability in Afghanistan, in times of dangerous geopolitical fragmentation. This initiative has the potential to become a new model for stability and peace in Eurasia.
The objective is to make Central Asian States more influential and prosperous, and better take advantage of the New Silk Road initiative. The future East-West transport, economic and energetic corridors offer a new horizon for Europe on its Eastern flank.
Central Asia plays was so far also playing the role a buffer zone barring instability and further Eurasian fragmentation coming from external crisis and instability from Afghanistan. Central Asian region aspires now to become a pole in its own right. As a strong civilizational pole associated with a new Central Asian Renaissance, the region is containing and preventing the proliferation of religious extremism. European security is intertwined with Central Asia, since this region is becoming one of the major pivots of the Eurasian continent. Cooperation on transnational terrorism, the issue of radicalisation, the stabilisation process in Afghanistan between EU and Central Asian states is therefore a necessity. During the conference, Federica Mogherini – High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission therefore acknowledged that EU and Central Asia shared « the same security interests ».