Borders and horizons: how experts see the future of Central Asia

14 June 2018

Young scientists, experts, journalists and governmental officials from all countries of the region discussed and analyzed main problems of Central Asia during the scientific and research school of the Gorchakov Fund and Kazakh-German University in Almaty. Correspondent of Sputnik Uzbekistan Anton Kurilkin listened to the hot debates and the discussions.

Trends and new borders

Only 25 people from five countries – Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – were selected to participate in the educational program, which was organized not for the first time. Nevertheless, the list of experts turned out to be impressive – almost 20 heads of think tanks, professors, doctors of sciences, politicians and governmental officials.

The main topic, which united all classes, was the future of the Central Asian region. Emerging trends allow already now to look beyond the horizon.

The population of Central Asia will continue growing, which means that the ethnic map of the region will also be changing and the share of national majority in certain countries will change. This being said, people will pay less attention to the borders – in other parts of the planet separation between the countries has become mostly symbolic.

However, these trends are time-expended and refer rather to the long-term and the mid-term future. Meanwhile the situation begins changing in individual countries and in bilateral cooperation – thus, reforms in Uzbekistan have changed the emphases in international relations in whole Central Asia. The participants and the experts agreed that there was a possibility that in the future we could speak about interconnections between the countries through business and infrastructural links.

Also, it is not clear what the phrase “Central Asia” will mean – already now some scientists include Chinese Xinjiang and Afghanistan in it. At the same time there is an emerging concept of the “Greater Eurasia” from Portugal and Northern Africa to the most eastern point of the continent – Cape Dezhnev.

One should not forget about the “black swans” – unpredictable accidental events, which can change the balance of power in the region and significantly affect lives and policies of the countries.

Security and external players

External players – both Russia and China – stay interested in the countries of Central Asia. Beijing has become not just a key investor, but a moderator of building new architecture of regional security.

The Chinese factor is closely interconnected with Iran’s and general logistical interests of Beijing and Tehran in Central Asia. However, arrival of the Iranians in the region stirs interest from the old competitor of Iran – Saudi Arabia, which tries to take more serious and fundamental positions in the economy of the countries of Central Asia through business structures.

Recently, other countries have also become active – since 2015 experts have been observing an emerging interest to the region from India and South Korea. The latter one has even founded a special agency to work with the countries of the region. The European Union, which has recently approved a new strategy on Central Asia, also has its own projects and goals in Central Asia.

A low level of strategic planning and ongoing disintegration of the pot-Soviet space remain to be major problems in the field of security.

However, a trend for strengthening is emerging now – Uzbekistan, with the arrival of the new president, as it was mentioned by almost all experts, began developing cooperation both with the neighbors and other countries of the post-Soviet space. Nevertheless, it is too early to speak about integration, and the reforms taking place in the republic will need to withstand the tests of time.

Only economic ties for the purpose of strengthening the situation in the region will not be sufficient – cooperation in the field of security and defense is important. In order to achieve that, scientific and research projects, which will be able to provide forecasting and neutralization of potential internal and external threats, are needed.

The school itself made, perhaps, not a huge, but significant contribution into strengthening of scientific and cultural ties between our countries”.

Authors’ point of view published on the website may not coincide with the position of the Gorchakov Fund.