The Central Asian countries are stepping up efforts towards the formation of common tracks for integration development, the development of effective mechanisms for cooperation in various formats, which will allow, on the one hand, to act preventively in order to minimize the negative impact of ongoing world of processes, and on the other hand, to form tracks for joint prosperity, development with a view to growth. The Issyk-Kul Summit and the Kyrgyz spirit helped the whole region in this ….writes Professor Kishan Devani BEM, FRSA
Kyrgyzstan recently hosted the leaders of all Central Asian countries for the 4th Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of the region. Interest to this summit was extremely high. The last two years have not been easy. The pandemic, economic difficulties, social problems, geopolitical risks – this is an incomplete list of problems that the whole world and Central Asia are facing as well.
It is worth noting that the three previous meetings did not have a concrete result, being limited to general statements. But the current situation requires the countries of the region to intensify work on creating effective integration formats that will allow diversifying the formats of work in favour of multilateral and multi-format mechanisms that provide a wide range of opportunities against the backdrop of growing external pressure.
At previous summits, only general agreements on cooperation were reached.
In Central Asia, however, as in the world as a whole, the cost of living is growing, the economies are feeling the negative impact of the pandemic, the situation is aggravated by natural disasters, disruption of supply chains, and due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, it strengthens the peripheral position of the republics. That is why the consultative meeting has become one of the key political events in the region and, one might say, on the global international arena.
The agenda of the forum reflects the hierarchy of problems significant for the region: security and stability, improvement of the situation in the economy and hydro resources. It is worth noting the special role of the host of the summit – the Kyrgyz Republic and its leader Sadyr Zhaparov, who managed to conduct excellent preparations and create a truly benevolent and constructive atmosphere for discussing all these issues.
In terms of security, the participants of the meeting drew attention to the fact that the situation in Afghanistan is of critical importance for Central Asia. The position of Turkmenistan, voiced at the meeting, consisted of a proposal to actively work towards stabilizing the situation.
The Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov noted the unpredictability of the processes in the Afghan direction, noting that the Taliban is a harsh reality, and it is important to create prerequisites for stabilizing the situation and jointly and co-ordinately work together in the Afghan direction. Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev was in solidarity with his colleague.
Pessimism about the situation in Afghanistan was expressed by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who pointed to a likely deterioration due to the Taliban’s unwillingness to somehow establish relations with other forces, both in Afghanistan itself and with its neighbours. The President of Kazakhstan, Kasymzhoomart Tokayev, stressed that it is more important than ever during the crisis to demonstrate examples of responsible overcoming of contradictions.
Rising food prices and problems with supply chains have actualized the problem of intensifying cooperation between the countries of Central Asia. As the Uzbek president noted, only 5-10% of the total trade turnover falls on intra-regional trade. Accordingly, it is more important than ever to stimulate the mechanisms of mutual trade. It was proposed to develop projects for the creation of border trade zones, where unified, simplified rules for deliveries will operate.
Food security has also become a topic of high-level discussions on the sidelines of the summit in Cholpon-Ata. Sadyr Zhaparov called on the countries of the region to expand cooperation in all areas that will increase food security and agricultural development in the region. He noted that the countries of Central Asia are quite capable of providing themselves with food, given the capacities and reserves of the agricultural and food processing industries.
The appeal of the Kyrgyz President was fully supported by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, adding that the countries of the region can provide their countries with those products that the Central Asian republics produce independently in the proper volume, these are oilseeds, grains, fodder crops, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products.
The leaders did not bypass the discussion of environmental and water issues, which are interconnected with the trend of climate change. Therefore, Sadyr Zhaparov drew attention to the importance of improving the existing mechanisms for managing water resources, which no longer meet the realities of the present, do not meet the needs of the Central Asian countries. He called on the countries of the region to jointly develop mutually beneficial mechanisms for water use. For the sake of the prosperity of the countries of the region, Kyrgyzstan, rich in hydro resources, advocated expanded cooperation in the hydropower sector in order to increase the energy self-sufficiency and security of the countries of Central Asia and strengthen the security of the Unified Energy System of Central Asia. This call was heard and supported by all participants.
It should be noted once again that the current world processes testify to what the host of the summit, Sadyr Japarov, said: “the world economic “center of gravity” is gradually shifting towards Asia, in connection with which new opportunities are opening up for our region, including for the development of a “green”, digital and creative sectors of the economy”. The Kyrgyz leader himself, who is actively promoting information technology and e-government in his country, knows what he is talking about. After all, he was the first in the world to issue the “Decree on the Park of Creative Technologies” and realized the prospects of a green economy for the prosperity of his country. He called the development of transport and transit infrastructure, digitalization, free trade and investment as the driver of growth in Central Asia. On this path, he called for the complete removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers that hinder free trade, efforts to improve the transport, transit and logistics infrastructure of the countries of Central Asia and connections to global transport hubs and corridors.
It is important to note that the results of the Summit in the cozy Kyrgyz resort town of Cholpon-Ata, on the shores of the beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake, exceeded all expectations. The signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborliness and Cooperation for the Development of Central Asia in the 21st century has become a truly breakthrough historical document demonstrating the understanding by the leaders of the countries of the region of the strategic importance of integration.
The “Roadmap for the Development of Regional Cooperation for 2022–2024” signed in this context is extremely important. Another important agreement signed within the framework of the 4th Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia is the Central Asian Regional Program “Green Agenda”. The countries also agreed to act together and coordinate their positions at multilateral platforms and signed the Concept of Interaction between the States of Central Asia within the framework of multilateral formats.
Summing up, it can be stated that the countries of the region have approached an important stage in their further joint development, they have realized the importance of stepping up efforts towards the formation of common tracks for integration development, the development of effective mechanisms for cooperation in various formats, which will allow, on the one hand, to act preventively in order to minimize the negative impact of ongoing world of processes, and on the other hand, to form tracks for joint prosperity, development with a view to growth. The Issyk-Kul Summit and the Kyrgyz spirit helped the whole region in this.