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Russian-Uzbek Relations Can Have Important Implications for Regional Development

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EIRNS—The visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Uzbekistan is the culmination of what seems to have been a years-long effort to create good working relations at all levels with this populous Muslim country. Putin’s bringing along the heads of many Russian regions, as well as other members of the government, is part of a policy of creating a Forum of the Regions, and of establishing personal and business contacts on a region-to-region basis between the two countries. Speaking to the delegations of both countries today, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev indicated that Uzbek regional leaders had spent last week visiting corresponding Russian regions. He also gave some figures that indicate the extent of the relationship.

Mirziyoyev said : “Since the beginning of this year our contacts have become especially active. Last week, the delegations of all regions of Uzbekistan visited partner regions in Russia. Earlier, in April, more than 2,000 delegates from 65 constituent entities of the Russian Federation participated in our traditional exhibit ‘Innoprom.Central Asia’ in Tashkent. At that exhibit, there were signed hundreds of new cooperation projects. Presently at the regional level, more than 200 joint projects are being implemented for $4 billion. In addition, the regions have prepared a new package of agreements worth $5 billion.”

He indicated that Uzbekistan would set up a permanent trade mission in Russia, and that Russia would set up a trading house in Tashkent. Extensive scientific cooperation has also been established with the Bauman Aviation Institute and other scientific and educational institutions in Russia. The two countries have also created an investment fund of $500 million for projects in Uzbekistan.

It should be noted, as Putin himself pointed out, that Uzbekistan is the most populous of the Central Asian countries, with 37 million people. Undoubtedly, the increased cooperation will also involve Uzbeks working in Russia, which could help alleviate some of the demographic problems faced by the Russian economy. And, as Putin noted, the powers of the West have been doing their best to convince the Central Asian countries to comply with their “sanctions regime,” arguments that don’t seem to have won much support, especially not in Uzbekistan.

The stabilizing effects of this relationship can be more far-reaching, however. Russia has definitively indicated that it accepts the Taliban as the legitimate government of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. There are also operations in the north of Afghanistan, according to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence chief Sergey Naryshkin, where the U.S. is again playing with its terrorist “assets” to destabilize Afghanistan and its neighboring countries. Uzbekistan, sharing a border with Afghanistan, can play an important role in dealing with this problem as well. [wcj]