Political Developments - March 2018

Uzbekistan organised a Conference on 26-27 March on Afghanistan titled "Peace Process, Security Cooperation and Regional Connectivity" with participation of delegations from 21 countries and representatives from United Nations and European Union (EU) for finding ways to bring Afghan government, Taliban and others into direct peace talks. Uzbek and Afghan Presidents inaugurated the Conference. Tashkent Declaration adopted at end of Conference voiced its "strong backing for the National Unity Government’s offer to launch direct talks with the Taliban, without any preconditions, with the ultimate goal of reaching the comprehensive peace agreement with the Taliban that is backed by the international community; and call upon the Taliban to accept this offer for a peace process that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations." Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev offered to host peace negotiations between Afghan government and Taliban. Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar represented India at this Conference.

President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid a historic visit to Tajikistan on 9-10 March. Last visit by an Uzbek President to Dushanbe was in 2000. Since taking power in December 2016, Mirziyoyev has positioned himself as a reformer — including improving Uzbekistan's frosty relations with its neighbours. The two countries opened 10 border crossings on March 1. While in Dushanbe, Mirziyoyev held talks with Tajik President, PM, and Speaker of Parliament. Uzbek and Tajik Presidents discussed development of bilateral political, trade-economic, investment, financial, transport-communication, tourist, cultural, humanitarian and interregional cooperation. They spoke about simplification of visits of their citizens, and regional and international problems of mutual interest. In the boldest signal of bilateral collaboration to date, Uzbek president announced that he supported the major hydropower project that has been a source of tension between the two nations. Another major development with broad implications was signing of a deal to waive visa requirements for one another’s citizens for stays of up to one month. More than 25 Agreements were signed.

Washington-based think tank, Center for Global Development has found that of the 68 countries hosting OBOR-funded projects, 23 are currently at risk of debt distress, and in eight, future OBOR-related financing will “significantly add to the risk of debt distress”. The eight countries most at risk include Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Tajikistan in Central Asia, as well as Montenegro, Djibouti, Laos PDR, Maldives and Pakistan. All these countries have been recipients of large funding for infrastructure projects. As a result, proportion of external debt that is owed to China and its banks will rise, sometimes dramatically. 

Kazakhstan has approved an agreement allowing the United States to use two of its Caspian Sea ports as transit points for shipping non-military material to Afghanistan. By gaining access to these ports, the United States will gain an additional option for transporting NATO supplies to Afghanistan. Route will run from Azerbaijan, across Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, then Uzbekistan before reaching Afghanistan.

Participants of an International Conference to mark 25 years of diplomatic ties between EU and Central Asia said that fighting terrorism and extremism, including radicalisation, tackling drug and arms trafficking as well as environment and water management issues are among key security challenges faced by them.

Kazakhstan’s parliament introduced new legislation pertaining to National Security Council (KNSC) to strengthen national security and domestic stability. KNSC has been transformed from an advisory to a constitutional body and will coordinate implementation of policy that ensures national security and defense capabilities, preserves political stability, and protects constitutional order.

Colleagues of a Kyrgyz lawmaker detained in Kazakhstan on suspicion of smuggling contend that he is innocent. Kazakhstan said that 29 people, including citizens of Kyrgyzstan, were arrested in a massive anti-smuggling operation near their common border. Kazakhstan has accused Kyrgyzstan of smuggling following a spat linked to Kyrgyzstan’s tense presidential election last October.

A dance teacher at a choreography school in Dushanbe was fired for not listening to President Emomali Rahmon's annual address to the nation on television. She said that she left the auditorium because there were no available seats anymore.

Softening the tone of an earlier statement by President Nursultan Nazarbayev who had ordered a switch to Kazakh language, Kazakh government stated that it will allow cabinet and parliament members to speak Russian. Nazarbayev’s daughter who is a senior parliamentarian herself said that nobody has abolished Russian. 


March 30, 2018

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About the Author

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar

Former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia; President, Institute of Global Studies and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar belongs to the Indian Foreign Service and has acquitted his responsibilities in the diplomatic service for 34 years. He was Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia and has worked in senior diplomatic positions in Indian Embassies/Missions in Washington DC, Brussels, Moscow, Geneva, Tehran, Dhaka and Bangkok and also at Headquarters in India. He negotiated for India in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and in negotiations for India-EU, India-ASEAN and India-Thailand Free Trade Agreements.

He contributed significantly to strengthening strategic ties and promoting cultural cooperation between India and USA, EU, Russia and other countries.Ambassador Sajjanhar worked as head of National Foundation for Communal Harmony to promote amity and understanding between different religions, faiths and beliefs. Ambassador Sajjanhar has been decorated by Governments of Kazakhstan and Latvia with their National Awards and by Universal Peace Federation with Title of ''Ambassador of Peace.'' Currently Ambassador Sajjanhar is President of Institute of Global Studies, New Delhi. He writes, travels and speaks extensively on issues relating to international relations, foreign policy and themes of contemporary relevance and significance. He appears widely on TV panel discussions. Ambassador Sajjanhar is interested in reading, music and travelling. His wife Madhu is an economist and an educationist. They have a son and a daughter both of who are accomplished singers. Their son passed out of Yale University and their daughter is pursuing her PhD at University of Minnesota.