Terrorism and security have newly become one of the top priorities in post-Soviet Central Asia. States are discussing how to face the threat of a strengthening of the terrorism and, in particular, of the Islamic State. The attention to this phenomenon has been growing in relation to the Russian involvement in the Syrian war and the risk of a “contagion” that, from North Africa and Middle East, could affect Central Asia.
Both internally and regionally, during 2015 there have been discussions about anti-terrorist measures to implement and focused on the security aspects. But, actually, what is the level of the threat the states are facing? In the face of concerns expressed by national governments, sources and analyses point out a more intricate reality that needs to be examined more in depth. The possibility of a strengthening of the radical groups is concrete and different elements prove it. There are no certain figures, but it is estimated that from these countries diverse thousands of youths joined ISIS or other Islamic radical groups in Syria and Iraq. Their presence is considered to be around 1.500-2.000 militants, up to a maximum of even 4.000 people. Official numbers, in fact, could also hide governments’ strategy to underestimate or exaggerate the number of foreign fighters, in order to purse their own internal purposes in facing radical groups. Beyond these figures, what concerns is the possibility of an “expansion” of the Caliphate in the Eurasian region that could take place also with the adhesion of indigenous militias to ISIS, its ideology and its strategy. An example of such risk comes from the pledge of loyalty made by the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan last August. However, it is not only a matter of ISIS, because another factor to be considered is the evolution of the fighting in Afghanistan. Taliban, indeed, could represent a potential element of instability for bordering countries, like Turkmenistan.
In the face with this situation, the Russian Federation is trying to play its role of leading actor in the region for security issues through the definition of a common anti-terrorism policy, involving all other Central Asian states. Moscow has direct interest in limiting the expansion of islamist groups, in stabilising bordering countries and in reducing the proliferation of radical elements in its territory. In addition to Central Asians foreign fighters, what worries Moscow is the presence of 1.500-3.000 Russian citizens in war zones. Moreover, Russia itself has become a land of recruitment for jihadist movements, which acquire new militants from the emigrants resident in the large Russian cities, where tough living conditions pave the way for cultural and social marginalization and the split up between young Islamic workers from the rest of the society. This evolution has made the Russian, the third language – after Arab and English – in Islamic State’s propaganda and recruitment activities.
By its own side, Moscow has military bases and the lead of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the most important regional security structure. In the last CSTO’s summits (in Dushanbe and Moscow) it has been underlined the risk for the five Central Asian states and Russia, but the path to a common anti-terrorist initiative it’s not easy. CSTO doesn’t include two key states like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Moreover, central Asians are wary over a possible return of Russian influence in the region. This concern is in part emerged with the constitution of the Eurasian Economic Union, but is much stronger in relation to the possibility of a Russian-led common defensive policy, because it could be interpreted as a blow to the sovereignty of these countries.
So, even if the issue of a coordinated policy is always on the agenda, the answers against terrorist threat have assumed different faces. Elaborated on the root of problems, prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic reminded us recently in his seminal piece ‘No more War on Terror, please’: “But, terror is a tactics, not an ideology. How can one conduct and win war on tactics? – it is an oxymoron.”
Turkmenistan, for example, has maintained his neutrality position and repeatedly underlined its will to protect the integrity of the state from any kind of intrusion. Even if it is one of those states forced to face the major threat – since reports pointed out incidents at its Afghan borders – Turkmenistan is contrary to any kind of “intrusion” in its sphere of sovereignty. Only in recent days, Ashgabat reached an agreement with Russia for security cooperation, which include the control of Turkmen-Afghan border, in order to limit eventual border crossing by Taliban forces. In other cases, instead, the menace might be used as an instrument through which governments can crack down opposition groups. Among states “suspected” of these practices there is Tajikistan. The country suffers hundreds of young in the forces of the Caliphate and recently even one of the most influential military officials, Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, abandoned institutional ranks to join ISIS. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon described the Islamic State “the 21st century plague” and started a crackdown on Islamic groups highly criticized, starting speculations about the real nature of the governmental intentions. Many suspects, in fact, that some measures – like the disbandment of the opposition movement Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, the ban of veil for women and the strong invitation for the men to shave their beard – have little to do with security issue. In Uzbekistan, where President Karimov is conducting a years-long war against terrorism, government decided to implement new anti-terrorist measures.
Kazakhstan, instead, has chosen another path. Recently, Astana declared to have allocated more resources for security apparatus, but there is more. Contrary to the other Central Asians republics, Astana has taken up the idea of a regional cooperation to this issue. Speaking to the 70th UN General Assembly last September, President Nursultan Nazarbayev advanced a proposal (previously presented in SCO summit in Ufa) for the creation of an “anti-terrorist global network” under the aegis of the United Nations and with the involvement of regional defense structures, like CSTO. Kazakh President underlined that global threats requires global answers, stressing the necessity to re-unite the different alliances constituted in order to coordinate them. A vision – this – that brings Russia and Kazakhstan even closer on security issue. Another element to underline about Kazakh strategy is the role conceded in its anti-terrorism law to social and cultural factors, in order to prevent the spread of religious radicalism and extremism. Only years to come will say if this particular approach will give its results.
The necessity of a common answer should start also by the consideration that the Eurasian one presents itself as an increasingly significant key region. The attention toward Central Asians states is determined by their relevance as raw materials suppliers, their strategic transit routes and importance for the political stability: single States’ instability – due to the rise of domestic radical groups or to the return of foreign fighters – can produce an impact on the whole area and even on Russia and China.
At the same time, is necessary a thought-out look about the real entity of the issue. Many reports indicate that Central Asians states are lesser in danger than other regions’ countries. According to the 2015 “Global Terrorism Index” Central Asia is less in danger than Europe. Eurasian states have “good performances” not only in respect of the most troubled nations, but even of their more influential neighbors, Russia and China. The five former Soviet Central Asian states have been included in the “lowest impact of terrorism” and “no impact” categories, ranging from 83rd rank (of 162 countries classified) of Kazakhstan to the last position of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
This standing can result exaggerated, especially in a phase in which terrorism is living a rising trend, but it can help to value the relative stability of these countries. Moreover, it can help in understanding that disproportionate reactions can lead to counterproductive effects in medium-long term. In some cases, restrictions and repressions seems to respond to necessities of internal politics. The real risk is that such measures might contribute to an increasing expansion of radicalism and dissatisfaction with the institutions. Poverty, social and cultural marginalization, ethnic discriminations, lack of efficient politics and the increasing economic difficulties in these states are among other factors able to strengthen radical groups beyond the “religious ideology”. The answer can’t include only security aspects, because fundamentalism can grow for economic, social and cultural reasons. In this regard, the aforementioned Kazakh law on anti-terrorism, with its comprehensive attitude toward the issue, could represent a viable approach in the fight against religious extremism and radicalism. Only time, however, can say if this kind of solution can work and if Central Asia can prevent the rise of terrorism and instability.
Prevention and Encroachment of ISIS into Central Asia from Afghanistan
Central Asia is a region that seems the next possible target for (Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham) ISIS. There can be different reasons behind it, but at the same time, it is a dilemma that either ISIS will be able to get into Central Asian Republics (CARs)? The main thing can be the geographic location and plans of ISIS that seems very interested in that region. Furthermore, we can see that Afghanistan shares a border with 3 out of 5 CARs that increase the threat of ISIS in the region. Soon after the creation of ISIS, they entered into Afghanistan and started their activities in eastern and northeastern parts of the country; however, after the takeover of the Taliban of Kabul, a number of suicide attacks happened in larger cities of Afghanistan which gives a clue of a more substantial presence of the group and their strength.
Most important tricks to prevent ISIS possible expansion into CARs states we should know about their recruitments policies. Nowadays, in the 21st century, media is considered a 4th organ of the state, and it is diverting people’s attention through different meanings to reach the end. Most importantly, I believe that media is a great tool that ISIS (K) uses to recruit foreign fighters; they disseminate information in different ways, especially through social media. But at the same time, we can see that some people in Central Asia feel neglected by the states, and discrimination is going on with them in different aspects of life. It might be socially, politically, and economically. It will not be an exaggeration to mention here that in this region (CARs), people are fed from the ongoing political systems where they are not enjoying the freedom of speech, no free media, political rivalries are almost unacceptable. There is no clear way to choose the successor for the state, though Kyrgyzstan is a kind of half democratic system, so all these aspects led people or compelled them to join such terrorist groups. It is worth mentioning that many Central Asians are working as labour migrants in different parts of the world, especially in Russia as Diasporas. They are sending a considerable amount of remittances into their leaving countries from Russia, but they are facing many issues there as well. Most important is the behaviour of the local people with whom they are working and some government departments as well. They are recruiting people mainly from the people going into mosques in Russia because they know that these people have an Islamic pan idea.
Strategists should come with a clear stance to make a policy that helps states to avoid the access of ISIS in the region. International cooperation is necessary to prevent further expansion of this lethal terrorist organization. In this regard, in my view, the number of surgical strikes should be increased to demise this acute disease, not to convert it into a chronic situation. Major Powers like Russia, the USA, and China should come to a consensus on several Middle East and Afghanistan issues to eliminate them. It is also necessary to have strong border patrol guards to protect illegal crossing of borders and to stop the flow of Central Asian terrorists into Turkey and Afghanistan, which are the nearest ways to join them. Once they join ISIS, they can easily access Central Asia when they have local people from the region. I think policymakers should keep some triggering forces in mind like nationalism, ideology, morality, ideas, and most importantly, national interests that motivate policy to shape a comprehensive plan against ISIS. Fortunately, nationalism is decreasing, and Central Asian people may not have any pan Turkic ideas.
CICA Meeting Seeks to Update Regional Cooperation and Dialogue
The world has recently experienced sharp challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic, while hopefully receding, has caused global economic problems that may take some time to resolve.
Meanwhile the crucial and dramatic changes in Afghanistan have clearly demonstrated that multilateralism has become the only possible approach to ensuring global stability, security and peace. Neither the pandemic and its consequences, nor regional tensions and crises can be resolved without dialogue and the cooperation of states at regional and global levels.
The influence of Asian countries in global developments will continue to increase due to the rapid economic and demographic growth of the region. Asia is on track to top 50 percent of global GDP by 2040. By that point, it is expected to account for 40 percent of the world’s total consumption. The region is making not only economic progress but rapid strides in human development. As noted by international observers, the question is no longer how quickly Asia will rise; it is how Asia will lead. Despite Asia’s remarkable rise, its family of nations are sometimes kept apart by difficult geography and even more difficult history.
For this reason, it is vital to ensure that there is space for Asian states to conduct dialogue in order to unite efforts on resolving key regional and global issues. The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, an intergovernmental forum, is the most appropriate platform in the region to consolidate the collective wisdom of all Asian nations for peace, cooperation, security and development.
CICA has come a long way since the initiative to convene it was first proposed by the First President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the 47th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in October 1992. Today, almost 30 years later, CICA brings together 27 Member States. The region covered by CICA stretches from the Pacific to the Mediterranean and from the Ural to the Indian Ocean, covering more than 50 percent of the world’s population.
The establishment of the CICA forum emerged from the firm belief that international progress can come about only through strong and effective partnerships. Since the first ministerial meeting, which took place in 1999, CICA has strived to enhance cooperation through elaborating multilateral approaches towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia.
Yet the world has changed dramatically in the past two decades. Asia has become a key driver of global economic growth and development. Multi-polarity has become the norm of international relations. Countries are actively cooperating thanks to globalization, yet at the same time nationalism is on the rise in many parts of the world. To adapt to these changes, the CICA forum must transform in order to continue to fulfil its important role.
Kazakhstan, as Chair of CICA for 2020-2022, has put forward a number of proposals aimed at making the forum more effective.
Firstly, we believe that it is time to gradually transform it into a fully-fledged international organisation that will be better equipped to cope with the fast-changing security environment and help to pursue developmental goals in our continent. CICA’s transformation into such an organisation will expand its capabilities to strengthen cooperation between the member states, cover the entire Asia with a system of deep mutual trust and mutual assistance, as well as increase its status and influence in the international arena.
Secondly, given the dramatic changes that impacted the world in the last two years, it is necessary to update the activities and areas of cooperation within CICA. Due to the threat of the current pandemic, as well as potential future health crises, it is necessary to consider the development of cooperation in the field of epidemiological security, public health and pharmaceuticals. In addition, digitalisation is an important field as the world moves further towards the use of digital technologies. We must also not forget about issues that have been of persistent importance over the last few years, including mitigating climate change, empowering women and youth.
Finally, given the global nature of current challenges, CICA and its member states must also focus on building partnership with other regional and global organisations, particularly the Eurasian Economic Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and others.
The overarching ambition of CICA is clear – to reduce global geopolitical tensions and threat of conflicts, and instead focus on collaboration and development, especially in Asia, where we share common values and aspirations. Ahead of the upcoming CICA Meeting of Foreign Ministers on 11-12 October in Kazakhstan, we must embrace the idea that CICA should be playing one of the key roles along with other international organisations in the region in achieving these common objectives. This will encourage Asian countries to build bridges among each other and shape a prosperous future in Asia.
Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan: Marching Confidently Towards a Brighter Future
As Uzbekistan celebrates 30 years of independence from former USSR, it is also the time that the nation is completing five years of rule by incumbent president Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Mirziyoyev took power in September 2016, when the country’s first president – Islam Karimov, having ruled since 1991 – passed away, what was seen as a big shock for the entire nation. Since then, Mirziyoyev – elected formally to the presidency later that year – not only steered his nation out of that shock but also put the country on the road to globally-acknowledged reforms, uplift and progress.
Past five years have been a period of extraordinary reform, development and international prestige for this most populous nation of Central Asia. The new leader laid the foundation of a ‘New Uzbekistan’ with broad-based, comprehensive, inclusive and all-encompassing reforms in economic, political and social spheres.
Economic reforms were aimed primarily at liberalization of economy, moving towards free-market systems and regulations. These have born fruits significantly, with country’s economy growing at a healthy average rate, over past years. Output augmented – both in agriculture, and industrial sectors – and per capita incomes increased notably. Confidence of local and foreign investors in Uzbek economy deepened and international institutions started looking towards the country as a new bright spot for regional growth. Welfare of the people, especially the working class, has been put at the centre stage in these sets of reforms.
The democratic reforms, also seen as a model for the region by international observers, revolve around decentralization of power, political inclusiveness and transparency of the electoral processes. This transparency and fairness of electoral processes is noted with appreciation by all those observing the country’s political transformation. At the heart of this scheme of political reform lies the awareness and greater participation of masses, country’s people from all backgrounds and regions, in the political processes. All the segments of society feel the benefits of this process of political reform pouring down in the form of political empowerments at grassroots.
The country has emerged as one of the most attractive tourist destinations not only in the region but in the whole world. Much of it owes to focused development of tourism of ziaraats, as the country boats a rich cultural and religious heritage – making it a magnet for a large number of people from around the Muslim world, especially from countries such as Pakistan. Uzbekistan Airways, the national flag-carrier, is now one of the most important airlines connecting a sizeable number of countries and regions.
At international stage, country’s prestige has continuously been enhancing during past half a decade. Mirziyoyev played a vital role in bringing the leaders of other four Central Asian republic to table, for re-start of the negotiations for the region’s integration. Uzbekistan’s efforts in this period for Afghanistan’s peace and stability and providing the Afghan people with an unattached opening towards Central Asia are noteworthy.
Uzbek president in recent couple of years has played a leading role for the whole wider region by promoting re-initiation and strengthening longstanding bonds and connectivity between Central and South Asia. The July 2021 conference held in Tashkent turned out to be the largest such initiative by Uzbek leadership under Mirziyoyev. Not only Pakistani PM and the then Afghan president were present but ministerial level leaders from some 30 countries and heads of several major international organizations also participated in the mega forum. I have no hesitation in saying that 2021 conference in Tashkent aimed at Central and South Asia connectivity has already started a journey that would not be stopped now; no matter how the things shape in the region. Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan railway would be the flagship imove of this journey.
As mentioned above, the reforms’ being all-encompassing may be witnessed from the special focus and attention on development of mass media, arts, sports and cultural activities – including the preservation and development of cultures of all the ethnic groups of the nation.
In the nutshell, Uzbekistan of today has assumed a much more vital position in the affairs of the region. The country’s people are now living peaceful, prosperous, content and confidence-filled lives, also basking in increasing international glory of their nation. The journey is all set to continue towards greater achievements and a brighter future.
Resource Curse and Underdevelopment Give Way to Mass Unrest and Political Instability in Sudan
As reported October 25 by the reputable state media, Al Arabiya, Sudanese army and a cross-section of its population have...
Regulatory Noose Tightens Around the Federal Reserve: Powell Reaffirmed a Second Term
The Federal Reserve has been under a sharp gaze since the twilight years of former president Donald J. Trump. Whether...
Russia’s role in the revival of the Iran Nuclear deal
Iran in recent weeks has stated on more than one occasion, that is willing to return to the negotiation table...
Turkey and Iran find soft power more difficult than hard power
The times they are a changin’. Iranian leaders may not be Bob Dylan fans, but his words are likely to...
The impact of the joint security coordination between Israel and Turkey in Afghanistan
First: Analysis of the potential scenarios of (Israeli-Arab or Iranian-Arab security coordination on Afghanistan), or the extent of success of...
United World of Job Seekers and Job Creators Will Boost Recovery
Why is there so much disconnect between entrepreneurial thinking and bureaucratic thinking? Has the world of education, certification, occupation divided...
Debunking the Sovereignty: From Foucault to Agamben
“Citing the end of Volume I of The History of Sexuality, Agamben notes that for Foucault, the “threshold of modernity”...
Defense3 days ago
American submarine mangled in the South China Sea
Defense3 days ago
Will India be sanctioned over the S-400 Air Defense System?
Intelligence2 days ago
Sino-Russian regional activities after Afghanistan
Economy2 days ago
Sustainable Agriculture in Modern Society
Americas3 days ago
America’s Two-Tiered Justice System
Finance4 days ago
North Macedonia’s Growth Projected Higher, but Economy Still Faces Risks
East Asia2 days ago
Importance of peace in Afghanistan is vital for China
Finance4 days ago
Bosnia and Herzegovina Should Focus on Job Creation