The Second Central Asian Leaders’ Consultative Summit was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on December 11 attended by five regional leaders with the aim of continuing the convergence process with a special focus on multilateral cooperation, guaranteeing and enhancing security and stability in this part of the world
Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and Chairman of the Kazakhstani Security Council and Chairman of the Kazakh Nur Otan Party Nursultan Nazarbayev were present in this summit.
Central Asia covers a vast part of the Asian continent that does not have any border with the high seas. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Mongolia are among the countries in this geographical area.
It should be noted that the Tashkent Summit was a special one, as it took place at a time when Central Asian countries were pushing past disagreements and were moving towards convergence, rapprochement, opening borders and seizing economic opportunities.
The change that has been taking place in Central Asia in recent years is not unrelated to the changes in the political structure or political management of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is perhaps the most important Central Asian country that has been dominated by Islam Karimov for more than 25 years. Karimov had created a closed state that had many problems with its neighbors and its own people. Ever since Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to office as Uzbekistan’s president, he has followed a completely different policy in his agenda.
Measures taken during the two or three years after Karimov’s death and the coming to office of Mirziyoyev have not been paid much attention in Iran. That is while developments in this country can serve as a model for the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus. Mirziyoyev has concentrated on the neighboring areas, be it the Central Asian neighbors or Afghanistan and Iran. With respect to cooperation, he has also prioritized Iran and unlike Karimov who was not ready to cooperate with Tehran, the current president pursues a policy of close relations with Iran.
Mirziyoyev’s first move was to eliminate differences with Tajikistan and open the borders so that people could travel easily and without needing a visa. In fact, Uzbekistan’s policies regarding development, attention to the lower classes of the society, combating corruption and being popular have now turned into a model for other Central Asian countries.
Actually, now the Central Asian countries need to trust Mirziyoyev’s policies and moves; and meetings like the Tashkent Summit were also held by him that we have witnessed good progress there.
Also, given that Central Asian countries are on the route of (Formerly known as One Belt One Road) China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has invested heavily in these five countries, particularly Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The expansion of infrastructure in these countries such as tunnels, dams and high-speed railway has led to a positive competition among Central Asian countries in terms of development, attraction of tourism and opening up to their neighbors.
Uzbekistan, on the other hand, has played a positive role in Afghan peace, and so far, two meetings have been held in Tashkent between the Taliban and the Afghan government, with Iran also attending.
Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran should pay more attention to developments in Central Asia and follow it closely. Because these countries are very interested in working with Iran, and under the current economic situation, Tehran can build a strong strategic relationship with them, that is Iran should pursue relations that rather than focusing only on one country, help expand its relations with the five countries.
To create such a process, first of all confidence should be built so that if there exists any irritation and estrangement between Iran and some of these countries, they would be resolved. For example, for many years Iran has failed to make a gas deal with Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan is keen on expanding relations with Iran and is seeking to construct a railway and highway from Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan towards Iran; because the Uzbeks are willing to invest in Iran’s Chabahar or Bandar Abbas.
It should be noted that because Central Asian countries geographically do not have access to free water, the best way to maintain their connection to the world trade is through southern Iran, and since security is maintained in Iran, they are interested in this route. The Islamic Republic of Iran should also welcome these investments and projects as they will benefit both parties.
If Tehran fails to seize this opportunity and cooperate with these countries, naturally other countries will replace Iran, as we have witnessed it repeatedly to this day.