Uzbekistan and cica: new age of cooperation

Abstract. This article considers trends and prospects for the development of the Conference on Security and Confidence-building Measures in Asia within the context of a need to deepen cooperation between the countries in the region. The speech of President of Uzbekistan, Sh. Mirziyoyev at the CICA Summit in June 2019, contained specific suggestions aimed at enhancing cooperation in priority areas. The purpose of these initiatives is to strengthen mutual trust, promoting regional cooperation to maintain security, and to develop trade and the economy, transport logistics and tourism potential of the entire Central Asia region.

On June 15, 2019, an summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidencebuilding Measures in Asia (CICA) took place in Dushanbe. The president of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sh. Mirziyoyev participated in the event. In his speech, the President suggested several initiatives to enhance multifaceted cooperation between the member countries of the Conference in areas of utmost importance [1].

It should be noted, that the attention paid by the leadership of Uzbekistan to the cooperation is not accidental. Established in 1992 at the initiative of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan N. Nazarbayev, CICA is unique in the Asian region. Its members are 27 states of Eurasia, The Middle East and South-East Asia, which constitute 90% of Asia. Eight countries and five international organizations, including the UN, hold observer status.

According to the Catalogue of

Confidence-building Measures of the CICA adopted in 2004, the interaction between member countries is progressing in the following areas: addressing new challenges and threats, military-political, economic, ecology and human dimensions.

As noted by experts, in recent years, the work of the Conference has been intensifying [2]. The establishment of an institute of countries coordinating industrial programmes has become an important mechanism for enhancing the effectiveness of cooperation. Azerbaijan coordinates cooperation on the issues of “developing a safe and efficient transport corridor system”, South Korea is working on “information technology and energy security”, Russia monitors “development of small and medium-sized enterprises”, while Tajikistan coordinates tourism” [3].

The introduction of a chairmanship mechanism in the CICA, which is set for a term of 4 years, has gained a new impetus in the Conference. For the first time in the history of the CICA, a transition occurred in 2010 – Kazakhstan handed over the chairmanship to Turkey (2010–2014). Over that period, Ankara initiated informal Sessions of Ministers of Foreign Affairs twice a year in New York in 2011 and 2013 on the margins of the UN General Assembly; 16 meetings of the Committee of Senior Officials, 3 business fora, and several other events were held.

China, during its chairmanship (2014– 2018), convened the First Conference of the CICA Youth Council (2015), the Fourth CICA Business Forum and the inaugural meeting of the CICA Business Council (2015). Furthermore, the CICA nongovernmental Forum was created, which has become an important platform for nongovernmental exchanges and cooperation [4].

In 2018-2020, Tajikistan presided over the forum. As part of its chairmanship, in 2018, the Financial Forum was held in the PRC for the first time. The CICA Summit took place in Dushanbe the day after the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in Bishkek and attracted a lot of international media attention. The forum was attended by the largest number of heads of states and governments throughout the history of the Conference – 15 presidents and prime ministers of member countries of the CICA.

It is particularly significant that in the context of growing instability in international relations and substantial challenges to security and development in Asia, the CICA platform provides good opportunities for discussing the common problems of the Asian continent, and for promoting regional and interregional cooperation there.

Uzbekistan is interested in more active participation in the Conference. Tashkent considers the CICA as an important platform for promoting mutually beneficial cooperation with member countries focusing on the Central Asian region. In this regard, during the summit, President Sh. Mirziyoyev voiced the following initiatives aimed at deepening regional cooperation:

Firstly, the need to resolve the Afghan conflict was emphasized. Attaining peace in this country will not only contribute to the overall improvement of security, but will also open up new economic opportunities for Central Asia and other IRA-neighboring regions.

The shortest routes connecting Central Asian countries with the ports of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, as well as South Asian countries with the markets of CIS countries, Europe and China run through the territory of Afghanistan. It is for these reasons that Tashkent attaches great importance to the construction of “Mazar-i- Sharif – Gerat” and “Mazar-i-Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar” [5].

In addition work on the feasibility study of “Surkhan-Puli-Khumri” power transmission lines, with an estimated capacity of 500 kW, is currently underway. The implementation of this project will not only help address the problem of energy shortages, but will also create new enterprises and workplaces in the IRA [1]

In order to promote social and economic recovery of Afghanistan and the expansion of regional economic ties, the Ministerial Conference RECCA VIII is planned to be held in Tashkent in November this year.

Secondly, Uzbekistan expressed its willingness to coordinate scientific, educational, cultural and humanitarian cooperation. Uzbekistan has traditionally focused on this area. In particular, the resolution of the UN General Assembly “Education and Religious Tolerance” was adopted and a proposal to develop the International Convention of the UN for Youth Rights was put forward by Sh. Mirziyoyev.

Uzbekistan is actively expanding international cooperation in the field of education. Thus, in 2019, admission of students to newly established branches of 2 Indian and 2 Russian universities will commence. In order to assist Afghanistan in training specialists, an educational centre with 130 students is successfully operating in Termez, with plans to increase the number of students up to 250[2] The Youth Council of Uzbekistan plans to join the activities of the CICA Youth Council, establish joint conferences, round tables, cultural festivals, as well as implement projects and programs for the development of youth tourism and youth interaction in other areas

Uzbekistan is systematically expanding its scientific and technological contacts with Asian countries, including The Digital Trust Development Support Fund for Digital Economy and is collaborating with leading companies of the Russian Federation, China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and so on.

It is also important to deepen cooperation in the field of tourism. In Uzbekistan, by 2025, the share of tourism in the country’s GDP is expected to increase from the current 2.3% to 5% [3] The Uzbek side proposes holding tourism forums on a regular basis to increase tourism exchange, as well as strengthen confidence and mutual understanding between the peoples of the participating countries.

Third, the necessity of establishing a general dialogue on the issues of maintaining interreligious harmony, enlightenment and cultural mutual enrichment was noted. Currently, outbreaks of religious and ethnic violence are increasing in the world. Against this background, it seems important to intensify the exchange of analytical information and scientific materials reflecting the experience of the CICA countries in combating the spread of the ideology of extremism, terrorism, religious intolerance and discrimination on the Internet.

In addition, it is necessary to create conditions for dialogue between different ethnic and religious groups. Uzbekistan proposed the center of Islamic civilization in Tashkent and the International Research Center of Imam Bukhari in Samarkand as platforms for building cooperation in this area, which have extensive experience in conducting educational and research activities.

Fourth, the importance of building efforts to develop economic interconnectedness and regional trade was emphasized. Particular importance has been attached to regional and interregional cooperation in these areas. Throughout history, Central Asia, being at the center of the Great Silk Road, has acted as a bridge between East and West, North and South. Today, in order to fully unlock the transit and economic potential of the region, Uzbekistan is advocating for the speedy implementation of priority infrastructure projects, including the construction of the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China railway and the creation of trans-Afghan transport corridors [5].

Fifth, the need to promote a partnership between the business circles of Asian countries was noted. Uzbekistan attaches particular importance to small businesses, which account for 53% of GDP in our country. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan is a member of the Confederation of the CCI of the Asia-Pacific Region, the Islamic CCI and the SCO Business Council.

In this regard, the President of Uzbekistan Sh. Mirziyoyev proposed the establishment of a regional forum of small business. Regular meetings of the forum will allow the business communities to establish direct contact, which will contribute to the growth of investment and trade between member states.

Sixth, focuses on the need for cooperation to address environmental issues. An ongoing problem for the countries of Central Asia is overcoming the consequences of the Aral disaster. Since 1993, under the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS), 3 programs of measures to improve the situation have been jointly implemented. Uzbekistan, in the framework of the Comprehensive Program of Measures to Mitigate the Consequences of the Aral Disaster in the Aral Sea Region, has completed over 500 projects in 20132017. At the initiative of Tashkent, in November 2018, under the auspices of the UN, the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for the Aral Sea region was launched, in which the Government of Uzbekistan invested $2 million (United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region). In June 2019, the Fund’s Steering Committee approved projects for the development of perinatal care, access to domestic water, support for small business and the development of ecotourism for more than $3 million [4]

The President of Uzbekistan has proposed to unite the efforts of the countries of the region and their partners in improving the environmental situation in the Aral Sea region, including on the implementation of such initiatives previously expressed by the Uzbek side as the announcement of the Aral Sea region as a zone of environmental innovation and technology, the establishment of a regional center for growing seedlings of desert and fodder plants, the creation of transboundary protected natural territories in the Aral Sea region, and more.

In conclusion, it must be stressed that Asia is currently one of the most dynamic areas of the global economy, which strengthens Uzbekistan’s interest in deepening cooperation with Asian states. The active participation of our country in the activities of the CICA and the implementation of the initiatives declared by the leadership of Uzbekistan can help strengthen mutual political trust, promote regional cooperation in maintaining security, and develop the trade, economic, transport, logistics and tourism potential of the entire Central Asian region.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Speech by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the fifth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia // National News Agency of Uzbekistan [Electronic resource] Available at: http://uza.uz/ru/politics/vystuplenie-prezidenta-respubliki- uzbekistan-shavkata-mirziye0-15-06-2019 (as of July 20, 2019)
  2. Adil Kaukenov “CICA: what is the value for Asia and Kazakhstan?” // Information and analytical resource Zakon.kz Available at: https:// www.zakon.kz/4881632-svmda-v-chem-tsennost-dlya-azii-i-dlya.html (as of July 20, 2019)
  3. Dulat Bakishev “Dialogue in the name of security and prosperity in Asia and the world” // International life [Electronic resource] Available at: https://interaffairs.ru/jauthor/material/205 (as of July 20, 2019)
  4. Gong Jianwei “The basis of security is trust and cooperation” //CICA Official Website [Electronic resource] Available at: http://www.s- cica.org/page.php?page_id=6153&lang=2&parent_id=139 (as of July 25, 2019)
  5. Zilola Karimova Connecting Asia: Uzbekistan Looks to Capitalize on Central Asia’s Transport Potential // The Diplomat https://thediplomat. com/2018/04/connecting-asia-uzbekistan-looks-to-capitalize-on- central-asias-transport-potential/
Year: 2019
City: Almaty