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New Dynamics in the Regional Policy of Uzbekistan - Factor of Stability and Development in Central Asia

On September 5-6, 2017, the President of Uzbekistan made state visit to Kyrgyzstan. On September 9, Shavkat Mirziyoyev received Meng Jianzhu, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee, and handed him the Order of Friendship for his special contribution to deepening the relations of a comprehensive strategic partnership. On September 9-10, the Uzbek leader visited another neighboring country - Kazakhstan, where, during the first summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Science and Technology, he held fruitful meetings with the leaders of Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. Such a busy schedule of the foreign policy activities of the President of Uzbekistan gives a qualitatively new dynamic to the regional processes in Central Asia.

Of course, this has the most direct relation and plays a key role in strengthening stability and providing new favorable conditions for the sustainable development of the entire Central Asian region for a number of objective reasons.
First, Uzbekistan is the largest state in Central Asia. Its population has grown from 20 million to more than 32.5 million people since the early 1990s and now makes for almost half of the population of the entire region. For more than eleven years, Uzbekistan has demonstrated high rates of economic development. In 2017-2018, international financial organizations expect the country’s GDP growth at the level of not less than 7.4%.

In other words, half of the population of Central Asia is ‘provided’ with such a rapid pace of social and economic development.

Moreover, the Uzbek leader, having adopted the Strategy of Development of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021 through public discussion, is carrying out unprecedented reforms aimed at modernization in all spheres of social and political life, liberalization in the monetary, financial, investment and trade and economic fields.

Second, Uzbekistan is the only state in Central Asia that shares borders with all neighboring countries in the region, including Afghanistan. Therefore, as international experts recognize, Uzbekistan is a key state in Central Asia, on whose internal and foreign policy depends the stability and security of the whole region.

It is no coincidence that Shavkat Mirziyoyev proclaimed in his pre-election speeches at the end of last year that the main priority in Uzbekistan’s foreign policy would be Central Asia.

Soon after, as President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev made his first visits to the neighboring countries of Central Asia - Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan became the third neighboring state visited by the Uzbek leader from the beginning of the year.

During the state visit to Kyrgyzstan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Almazbek Atambayev discussed the expansion of ties between the two countries in all spheres and prospects for further cooperation. The results of the talks at the highest level demonstrated that Uzbek-Kyrgyz relations have reached a new level in all areas of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

During the meetings, the Uzbek leader stated that “Uzbekistan highly values the centuries-old friendship and cooperation between our peoples. The development of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, based on mutual respect and trust, is one of the important areas of our foreign policy.”

The results of the visit of the Uzbek leader have become unprecedented in the last two decades and, according to both sides, turned ‘historical.’ Following the talks of the two Presidents, a joint statement was signed between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and the agreement on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz state border. Moreover, the heads of the two states decided to increase bilateral trade turnover to $500 million in the coming years. From the beginning of 2017, the volume of bilateral trade turnover has increased by 60 percent and amounted to $150 million.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Almazbek Atambayev underlined mutual interest in the implementation of the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China railway project in a short time. The parties stated that the implementation of this project contributes to the growth of domestic trade and to the attractiveness of Central Asia as an advantageous transit link in the East-West direction.

At the same time, official Tashkent and Bishkek assured that they would do their best to create a new automobile corridor ‘Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China.’ Its implementation will serve to expand the mutually beneficial relations between the states and the region as a whole, as well as an additional impulse to their joint economic development.

Moreover, the implementation of these projects will significantly increase the geo-economic attractiveness of the whole of Central Asia as a connecting link, an important transit and communication hub between East and West. There will be new strategic opportunities for connecting the shortest route of the APR countries, first of all, China, on the one hand, and the states of Europe and the Middle East, on the other.

It should be noted that with joint efforts of Uzbekistan and China in 2016 a railway tunnel in Uzbekistan’s Kamchik Pass was put into operation in the shortest time. This section in the nearest future will become a strategic section of the emerging new international infrastructure projects between East and West along the ‘Economic Belt of the Silk Road.’

Undoubtedly, this will give a new powerful impetus to the development of all the countries of Central Asia as the main factor for strengthening long-term regional stability and security. Other partners of the Central Asian states such as Turkey and Iran are interested in this, and they view Central Asia as a natural bridge that can provide the shortest access to the rapidly developing markets of China and the Asia-Pacific region.

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