Strengthening engagement in Central Asia needs to be considered as part of an overall increase in activity in the region for cooperation with the US. And this became possible due to the new regional policy of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, which is recognized in all countries of the region. Over the years, regional problems were not resolved, everyone, not only Uzbekistan, was interested in normalizing elementary good-neighborly relations, restoring political trust, and developing mutually beneficial trade. That is why the situation in Central Asia began to change not just quickly, but rapidly. Everybody was tired of the growing atmosphere of tension in the region every year, they wanted change.
It should be recalled that Tashkent signed treaties on the delimitation of a significant part of the borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which seriously reduced the conflict potential in the region. Dozens of checkpoints were opened on the borders with these countries, which greatly facilitated mutual trips of citizens.
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have agreed on a 30-day visa-free regime. Tashkent and Astana signed an agreement on the mutual recognition of visas, which will allow foreign tourists visiting Uzbekistan to freely enter Kazakhstan and vice versa. For the first time in 25 years, air and bus service between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was resumed. Since 2017, high-speed passenger trains run between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Almost frozen in the past, trade shows rapid growth. Uzbekistan’s trade with the countries of Central Asia in the coming years, Uzbekistan plans to reach a level of $ 5 billion. Everybody gets profit from the intensification of trade relations. Uzbekistan’s trade with Kazakhstan is the most balanced.
There is an increase in trade with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, there is a marked reduction in their deficit in trade with Uzbekistan. Thus, thanks to regional cooperation, specific problems are solved and everyone benefits. Experts insist that this is not an American project, this is a Central Asian project that is being implemented in the interests of the countries of the region. And everything that is happening in Central Asia today makes the region more stable, economically prosperous and predictable. And Moscow and Beijing have already expressed support for the development of regional cooperation in Central Asia. It is recognized that this is a holistic region with an integrated, unique civilization. In addition, Central Asia, since ancient times, represented a common political space. And the statements that the policy of Uzbekistan in the Afghan direction is also sent from the White House is only another regret. Vedan Afghanistan for the countries of the region is not just a neighbor. This is a country where serious threats to regional security are hidden and at the same time there are unique opportunities for the development of trans-regional transport corridors linking Central and South Asia.
The security and development of Central Asia is inextricably linked to the fate of Afghanistan. And it has always been and will remain an integral part of Central Asia. The developing integration in Central Asia is aimed primarily at establishing peace and economic prosperity in Afghanistan. The implementation of transport projects capable of connecting Central Asia through Afghanistan with ports in Iran and Pakistan is also responsible for this. Not only the representatives of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also Russia and Kazakhstan came to Tashkent to discuss the prospects of building the Mazar – Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar railway.
At the same time, it should be recognized that there are different political and economic development models in the countries of the region. They are divided by membership in different organizations (CSTO, EAEU), approaches to many international issues differ. But this should not interfere with the solution of common problems. It is necessary to find the right balance and agree on a general agreement on a problem such as the use of water resources. And there is the problem of mutual trade. Between the countries of Central Asia, it is less than 10% of the total trade turnover of the five countries. At the same time, this indicator in the EU exceeds 60%, APEC - 68%.
Ahead is still painstaking work on the coordination of positions, finding acceptable compromises. Of course, there will be rollbacks back. Not without it. But, I am convinced, there will be no return to the situation two years ago. We have already gone through this, understood the price of our mistakes and do not intend to repeat them. The intensification of interaction in the region is taking place for one reason only - all the states of Central Asia are interested in this.
They do not create a regional alliance or even a new international organization. It is about creating a permanent dialogue platform, whose work will be aimed at discussing the most pressing common issues with the goal of acceptable solutions for all.