Central Asia: crisis conditions in three states

Central Asia: crisis conditions in three states

How can crisis be avoided in Central Asia?

This article addresses the possibility that there will be civil unrest and large-scale violence in three Central Asian states: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The article points to several contemporary factors which indicate that this is a possibility. These states are to a lesser or greater extent suffering from a continuing economic crisis. Especially in densely populated regions such as the Ferghana valley, where large Uzbek populations live either in Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan, there is a possibility that economic dissatisfaction will be expressed through the vehicle of ethnonationalistic violence.

Other factors which may encourage conflict are:

  • the proximity of these states to the highly-militarised areas of Northern Afghanistan
  • the distinct military inequalities between on the one hand Uzbekistan and on the other the smaller nations of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
  • regional insecurity caused to some extent by the chauvinism of Uzbekistan vis-a-vis its role as regional political dominator

The article makes the following recommendations:

  • major powers and international agencies should stop treating policies toward Central Asian states as a sub-set of policy toward Russia since other major powers (especially China and Japan), and the IMF and World Bank, are now potentially greater determiners of regional order
  • a more helpful perspective from which to view the Central Asian states may be as part of a larger ‘Inner Asia’ region, linking them with Mongolia and Afghanistan
  • there is an urgent need for commitment of resources by external powers and international organisations to allow a more comprehensive and sustained policy analysis effort on developments at the local level within Central Asian states
  • international assistance to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan must take more account of the risk of crisis inherent in the region’s serious poverty and in its localised manifestations. Efforts should concentrate on direct humanitarian support to those in extreme poverty, stabilising education and employment creation
  • as a matter of priority, donors and international agencies should extend support for a regional system of education and research at a number of levels (university, technical schools, and civil service development schools)
  • national and local governments in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan must work more vigorously to restore or newly develop commercial, technical and social links across their borders

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