PDA

View Full Version : Central Asia



troung
12 Sep 10,, 15:23
Regional Scenario: Central Asian ‘Muslim’ states fear Pakistan – by Shiraz Paracha


Central Asia’s richest and largest state Kazakhstan is following a strict visa policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan at the same time offering further relaxations in visa regulations to nationals from Western and several non-Western countries.

Pakistan has an image problem in the former Soviet republics. The current floods and the continuing violence has further exacerbated Pakistan’s image. To the people of Central Asia and other countries in the region Pakistan is a trouble spot.

It is an irony that the six “Muslim” Central Asian states prefer to keep a distance from Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistan played a crucial role in their independence.

Following the split of the Soviet Union, Pakistani military generals thought that they would control poor and backward Central Asia. The plan was to bring the six Central Asian states under the Pakistan’s sphere of influence. Time has proved how wrong the Pakistani generals were. In the early 1990s, Pakistan took Central Asia for granted. Islamabad looked down at Central Asian countries. Now it is the other way round. Many Central Asians pity Pakistan. Almost every day, they watch television and realize that Pakistan is home to millions of hungry, poor and helpless people. Central Asians fear that troubles from Pakistan can come into their societies.

Pakistan has cultural and historical links with Central Asia and friendly relations with China. Being a gateway to the Middle East, Africa and East Asia, Pakistan offers excellent economic and trade opportunities to members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Pakistan can be an effective on forums such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Central Asian Cooperation Organization (CACO).

However, despite its ideal geopolitical location and the huge trade and economic opportunities it can offer to Eurasian countries, Pakistan has failed to establish warm relations and build bridges of understanding with the CIS, particularly the six Central Asian sates.

Pakistan has missed several opportunities due to misadventures of the Pakistani generals. Pakistan does not have an effective and successful foreign policy because its military is obsessed with security and the military sets foreign policy priorities. Pakistan’s foreign policy is not formulated by professionals, visionary politicians or intellectuals.

Semiliterate generals and foreign office clerks, who are proficient in English language, control the country’s foreign policy.

It is unfortunate that instead of using innovative and creative ways to develop friendly relationship with the CIS countries, Pakistani missions in the region have been busy in India bashing. Pakistan embassies in the CIS organize Kashmir days and waste money on useless anti-India propaganda not realizing that India had been a Soviet ally and she still enjoys warmer relations with all the 12 CIS member-states, which were part of the Soviet Union.

Many CIS residents resent Pakistan’s role in the 1980s Afghan War against the former Soviet Union and its support for the Taliban regime. Pakistan is perceived as a hub of religious extremism. People in almost all of the former Soviet states lost loved ones during the Afghan War. The common perception is that Pakistan was instrumental in the US proxy war against the Soviet Union.

Later, Pakistan’s support for the Taliban regime created a fear that Pakistan was trying to spread the Taliban brand of Islam to secular societies of the ex-Soviet Union. Such fears led to a negative image of Pakistan among many in the CIS region. The public in countries such as Kazakhstan, Georgia, Ukraine and Russia would like to see their countries modern and secular. Some in the CIS countries may disagree with Western policies and Western values but most want to learn from the West in economic and social development sectors.

Violence and other forms of criminal activity, including drugs and human trafficking, are also associated with Pakistan. The country is seen as an unstable and dangerous place that is home to terrorism and extremism. Businesses and government circles in the CIS, especially Kazakhstan and Russia, the two most important countries in the region, have little understanding of Pakistan and its people.

Unfortunately, Pakistani missions in the region seem to have failed to do the necessary ‘image PR’. Staff of Pakistani diplomatic missions in the CIS region is usually lazy and unhappy. Many Pakistani diplomats prefer to work in Western countries. A posting in the CIS region amounts to a demotion.

Most Pakistani diplomats do not communicate in local languages and some do not respect native cultures. Some members of Pakistani diplomatic missions in the CIS region allegedly promote personal business interests. Some are involved in activities that are contrary to their work.

Last year, I attended a cultural event hosted by the Indian Embassy in Kazakhstan where the Indian Ambassador gave his speech in three languages—Kazak, Russian and English. He impressed his audience. Indian cultural centres are very active in building bridges with the CIS countries.

Turkey is the most active Muslim country in Central Asia. It has invested heavily in infrastructure development, especially in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Another focus of Turkish investment is education sector. Several Turkish universities have opened in the region, while hundreds of Turkish shops, cafes and businesses have been established in Central Asia following the split of the Soviet Union. Growing Turkish influence is vivid in several areas of Central Asian daily life.

Israeli companies are also very active in Central Asia and in other countries of the region. Soon I will write a separate article on Israeli interests in the CIS. Even Iran, too, has cultural centres in important countries of the CIS.

Military generals, policy-makers and some in the Pakistani media still believe that they defeated the Soviet Union and the six Central Asian states owe their independence to Pakistan. It is a dangerous and flawed view that is not based on reality. Pakistan must stop looking down at the CIS countries, particularly at the Central Asian states.

Pakistanis need to understand that in the Post Cold War world, Pakistan has emerged as a state that is epicenter of violence and religious hatred. The public in Central Asia as well as in Russia fear Pakistan. If Pakistan wants to build strong long-term relations with the CIS countries, it must put its own house in order first. It needs plans to focus on building a softer image of Pakistan in the CIS.

Simultaneously a campaign should be launched within Pakistan about the huge economic potential and strategic importance of the CIS.

Pakistan can also learn from the positive legacy of the USSR to overcome domestic problems. Unlike developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, most of the CIS states have well-developed health and education systems and solid infrastructures such as roads, rail networks and communication lines. The region is also very rich in natural and human resources.

Pakistan can buy cheaper electricity from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It is possible to lay power transmission lines between Pakistan and Tajikistan via China. Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan can supply Pakistan with cheap oil and gas products. Pakistan will hugely benefit, if it could provide India with a corridor to import energy from Central Asia. Such measures will bring peace and prosperity.

President Asif Ali Zardari is paying attention to build mutually beneficial relations with Central Asia and China but he has limitations. The military will not allow President Zardari bring long-term changes that might reduce military’s hegemony over foreign affairs.

The military will resist tooth and nail if a civilian government in Pakistan ever tried to provide India with a corridor for importing energy from Central Asia, such a move, though, will be in the best interest of Pakistan and its people. But the interest of Pakistan and the interests of Pakistani military are two different ends of a pole. One can only hope that the military mindset will change.

The relationship between Pakistan and the CIS can be mutually beneficial at other levels as well. Unlike the West most former Soviet states have secular, classless and tolerant societies. Many of these countries also enjoy cultural and social harmony in terms of common language and social bonds among communities. Pakistan can learn positive lessons from the Soviet experience. At the same time, Pakistan, too, has a lot to offer.

If rule of law has been a major strength of Western societies, belief in Eastern and Muslim value systems has saved the Pakistani society from breakdowns. Most former Soviet states no longer have the Soviet time rule of law nor do they have a value system they can draw on to protect their societies. The Soviet value system is fading and there seems to be a value system vacuum in many of the CIS countries, which are now faced with social disorder and chaos.

Pakistan has a wonderful social system based on love, loyalty and respect. Family, community and friendship bonds are central to the social system. Former Soviet society lacks such values and bonds. Promotion of such positive values through media can help create a good name for Pakistan in the CIS.

Art and literature have been very important in Soviet society. Messages through artistic forms can work well in the former Soviet Union. Love, warmth, faithfulness and the sprit of sacrifice in human relations are central themes of Pakistani literature. Pakistani television dramas, novels, poetry and other forms of literature that highlight the importance of family and human connections could have a great effect on public opinion in the CIS. Such a campaign could certainly help improve the image of Pakistan in the Commonwealth.

If Pakistan adopts a long-term public relations strategy of image building, it would bear fruits in other fields as well. But it MUST be based on transparency and honesty.

(Shiraz Paracha is an international journalist and political analyst.
His email address is: shiraz_paracha@hotmail.com

troung
12 Sep 10,, 15:26
Iran's Growing Interests and Influence in Central Asia
Dario Cristiani | Bio | 10 Sep 2010
World Politics Review
WPR Article | Iran's Growing Interests and Influence in Central Asia (http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/6369/irans-growing-interests-and-influence-in-central-asia)

In early August, at the fourth trilateral summit between Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan held in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged the leaders of the other two countries to join in an alliance to counterbalance NATO's growing presence in Central Asia. Though any such formal alliance is unlikely, the declaration reflects Tehran's desire to play a larger role in Central Asia's regional dynamics.

If Iran has always been geographically part of the regional context of Central Asia and the Caucasus, Tehran's geopolitical orientation has historically been focused southward, on the Persian Gulf. For more than a century, Iranian interests in the area were limited to dealing with Russia's -- and later the Soviet Union's -- expansionism. The end of the Cold War and the implosion of the Soviet Union opened new opportunities on Iran's northern borders, even if Iran remained more preoccupied with the need for domestic reconstruction following the war with Iraq.

In the past 15 years, however, Tehran has been particularly active in trying to create a deep net of institutional and economic links in the region, in part to counter the increasing reach of Turkey, perceived as an American proxy, and of Pakistan, historically an enemy of Iran. Such an approach has been characterized by the "pragmatism" typical of Iran's post-revolutionary leadership. Eschewing the idea of exporting revolution, Iran has instead tried to improve ties with all the countries of the region, focusing on those with which it shares cultural and historical links. This explains the strong attention paid by Tehran to Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which represent cornerstones of the Iranian strategy in the region. At the same time, a clear example of Iran's pragmatism is the close relationship it has forged with Armenia, cemented by the common interest of containing Azerbaijan.

Iran's ultimate goal is to become a technological and economic power in the region, and to this end, Tehran is supplementing its cultural and historical links with a more resolute economic presence, including investments in massive infrastructure projects. These include the Anzab tunnel in Tajikistan, built by an Iranian company and financed in part by Tehran, as well as railroad and highway construciton in western Afghanistan. Central Asia and Afghanistan have also become prime targets for Iran's increasingly refined use of soft power. Scholarships for students from the Muslim world, economic aid -- Iran is a leading donor to Afghanistan -- and support for economic and cultural projects are all elements of a renewed public diplomacy that now plays an important role in Iran's foreign policy.

One of the main geopolitical paradoxes of the past decade has been the outcomes of the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where in spite of the longstanding hostility between Washington and Tehran, Iran has emerged as the main beneficiary. With regard to Afghanistan, Iran has historically been the main supporter of the country's Shiite groups, perceiving the Taliban as an existential threat. So avoiding a Taliban return to power represents one of Tehran's key interests in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, Tehran faces a strategic dilemma. On one hand, Iran is clearly interested in a stable Afghanistan: Iran and Afghanistan are linked by a "strategic geography," and problems due to instability in one country can easily affect its neighbor. For example, Iran is already deeply concerned about drug trafficking, refugee flows and crime along its borders with Afghanistan. Only a stable government in Kabul can reduce such threats.

On the other hand, Tehran perceives the longstanding presence of American troops at its borders as a strategic threat. Moreover, the ability to undermine American interests in Afghanistan can provide Tehran with leverage over Washington on other issues, such as the confrontation over its nuclear program. As a result, Tehran could potentially see an interest in destabilizing Afghanistan in order to affect the American military effort there.

This same unresolved ambiguity in Tehran's approach can also be seen, if to a lesser extent, in Iran's relationships with Russia and China. Moscow and Beijing have been Tehran's main supporters at the U.N. Security Council in countering U.S. efforts to impose stiffened sanctions over its nuclear program. However, both still view Iran with suspicion. For example, Iran's application for full membership in the Shangai Cooperation Organization, a Sino-Russian instrument of influence in Central Asia, was recently rejected due to the U.N. sanctions targeting the country, leaving Iran with its current status as an observer. There were also reports that Russia and China blocked an invitation to the Iranian president to this year's summit, although Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied the claims, stating that Ahmadinejad had been invited but decided not to come.

In short, rivalries and diverging interests on other issues are preventing Iran from working with the three main global players involved in the region -- the U.S., China and Russia -- toward the stabilization of Afghanistan, one of the few global geopolitical goals they all share.

Although for years Tehran's main focus was on its southern borders, it has increasingly turned its attention to its northern and eastern borders, regions with which it shares geographic, cultural and historical ties. As a result, its influence in those areas has increased and Tehran is now playing a major political and economic role there -- one that can either reduce or exacerbate tensions between Iran and the great powers involved in the region.

Afghanistan -- where Iran is investing significant amounts of money and is one of the major diplomatic players determining the country's future -- is a prime example. Iran, the U.S., China and Russia -- along with other countries -- have a common interest in a stable Afghanistan free from Taliban rule. The same is true for a variety of regional issues. But considerations related to external issues, such as the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program or the persistent mistrust existing between Iran and these countries -- above all the U.S. -- could jeopardize this enormous opportunity for cooperation.

Dario Cristiani is a doctoral candidate in Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College, University of London, and a freelance political analyst on Mediterranean and global affairs. Previously, he has was a teaching fellow in political science and comparative politics at the University of Naples "L'Orientale" in Italy, and a political analyst with the Power and Interest News Report (PINR).

Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University, September 2007 (Daniella Zalcman).

1980s
14 Sep 10,, 19:05
Good topic but i take some issue with both of these articles.


It is an irony that the six “Muslim” Central Asian states prefer to keep a distance from Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistan played a crucial role in their independence.

I dont understand why the author has put quotation marks around the word ‘Muslim’ as if to suggest that these nations are somehow less touched by Islam than Pakistan is or that just by sake of being Muslim-majority states that they somehow “owe” something, or some kind of special treatment, towards Pakistan. Also, how does he figure that Pakistan played a “crucial” role in their independence? What an idiot… If anything, he should be questioning Pakistan’s “Muslim” credentials since this is one of the best examples of a country where on the whole people seem ignorant about what the religion they claim faith in is actually supposed to be all about and a country that brings Islam and Muslims a bad name the World over.


Pakistan has cultural and historical links with Central Asia

No it doesnt. Cultural links? Please… One cannot share culture which those who have none (Pakistan has no culture of its own, its culture is Indian, which is not similar to CIS states at all).


Being a gateway to the Middle East, Africa and East Asia, Pakistan offers excellent economic and trade opportunities to members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Pakistan is a gateway to the Middle East. AFRICA!! and East Asia?? For whom? Armenia, Azerbaijan Rp, Uzbekistan, Russia etc are all closer to the Middle East / better connected to it than Pakistan is. None of the CIS states require Pakistan to connect to the Middle East, or Africa, or East Asia. They need only link to eachother, or link directly to the Middle East or East Asia since most of these states border those regions or can use eachothers territory to link to them.


However, despite its ideal geopolitical location and the huge trade and economic opportunities it can offer to Eurasian countries, Pakistan has failed to establish warm relations and build bridges of understanding with the CIS, particularly the six Central Asian sates.

That could also be, because, none of these states pay any attention to ‘establishing warm relations’ with Pakistan themselves?


Pakistan has a wonderful social system based on love, loyalty and respect. Family, community and friendship bonds are central to the social system. Former Soviet society lacks such values and bonds.

This is such a huge lie and pretentious thing to say. The reverse is far more true, actually.


If Pakistan adopts a long-term public relations strategy of image building, it would bear fruits in other fields as well. But it MUST be based on transparency and honesty.

The Pakistani self-perception of being a “bridge” between this and that is not shared by anyone else. This is something that from military leadership to shallow journalist, apparently none of them want to come to terms with. Seriously, you can read this guys articles a hundred times from a hundred different Pakistanis. They're all the same, all obsessed with trying to give Pakistan some importance by thinking that they can relate it somehow to Central Asia or the Middle East. Pakistan's 'influence' is limited to the eastern bank of the river Indus. If the Taliban hadnt done already, then the floods have exposed that.


Iran's Growing Interests and Influence in Central Asia

The author has failed to mention perhaps the biggest motivator (alongside economics) for Iranian leaders in paying attention towards their northern and north-eastern neighbours within recent years, and as such, Iran’s eastern border provinces; drug trafficking, people smuggling and illegal entry, and last but not least, terrorism. All extremely important security related issues for the I.R. Also, Iran's 'influence' in reality is limited to Tajikistan. The I.R has not even been successful in fully winning over Herat province, Afghanistan, despite the visibility of the Iranian presence there in the economy. However tho, the Ahmadinejad government is definitely interested in Central Asia... There has been a big effort from the I.R to embrace that region since 2006.

Double Edge
14 Sep 10,, 22:48
Regional Scenario: Central Asian ‘Muslim’ states fear Pakistan – by Shiraz Paracha
Sorry, did not find a link in your post so dug it up (http://criticalppp.com/archives/22579) to get the background. The original source apears to be a Pak blog with a critical view of the PPP party.


Pakistan has missed several opportunities due to misadventures of the Pakistani generals. Pakistan does not have an effective and successful foreign policy because its military is obsessed with security and the military sets foreign policy priorities. Pakistan’s foreign policy is not formulated by professionals, visionary politicians or intellectuals.

Semiliterate generals and foreign office clerks, who are proficient in English language, control the country’s foreign policy.

Most Pakistani diplomats do not communicate in local languages and some do not respect native cultures. Some members of Pakistani diplomatic missions in the CIS region allegedly promote personal business interests. Some are involved in activities that are contrary to their work.

Military generals, policy-makers and some in the Pakistani media still believe that they defeated the Soviet Union and the six Central Asian states owe their independence to Pakistan. It is a dangerous and flawed view that is not based on reality. Pakistan must stop looking down at the CIS countries, particularly at the Central Asian states.

Pakistanis need to understand that in the Post Cold War world, Pakistan has emerged as a state that is epicenter of violence and religious hatred.

President Asif Ali Zardari is paying attention to build mutually beneficial relations with Central Asia and China but he has limitations. The military will not allow President Zardari bring long-term changes that might reduce military’s hegemony over foreign affairs.

The military will resist tooth and nail if a civilian government in Pakistan ever tried to provide India with a corridor for importing energy from Central Asia, such a move, though, will be in the best interest of Pakistan and its people. But the interest of Pakistan and the interests of Pakistani military are two different ends of a pole. One can only hope that the military mindset will change.
The above makes me think that the present Pak military still wishes this was the 1990's with them angling again to setup the Taliban. The top ranks are from that era. So will this mindset change when the next generation takes over ?