M. Asif Noor
In line with efforts of good neighbourliness, leaders of Central Asia have agreed to extend humanitarian aid to Afghanistan
Kyrgyzstan hosted the fourth Consultative Meeting of Head of States from Central Asia in the resort town of Cholpon Aata, Issyk-Kul. All heads of state from the Central Asian region were present for this meeting to explore the prospects of cooperation among the Central Asian Republics. The meeting was an important step towards building peace and cooperation in the region mired with conflicts and varying degrees of geopolitical and economic risks. This get-together reflects a potential to open new opportunities for Central Asia, especially with a region housing nearly 80 million people, with a potential yet to be explored.
The core purpose of this meeting was to strengthen peace and security in the region through indigenous models and mechanisms without any foreign power’s interference. The aim was to enable socio-economic growth and trade. The people of Central Asia are desirous to make independent foreign policy and sovereign governance choices.
The idea and proposal to hold such a consultative meeting was made by the President of Uzbekistan. The meeting was organized in an environment where no strings are attached, hence a chance for regional discussion on regional problems with regional perspectives. The main idea of such a forum is to have a mechanism and a channel that may help remove the influence of all kinds of external powers.
Initially, the Forum was evolving, but with three rounds since March 2018, it has become further matured and is increasingly effective. A lot has changed since the first meeting, especially with the Russia-Ukraine war, growing global health challenges, chaos in neighbouring Afghanistan and many other combined threats and opportunities that are emerging. Kazakhstan survived political unrest in January 2022, and Turkmenistan has general. Global energy prices have been rising whereby global economic growth has been slowed due to Covid-19. Under these circumstances, this consultative meeting reflects the commitment of the leadership in Central Asia toward mutual challenges.
The series of Consultative Meetings began in 2019 and leaders of Central Asia continued unceasing consultations in the subsequent years. This approach appears to be a prospective formula effective in all previous efforts of integration, cooperation, and connectivity. There had been multiple factors in play which hampered multilateral and multilayer cooperation in Central Asia such as boundary settlement, ethnic strife, and sectarian division since Soviet Disintegration. Over time, the leadership in Central Asia has realized the importance of inclusive efforts and streamlined Consultative Meetings in 2019
The hosting of the 4th Consultative Meeting by Kyrgyzstan reflects the country’s persistence and commitment to the collective endurance of CARs in the face of looming challenges. The primary uniqueness of these meetings is that they are informal and non-binding character, but it proposes useful recommendations. This arrangement is better than formal regional frameworks such as the SCO, CSTO, and CIS on multiple accounts but one remains atop. This consultation framework is free from the influence of any major power and independent of every external political actor giving it more legitimacy due to its inclusiveness.
The region has no shortage of forums where the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Collective Security Treaty Organization, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and Eurasian Economic Union have been made, but this informal-formal way of meeting is beyond the regular meetings; leaders increase their consultation and make collective regional approaches and multilateral cooperation.
The parties agreed to create mutual Border Trade Zones having unified rules and simple procedures to develop local industry and import substitution. There is a huge urge to explore the possibilities of joint trade and economic development with CARs having strong potential with nearly 80 million population offering a huge market. All parties further agreed to initiate a Forum of the Regions and Concrete Action Plan for green development. This is an important initiative as the climate change risk is increasing with each passing. All sides also agreed to promote tourism, culture, cooperation in science and technology, and youth exchange. In line with efforts of good neighbourliness, leaders of Central Asia have agreed to extend humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
With the looks of consultations and commitment of Central Asian Republics, Consultation Meetings have been successful at the local level to achieve sovereign regionalism with no influence of external powers.