Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
President Mirziyoyev 6 March signed decree abolishing state quota system for cotton production, long linked to labour abuses; Mirziyoyev also signed decrees loosening Soviet-era restrictions on internal migration and purchasing property in capital. Govt 9 March registered Uzbek NGO advocating for rights of prison inmates and U.S. humanitarian NGO Mercy Corps. Govt 7 March said it would take up observer role in Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union prior to deciding on possible membership. Supreme Court 18 March sentenced Gulnara Karimova, jailed daughter of former President Karimov, to additional thirteen years in prison for corruption and financial crimes. To limit spread of COVID-19, govt 23 March closed borders, and next day locked down capital Tashkent.
Uzbekistan’s first new president in more than a quarter century has taken some positive steps in the early days of his administration. In order to encourage more sustained progress, western partners and regional powers will need to balance conditional support with tactical pressure.
After 25 years of authoritarian rule, Uzbekistan faces unpredictable neighbours, a jihadi threat and deep socio-economic challenges. New President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has taken small steps toward vital domestic and foreign policy reform, and outside partners should push him to do more to avert real dangers ahead.
Domestic repression and self-imposed isolation has characterised Uzbekistan for much of the time since its independence in 1991. Following the death of Islam Karimov, the country’s long-time and only post-Soviet president, the outside world must seize a rare opportunity to re-engage with this critical Central Asian country.
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan.
There are strong indications that Uzbek security forces murdered one of Kyrgyzstan’s most prominent journalists, Alisher Saipov, in October 2007 during the build-up to Uzbekistan’s end of year presidential elections, most likely because of his involvement in Erk (Freedom), a leading exile opposition party.
If the succession process [in Uzbekistan] is less than smooth, there is potential for this to create regional instability, particularly if we look to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
If the transition [in Uzbekistan] turns to political chaos, the risk of violent conflict is high; and in a region as fragile as Central Asia, the risk of that spreading is also high.
Originally published in The Interpreter
El derrame cerebral sufrido por el histórico líder autoritario de Uzbekistán (y los rumores sin confirmar de un posible fallecimiento) ha empujado al país hacia lo desconocido, pero los más íntimos del presidente van a tratar de conservar el poder y lograr que haya los mínimos trastornos durante la transición.
Originally published in Esglobal