Stephen M. Bland
Freelance Journalist, Award-Winning Author, Travel Writer, Researcher and Editor specialising in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Uzbek President Karimov speaking at the press conference
Lake Nurek, Tajikistan
Kazakh Uzbek Summit concludes with veiled threats amidst fears over Afghanistan
The latest round of talks between Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev have concluded with the signing of a protocol on industrial property protection and an agreement on increased cooperation between the two countries Foreign Ministries. Having seen a fourfold increase in trade with its northern neighbour during the last nine years, reports state that Uzbekistan is putting a greater emphasis on the “strategic partnership” in what Kazpravda is calling a “change of opinion”. With trade between the two countries totalling $1.5 billion over the last nine months alone, President Nazarbayev commented that it was “gratifying to emphasize that we share a common stance on many things”.
In a joint statement following the talks, Karimov also spoke about Afghanistan, voicing his fear that the “forced withdrawal of peacemakers… may trigger off a new stage of civil war in the country”. Citing the current situation in Iraq as an example, he stated that the withdrawal of Western forces could “trigger off great tensions” in the country with which Uzbekistan shares a long and porous border.
News outlets in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, meanwhile, concentrated on comments regarding shared natural resources, Karimov speaking of “a common position with regard to the construction of new hydraulic structures in the upper reaches of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya”. Whilst the Kazakhs fear Kyrgyz plans for a new hydroelectric dam upstream, Uzbekistan is currently sabre-rattling against Tajik plans to build a new dam. Cutting the arteries of Uzbekistan’s cotton crop, the proposed Rogun Dam would be the world’s tallest, outdoing the three hundred metre Nurek Dam, the tallest fully operational hydropower station in the world, which produces 75% of Tajikistan’s electricity.
The Central Asian region is the world’s worst in terms of water wasted. Reliant on its thirsty cotton crop, which as of September 2014 has completely dried up the eastern lobe of the Large Aral Sea for the first time in modern history, Uzbekistan is the world’s fourth most profligate nation in terms of its wasteful use of water according to a report published by Nature in October 2014.