Development Strategy Center
Development Strategy Center
Head of Department
Consistent reforms, openness, transparency, renewal, and changes observed in the domestic policy of Uzbekistan in recent years, are also evident in the country's foreign policy.
Uzbekistan, as an equal actor of international relations, pursues an active foreign policy at the regional and global levels by developing mutually beneficial relations with foreign partners. This consistent and constructive foreign policy is also recognized by international experts and observers.
Even in times of global coronavirus infection, Uzbekistan has paid special attention to ensuring socio-economic stability and maintaining cooperation with the countries of the region and the world community.
One of the main foreign policy objectives of Uzbekistan is creating an atmosphere of peace, stability, and security around its territory. [i] In this regard, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has identified the development and strengthening of friendly, good-neighborly, and mutually beneficial relations with Central Asian states as a key foreign policy priority.[ii]
Within the framework of the 2020 State Program, Uzbekistan continued its consistent, open, and pragmatic foreign policy activities, including in the direction of Central Asia.
In particular, to bring relations of Uzbekistan with the countries of the Central Asian region to a qualitatively new level, throughout 2020 state bodies for foreign policy and economic activities carried out 35 high-level visits and held various events in different directions. Moreover, public diplomacy was effectively implemented in practice. Particularly, more than 90 different meetings, video conferences, roundtables, and other events were held with the participation of scientists and artists, cultural and religious figures, businessmen and youth, tourism and sports organizations, public associations, and NGOs. [iii]
It should be noted that in recent years, as a result of the initiatives of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev which were actively supported by the leaders of neighboring countries, political dialogue and personal trust between the Presidents have been strengthened. Consultative meetings of Central Asian leaders have been set up.[iv]
As a result, the level of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the region has reached a new level. In particular, in 2017-2019, trade turnover with Central Asian countries increased by an average of more than 50% annually and amounted to 5.2 billion dollars. According to the results of 2020, despite the global pandemic, the total trade turnover of Uzbekistan with Central Asian states made 5 billion dollars.[v] Especially, the share of Central Asian states in the total foreign trade turnover of Uzbekistan increased from 12.4% in 2019 to 13.6% in 2020, in which the share of Kazakhstan accounts for 61%, Kyrgyzstan - 18.2%, Turkmenistan - 10.6%, and Tajikistan - 10.2%.[vi]
Such improvement in trade and economic relations between Central Asia states, in general, has helped to increase the investment attractiveness of the region. In particular, during 2017 and 2020, more than 300 agreements, and also about $ 75 billion worth of contracts were signed between Uzbekistan and the countries of the region.[vii]
Also, as a result of Uzbekistan's open, constructive, and pragmatic policy towards Central Asia the complex and confusing problems such as water use, delimitation, and demarcation of state borders between Uzbekistan and neighboring countries, use of transport communications, crossing state borders have been addressed and resolved throughout 2017-2020. If five years ago, the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border was crossed by 200-300 people a day, on the eve of the global pandemic this figure reached 30 thousand a day, and the Uzbek-Tajik border was crossed by 20 thousand citizens a day.[viii]
The openness and constructive policy of Uzbekistan towards the Central Asian states is proved by the joint measures taken by the leaders of the region during the global pandemic to help each other and mitigate the impact of the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite the global pandemic, today there is an active partnership between the Central Asian states and a constant dialogue between the heads of state. Countries in the region have been providing humanitarian assistance to each other since the early days of the spread of coronavirus infection. Uzbekistan has repeatedly sent humanitarian aid to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In response, our neighbors, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, have provided humanitarian assistance to restore the Sardoba Reservoir. In December 2020, with the support of Uzbekistan, an infectious diseases hospital with 200 beds and fully equipped with the necessary medical equipment and furniture was commissioned in Kyrgyzstan.[ix] Moreover, during the pandemic, the exchange of information and experience in the field of medicine to fight against coronavirus, uninterrupted movement of goods across state borders of the Central Asian states were maintained. This allowed the region to have a lower incidence of coronavirus infection and its resulting deaths than in other parts of the world.
In January 2021, the governments of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, together with the United States, launched the Central Asia Investment Partnership to attract at least $ 1 billion over five years to support projects that advance private-sector-led growth and increase economic connectivity within Central Asia and the broader region. Working through the C5+1 platform, the initiative will seek to take advantage of opportunities for increasing trade, development, and connectivity to make each country in Central Asia stronger and more prosperous.[x]
The growing importance and role of Central Asia in the world community can be seen in the organization of various formats of multilateral cooperation between the region and external actors.
Existing multilateral cooperation formats such as "Central Asia - United States", "Central Asia - European Union", "Central Asia - Republic of Korea", "Central Asia - Japan" enriched with the new ones such as "Central Asia - India", "Central Asia - China" and "Central Asia - Russia". This indicates, firstly, that the completely new environment created by the positive changes in the region has increased the attention of the world's leading countries to Central Asia, and secondly, that foreign countries are focusing on developing not only bilateral cooperation but also a single regional multilateral relationship.
This trend indicates positive changes in the region, which raises the attention of the world's leading powers that are interested in developing diversified relations with the countries of Central Asia as a single regional partner. At the same time, the formation of new formats between the region and other states increase the geopolitical and economic importance of Central Asia.
The role of Central Asian states as a single political and diplomatic entity, as well as mutual understanding and solidarity of the countries of the region, were also reflected in the Joint Statement of the Presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan to the protests and riots in Kyrgyzstan in October 2020. In the joint statement, the heads of the four Central Asian states expressed the hope that all political parties and public circles in Kyrgyzstan will make the necessary efforts to ensure peace and tranquility, and resolve the problems that have arisen, by the Constitution and national legislation.[xi]
It should be noted that the stability and solidarity of the Central Asian states, firstly, contributes to the well-being of the people, and secondly, increases the investment attractiveness of the region and creates opportunities for cooperation with foreign partners and investors. The new environment formed and further strengthened between Uzbekistan and the countries of the region will serve to achieve these goals and strengthen mutual political, trade, economic, cultural, and humanitarian cooperation.
The Address of President Sh. Mirziyoyev to the Parliament and the State Program for 2021 pay special attention to strengthening good neighborly relations with Central Asia countries.
Specifically, the State Program for 2021 – “The Year of Support for Youth and Public Health Promotion”[xii] includes an action plan for the consistent continuation of relations with Central Asian states:
Also, Uzbekistan will strengthen its relations with Central Asian states through multilateral cooperation mechanisms, including the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Turkic Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other structures by improving not only political and diplomatic relations but also economic, inter-parliamentary and public diplomacy.
Besides, taking into account the presidency of Uzbekistan in the SCO in 2021-2022, the development of priorities and key measures is also planned in the State Program for 2021.
Taking into account the fact that Uzbekistan is the only country in the region that borders all Central Asian states, any changes in the political, economic, and cultural spheres of the country directly affect other neighboring states. Uzbekistan's current foreign policy not only enhances its international prestige but also contributes to the sustainable and consistent development of Central Asia as a whole, turning the region into a space of cooperation with enormous opportunities.
[i] UzA. (2020, August 27). Zamonaviy dunyoda O’zbekiston tashqi siyosatining kun tartibi. (Uzbekistan's current foreign policy agenda). https://uza.uz/uz/posts/zamonaviy-dunyeda-zbekiston-tash-i-siyesatining-kun-tartibi-27-08-2020
[ii] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The foreign policy of the Republic of Uzbekistan. https://mfa.uz/en/pages/vneshnaya-politika
[iii] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan. (2020, January 9). Report on the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2020. https://mfa.uz/uz/press/news/2021/ozbekiston-respublikasi-tashqi-ishlar-vazirligining-2020-yildagi-faoliyati-haqida-hisobot---29088
[iv] Uzdaily. (2020, July 15). Central Asia - priority of foreign policy of Uzbekistan. https://www.uzdaily.uz/en/post/58469
[v] State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on statistics. (2020, January 22). Foreign trade turnover of the Republic of Uzbekistan. https://stat.uz/images/uploads/docs/tashqi_savdo_uz_22012021.pdf
[vi] Kutbitdinov, Yu. (2021, January 26). Central Asia is the priority of the foreign policy of Uzbekistan. Review.uz. https://review.uz/post/centralnaya-aziya-v-prioritete-vneshney-politiki-uzbekistana
[vii] Qodirov, A. (2020, July 29). Key foreign policy priorities of a renewed Uzbekistan. Institute of strategic and regional studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. http://www.isrs.uz/en/maqolalar/klucevye-prioritety-vnesnej-politiki-obnovlennogo-uzbekistana
[viii] Uzdaily. (2020, July 15). Central Asia - priority of foreign policy of Uzbekistan. https://www.uzdaily.uz/en/post/58469
[ix] Ministry of the health of the Republic of Uzbekistan. “With the support of Uzbekistan, a 200-bed infectious diseases hospital was built in Kyrgyzstan”, December 23, 2020, http://ssv.uz/uz/news/zbekistonning-kmagi-bilan-irizistonda-200-rinli-juumli-kasalliklar-shifohonasi-urib-bitkazildi
[x] Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan. (2021, January 7). Joint Statement of the United States of America, the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the Republic of Kazakhstan on the Announcement of the Central Asia Investment Partnership. https://mift.uz/en/news/joint-statement-of-the-united-states-of-america-the-republic-of-uzbekistan-and-the-republic-of-kazakhstan-on-the-announcement-of-the-central-asia-investment-partnership
[xi] Kun.uz. (2020, October 9). Leaders of four CA countries issue a joint statement on the situation in Kyrgyzstan. https://kun.uz/en/03652044
[xii] Development Strategy Center. 2021 – “The Year of Support for Youth and Public Health Promotion”. https://strategy.uz/index.php?static=programma