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Kazakhstan Uzbekistan Relations

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Erin Thomas

on 19 March 2014

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Transcript of Kazakhstan Uzbekistan Relations

Kazakh-Uzbek Relations
Brief History
Examples of Kazakh-Uzbek competition
Eurasian Union
Resource disagreements
Border disputes
Opposing view of Russia
Policies that have eradicated these issues
Russian Influence today
The overall relations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are doomed to fluctuate within a triangle: competition,strategic partnership and eternal friendship. Which trend will prevail will depend on how these two states define their national interests and their identity in the region and in the world.
Competition /Eurasian Union
The beginning of this conflicting argument showed its predominant face when the Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbaev, stuck to his principles in his response to the idea of a Eurasian Union.
He was willing to embark on a substantial integration process. However, he wanted it to be limited mainly to economic matters and require only minimal concessions on sovereignty, and to be co-determined on equal terms by Kazakhstan.
It should protect Kazakhstan from China’s economic prowess, without bringing the country’s business under Russian sway.
He believes Putin’s promise of equality among all parties is already being violated.
Putin single-handedly presented the Eurasian Union.
Moscow’s insistence on hosting the seat of the Eurasian Commission, instead of having it in Astana, has been interpreted as another sign of Russia’s lack of willingness to commit to equal partnership.

Brief History
Upon independence in 1991, the five states of post-Soviet Central Asia were confronted with the entire battery of institution-building tasks, normally associated with post-colonial environments.
In addition to being new and institutionally weak, the Central Asian states were relatively small and were surrounded by Eurasia’s most powerful countries.
Central Asian governments have responded to this environment by seeking to strengthen their sovereignty through balancing the interests of external powers. At the same time, these governments have worked to safeguard stability, by controlling the pace of internal political change.
Diverging domestic political and economic realities have strongly affected the choices rulers have made for their countries’ external relations. The contrasting evolutions of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the region’s two most important states, are particularly noteworthy in this context.

Competition / Border Disputes
In early 2000, Uzbekistan's border guards were discovered undertaking a unilateral demarcation of the border with Kazakhstan.
A joint Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan commission was established and they held an emergency meeting, concluding its first round of talks on 17 February 2000. This commission then conducted a further series of discussions.
President Asimov issued a statement that Uzbekistan had no territorial claims on any neighboring states, in an effort to reassure the region.
On 16 November 2001, it appeared that the ongoing border disputes were close to resolution when Karimov and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed an agreement settling 96 percent of their borders, but although hailed as a breakthrough, it did not resolve the thornier issues

Competition/ Resources
Cooperation has been hampered by the regional states’ perception of water resources as a zero-sum game, in which ones gain is achieved at the expense of another’s loss.
This dynamic in turn, is determined by three major factors, namely:

1) the political context ( the recent independence of the five central Asian republics and their weak leaderships at the government level):
2) the social context (increasing population growth and tensions between different ethnic groups; and
3) the economic context ( political economy directed towards self-sufficiency and tensions between the agricultural and energy sectors within the region).

States have therefore tended to securitize water-related issues, thus elevating them to the status of national security concerns. Securitization of water resource management increases the prospects for conflict and, as a consequence, diminishes the likelihood of regional cooperation.
At different times Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have been viewed as competing for regional influence in Central Asia. Outline trends since 2006 that have improved the relations of these two countries. To what degree do these countries balance each other and Russian influence across wider Central Asia?
Competition / Russian Influence
The policies of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have diverged primarily in the nature of the strategic partnerships the two countries have built.
Uzbekistan has pursued more antagonistic and exclusive relations:
When the country leaned toward the West, Uzbek relations with Russia soured and rhetoric against Russian ambitions grew fairly loud. Conversely, Uzbekistan leaned increasingly on Russia as relations with the United States worsened and anti-American diatribes from Tashkent grew louder.
Kazakhstan has pursued a different policy, seeking inclusive and compatible relationships with the three great powers of most consequence in the region. Kazakhstan has built ties with the United States in tandem with, rather than at the expense of, ties with Russia.
Russian Influence
For most of the 1990s, no power had the capacity or desire to play a dominant role in Central Asian politics.
Russia’s influence gradually waned, despite President Vladimir Putin’s renewed efforts to assert a role for Moscow, as the primary arbiter of regional affairs.
Therefore Russian and Chinese interlocutors sought to employ the “Shanghai mechanism” together, originally conceived in 1995 to resolve border conflicts between the Soviet successor states and China. They did this in order to establish a Central Asia collective security framework, in 2001.
Though the regional states joined the revamped Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Central Asian nations were reluctant to be subsumed by the organization.
The failure of the United States to sustain engagement with the region, has however, led Moscow and Beijing to redevelop the SCO and use it as a vehicle for minimizing Western interests in the region.
Uzbekistan held very little engagement in SCO whereas Kazakhstan was a predominant figure.
Positive steps forward
From 2006, Economic growth has reduced frustration and apprehension among the ethnic Russian minority and weakened the increasingly marginalized political opposition.
Prosperity has blunted the appeal of radical Islamism; however Kazakhstan has clearly not faced this threat to the same extent that Uzbekistan has.
In the realm of politics, Kazakhstan has held several competitive elections, though the executive remains dominant over the electoral process and with that, the electoral process has improved over the past several elections.
Kazakhstan’s economic development and internal stability, second to none in the region, have allowed Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, to make a claim for regional leadership in the past several years.
Uzbek president Islam Karimov even reported awe in visiting the new Kazakh capital of Astana in 2006, illustrating the dramatic reversal in fortunes of these two countries.

Once competitors, now friends?
There is no doubt that Karimov and Nazarbaev have long been viewed as competitors for a leadership role in Central Asia.
The relations between the two countries were marred by deadly shootings along disputed border segments and the closure of the Kazakh Cultural Center in Tashkent in 2008

A strategic partnership agreement was met and signed in June 2013 in Tashkent during the official visit of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The document sets out the basic principles and priorities of bilateral cooperation in political, trade, economic, transport and communication, cultural, humanitarian, military, technical, ecological and other spheres.
Agreed position on the development of an equitable water use system in Central Asia
Solution of all problems in the hydro-energy sphere, including the construction of new hydro power facilities over trans-border rivers.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have been competing for regional influence for many years.

This has been shown through water and border disputes, as well as the divergent strategic partnerships between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, in regard to Russia and the United States.

For most of the 1990's, no power had the capacity or desire to play a dominant role in central Asian politics, except for Russia and China.

This has lead to the SCO being used as a vehicle for minimizing previous western influences in the region.

Although the level of bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is a serious challenge, there has been substantial progress since 2006.

Economic growth
Introduction of competitive elections
Strategic partnership agreement
Lifting the level of bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to a strategic partnership format will be a serious challenge and a great opportunity for both countries.

Now going back to my thesis where i stated that they were doomed to fluctuate within a triangle of competition, strategic partnership and eternal friendship

It is evident that:

National interests defined on the basis of absolute sovereignty, as has been the case so far, will revive competition for leadership in Central Asia.
National interests originating in the long-term vision of advantages of coordinated policy, especially in the sphere of security, will stipulate a strategic partnership perspective.
National interests defined on the basis of recognition of common values and identity will reclaim the Eternal Friendship Treaty as the main driver of relations.
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