Central Asia gets new image in Tashkent, Astana

Greater stability of the vast region comprising Central Asia and the neighbouring territories is a direct result of the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that has ended in Tashkent. It is thanks to the efforts of the SCO that comprises Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan that the region is becoming more predictable and is acquiring its structure, which is a rather difficult process though. The organisation can be compared to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) that embraces all the 10 regional countries. ASEAN united the region that consists of 10 very different countries, turning it into a major world pole with common economic and political goals. The region, however, lacks a capital city as ASEAN summits are held in different cities on the rotation basis.

This was also the case with the SCO. The member countries' capitals also host SCO summits on the rotation principle. The next SCO summit, for example, will take place in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The SCO members say they have a common action plan in the economic area, as they are considering creating a single economic space, and in the security sphere. The recent summit in Tashkent, for example, signed a declaration and an agreement on cooperation against trafficking in drugs and psychotropic substances. Besides, the Tashkent summit announced the opening of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Centre that has been working for several months now. The agreement and a series of other documents are a result of long and well co-ordinated efforts to protect the region from terrorism and drug trafficking that accompanies terror, as well as other threats to stability and development. These moves were necessary to give the go-ahead to the organisation's economic activities, the results of which will be reported in autumn when the SCO prime ministers will gather for a regular meeting.

However, the Tashkent summit was not an isolated event. The region is playing host to a series of summits and other high-level meetings of the organisations with almost identical goals and more or less the same members. The Russian president and some of other Tashkent summit participants are moving further on to Astana for a summit meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC). China and Uzbekistan, SCO countries, are not members of that economic organisation. However, EurAsEc comprises Belarus.

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) that comprises some of the said organisations' member-countries will also hold a meeting soon. The CSTO focuses on security issues, which is evident from its name.

The abundance of organisations with interrelated goals and tasks is due to the fact that while addressing economic and political problems in the post-Soviet period the regional countries agreed that what they needed was integration and cooperation according to new principles, i.e. they had to set up an organisation. The first regional organisations emerged within the boundaries of the former Soviet Union. However, the countries soon came to understand that their military or economic interests went beyond those boundaries. Russia and China, a major Asian power, are crucial for decision-making in the region, the idea that gave birth to the SCO. Even that organisation's make-up is now unsatisfactory, which is evidenced from the fact that Afghan President Khamid Karzai and Mongolian Foreign Minister Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun took part in the Tashkent summit. Indeed, Afghanistan and Mongolia border on the Central Asian region. Both countries will play prominent roles in future transport, energy and other regional projects. Besides, a drug and other security threats are still emanating from Afghanistan.

Mongolia was the first country to receive an observer status at the SCO. A relevant decision was adopted at the Tashkent summit. Asto Afghanistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin motioned that the SCO foreign ministries should look into the possibility of establishing a SCO-Afghanistan liaison group.

These are the SCO's future projects, whereas the Tashkent summit allows to give an overview of the region's past. In the early 1990s, Central Asia was torn by civil conflicts, while living standards declined dramatically and the regional countries' future was rather bleak, although many of them possessed immense natural resources and economic potentials. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Central Asian countries had to address threats emanating from the Taliban-governed Afghanistan, issues of partnership relations, foreign influence and, which is more important, investment climate. The situation has, undoubtedly, improved but was far from normal.

The situation will come to normal when regional countries have a final say in their destiny, while their friendly and respectful neighbours are helpful when their interests meet. The project named Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is designed to ensure movement in this direction.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team