Uzbekistan: A New Model for Reform in the Muslim World?
Dramatic and important changes are taking place in Central Asia. For more than a year the region’s historic core and geopolitical focal point has been immersed in a whirlwind of reform without precedent in the region. At a time when one-man rule has been reinforced in China and Russia, when the rule of law is in abeyance in countries as diverse as South Africa and Venezuela, and when most Muslim majority societies appear to be receding into a new authoritarianism informed by religious ideology, Uzbekistan has instituted reforms that are ambitious in aim and extensive in scope.
It is far too early to say how it will all come out, or even how far it will go. But there is little doubt that that the current reforms are all organized around solid commitment to the rule of law, the rights of citizens, elective governance, an open market economy, religious tolerance, cordial relations with the great powers without sacrificing sovereignty, and a new embrace of the Central Asian region itself as an actor on the world state. It’s time for the world to take stock of this startling development.
By Tristan Kenderdine
April 16, 2018, the CACI Analyst
Following high-profile visits by Premier Li Keqiang in 2015 and Xi Jinping in 2016, China’s is domestically devolving its trade and industrial relationship with Uzbekistan to provincial and prefectural levels of government. However, financing for China’s investment in Uzbekistan remains either directly invested or indirectly coordinated by one of China’s three central policy banks, Export-Import Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Agricultural Development Bank of China. Since 2014, the Exim Bank has committed to fund Belt and Road projects worth around US$ 120 billion, which corresponds to nearly a full year’s GDP for Uzbekistan. These quasi-sovereign wealth funds certainly pose a systemic debt risk, but are not necessarily a debt-trap.
By Farkhod Tolipov
April 10, 2018, the CACI Analyst
On March 15, 2018, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and the speaker of Turkmenistan’s parliament gathered in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana for a long-awaited meeting. Notably, the meeting was five-lateral, not four-lateral like previous meetings, and was consultative. Over 10 years have passed since the latest regional meeting of the Central Asian leaders. Not least for geopolitical reasons, the regional integration process that started in 1991 has since declined. This consultative meeting signaled a possible revitalization of regional cooperation, while the region remains in the shadow of great power politics.
By Johan Engvall
March 22, 2018, the CACI Analyst
Something is stirring in Central Asia. The past two weeks have seen a flurry of bilateral and multilateral get-togethers, starting on March 9, when Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrived with great fanfare in Dushanbe for the first state visit of a president of Uzbekistan to Tajikistan since 2000. Less than a week later, on March 15, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as well as the speaker of Turkmenistan’s parliament gathered in Astana for the first exclusively regional “summit” in almost a decade. What do these meetings, each producing several intriguing bilateral and multilateral agreements and statements, mean for the prospects of Central Asian countries finally embarking upon a path of development through cooperation?
By Richard Weitz
February 22, 2018, the CACI Analyst
Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has been a priority for Uzbek-U.S. and Kazak-U.S. relations for decades. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are surrounded by nuclear weapons states and lie at the crossroads of potential WMD trafficking routes. As the U.S. struggles to keep North Korea and Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, deny WMDs from terrorists and other actors, and sustain a major security presence in Central Asia, partnering with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan against WMDs offers low-cost, high-yield opportunities.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.