Central Asia: On the verge of tension
Baktybek Saipbayev for Caliber.Az
INTERVIEWS 04 July 2022 - 11:19
Caliber.Az presents an interview with Baktybek Saipbayev, a Kyrgyz political scientist, public figure, and historian.
- How would you assess the foreign policy of Kyrgyzstan with the neighbors of the Central Asia region?
- Unfortunately, Kyrgyzstan does not have a clear foreign policy toward its regional neighbors. The reaction of the authorities to some situations or incidents on the border is purely spontaneous, and this is an indicator of the lack of a meaningful, long-term geostrategic policy in Kyrgyzstan. And such an approach is observed with respect to the closest countries of the region, as well as Russia and China.
- What is the situation now on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border, where military incidents often occur?
- Incidents on the border are provoked by Tajikistan. The last time a planned action also began on the Tajik side - the authorities brought in heavy equipment and troops there. This has nothing to do with the Tajiks' dislike of the Kyrgyz, but rather with the very unstable political situation inside the country. The Americans very much want to create a "Great Tajikistan", counting on the fact that about 5-6 million former Soviet Tajiks will unite with 20 million Afghan Tajiks. And it will be in opposition to Russia, Afghanistan, and China. They have such an idea to then unite with Muslim Brotherhood and save Uighurs in China.
Russia is strongly concerned about this factor and even offered to mediate on border demarcation, raising all the old maps, on which Kyrgyzstan has an advantage over Tajikistan. But this proposal did not find support in Kyrgyzstan, most likely because of the fact that there is sustained drug trafficking across the border through Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and the south of Kyrgyzstan, then partially through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and on to Russia and from there to Europe. That is, this drug trade has long existed, and Americans, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Russians are involved in it. No one wants to lose this drug traffic, because this is their daily crust, their real income. Therefore, neither Kyrgyzstan nor Tajikistan want to create a commission that would permanently settle on the border and deal with demarcation. Everyone is happy with international drug trafficking if we call it like it is.
Therefore, Russia has stated that it will control the situation in Tajikistan because there is a danger that the Afghan Tajiks will unite with the former Soviets. Now Türkiye promises to help Kyrgyzstan - it will supply Bairaktars.
- But what is the bone of contention between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz?
- The Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have had a tense relationship over the Komprovatskoye reservoir, which previously belonged to Kyrgyzstan, then it was temporarily transferred to Uzbekistan, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tashkent has never returned control of the reservoir to Kyrgyzstan. This is essentially what started the feud. At the moment the situation with the Uzbeks has relatively normalized. The most recent incident occurred when a Kyrgyz family tried to smuggle contraband across the border into Uzbekistan. After warning shots were fired, but they did not stop and shots were fired to kill, the family was destroyed by Uzbek border guards. After this incident, there was a command to Uzbek and Kyrgyz border guards not to shoot to kill. So again this incident was related to the fact of smuggling. Although, of course, it is not known what exactly these people were trying to smuggle across the border. By the way, not long ago at the same border, a well-equipped underground tunnel was found at the depth of 3-4 meters. Approximately the same underground tunnels were built by Palestine to Israel in order to smuggle contraband.
As for the current Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations, in general, the situation has almost defused. The demarcation of the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border has almost been completed, which has significantly reduced the degree of tension between the two countries.
- What are the potential risks the Central Asian countries may face in the foreseeable future?
- It appears that the region could have a major explosion since there are fighters from the Islamic State in Tajikistan who are waiting for a command - apparently from London or Washington - to destabilize the situation in Central Asia. In particular, to reach Fergana, which is considered the central nerve center of the region. The borders of three countries - Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan - meet in Fergana Valley and have a very dense population of about 7 million people. All people living there are highly Islamized and radicalized. And radicalized Uzbeks want to create a "Fargana Caliphate," which is also a very realistic scenario. Most likely, the think tanks are in England, and America financially supports them.
That is, the situation in the region is quite ambiguous, and in many respects, it can be aggravated by NATO's decision at the Madrid summit on Ukraine to continue military action. Till the very end. At the same time, the West wants to activate the factor of Taiwan in order to affect the interests of China, ignite the hotbed of instability in Central Asia in the Fergana Valley, and provoke a military clash between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. So there is a high probability that several hotbeds of tension in the Central Asian region will arise at once. I would add one more significant fact: Russia, Turkmenistan, and China are planning to build a gas pipeline through Afghanistan toward China. Russia is trying together with China to take some countermeasures, and Turkmenistan benefits from this, because the more pipelines will be towards Central Asia, the more the country will earn from this. There is even information that Russia wants to ensure the military-political aspect of this project, and China is ready to sponsor it. This became known after a Taliban delegation visited the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, where this issue was discussed. "Taliban is interested in running gas and oil pipelines through Afghan territory, and in the future, if now the pipeline will be laid in northern Afghanistan towards China, they are discussing laying a pipeline to the south, so that the pipe will reach the Indian Ocean through Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is, this is a geostrategic plan of Russia with China and Turkmenistan, which, of course, runs counter to the policy of the West, especially the United States and Britain, so they will try to oppose this in every possible way. China has a desire to run pipelines through Afghanistan, as it is beneficial to all parties. India and Pakistan are also interested in this. So there is a confrontation between the land and sea countries with different geopolitical interests.
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