Books on Kazakstan
Update No: 351-
The presidency of the OSCE
President Nursultan Nazarbayev of
Kazkhstan is in a bizarre position. He is
in the usual dictatorial mould of former
Soviet Central Asian despots, keeping
thousands in prison for no other reason
than their opposition to his harsh regime.
Yet Kazakhstan has been holding the
revolving presidency of the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
in the first part of 2010, which is
committed to advancing the cause of
liberal-democracy in its part of the
Kazakhstan is not actually in Europe, but
Central Asia. It has no liberal-democracy
whatever. It is a police state.
But then it has 60% of the former Soviet
Union's mineral resources.
Nazarbayev is well aware that as far as
Europeans are concerned he is more
acceptable than any alternative in Former
Soviet Central Asia. Indeed treating him
with recognition and respect could pay off
elsewhere, for instance in bringing
Uzbekistan, the real core of Central Asia
and neighbour to recalcitrant Afghanistan,
back on board.
He got what he wanted out of talks in
Tashkent on March 17. Nazarbayev secured
Uzbek support for his cherished aim of
hosting an OSCE summit later this year. In
return, he offered unqualified backing for
Uzbekistan’s stance on hydropower
development in Central Asia.
Nazarbayev, for the first time, fully
endorsed the position of Uzbek leader
Islam Karimov’s administration, which
maintains that no hydropower facilities
should be built in so-called upstream
countries until international feasibility
studies are completed. "Until the results
of [international] expert testing are
available, no dam should be built,"
Nazarbayev said in remarks quoted by the
independent Uzbek website Uzmetronom.
A major breakthrough
Securing Tashkent’s support marks an
important diplomatic victory for
Nazarbayev. "In the first place, it was
precisely to persuade Islam Karimov to
lift his objections [to an OSCE summit]
that the president of Kazakhstan went to
Tashkent," Arkady Dubnov, a well-known
commentator on Central Asian affairs,
wrote in the Russian Vremya newspaper on
March 17. Dubnov also cited the warm words
spoken by Karimov about Kazakhstan’s
successes being tantamount to Uzbekistan’s
successes, which Dubnov interpreted as a
"gesture of diplomatic reconciliation."
"Relations between the two largest
countries, battling for leadership in
Central Asia . . . have never been
distinguished by particular warmth,"
Karimov and Nazarbayev -- who both became
leaders of their Soviet republics in 1989,
and have led their respective states since
they gained independence in 1991 -- have
long been viewed as competitors for a
leadership role in Central Asia. But
during the visit, Nazarbayev was at pains
to deny any rivalry, insisting that any
such reports are "invented."
"There are no contradictions between our
countries," Nazarbayev said in remarks
quoted by the Kazinform state news agency.
"There have always been people who wish
there not to be friendship. We have the
will and political understanding not to
Nazarbayev rounded off the trip with a
call for regional unity. "It is important
as never before not to allow fragmentation
and diffusion in our region. I am
convinced that without serious dynamics in
our personal and interstate relations, the
region will not be able to join forces for
development and prosperity."
However, many observers doubt that the
expressions of mutual friendship voiced in
Tashkent will have a lasting impact. They
likewise do not expect that Central Asian
states can resolve divisive issues, such
as the hydropower development, any time
soon, and do not believe that the
Kazakh-Uzbek rivalry is a thing of the