Politics and International Relations
This roundtable will focus on the position of Central Asia (defined as the post-Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) within the broader Eurasian context, and in particular in relation to the two neighbouring major powers in the region, Russia and China, but also against the backdrop of the economic or cultural presence in this part of the world of other powers, as for instance Iran, Turkey, Korea, Japan, the European Union and the United States.
Central Asia has for many centuries been the land ‘in between’, between China and the Middle East. Between the late 19th century and the late 20th century it was dominated by Russia/the Soviet Union. It is characterized by new nations with mixed ethnicities, a poor democratic development, a volatile border to the south (Afghanistan), environmental problems, and economies often based on one product (oil; gas; cotton), and a shared Soviet heritage. Since independence in the early 1990s, the modern states have been engaged in developing a ‘national’ narrative rooted in the past and/or the promotion of perceived national/ethnic cultural characteristics (e.g. dress).
This roundtable will discuss the present situation and future prospects of the Central Asian states, considering their economic and social developments, the energy supply and consumption, and the role of Central Asia within the wider framework of the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative, and its reception in Central Asia. Yet, attention will also focus on the presence of other powers in the region, and the internal economic and social developments that follow on, or affect outside influences. Will the Central Asian states manage to form a separate and united power block to negotiate with neighbouring powers, or will the various new states continue to deal individually with the surrounding world?
The roundtable is organised as part of a larger discussion in various panels and roundtables at ICAS of the Belt and Road Initiative and its reception in Eurasia and beyond, and as part of an IIAS-led initiative to discuss the BRI initiative and its reception in Eurasia and beyond.