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kazakhstan and uzbekistan strengthen strategic alliance

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Strengthen Strategic Alliance

Author:Karolina Powers

Dec 22, 2021

Image source: Akorda

The relationship between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was raised to a new diplomatic level at a state meeting on December 6 between Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. This joint meeting in Kazakhstan was focused on improving bilateral relations, yielding a significant development between the Central Asian republics. The relationship was elevated from the level of strategic partnership to a formal alliance. There is a marked difference between the two in diplomacy; a strategic partnership is a general relationship between nations used generally to accomplish specific objectives. Alliances are formal agreements that have the terms outline in a signed and ratified treaty and guarantee mutual support. This current declaration demonstrates intent to support each other and signifies a long-term commitment between the two most populous states in Central Asia.  This could prove to be decisive as Central Asia moves into a new phase in regional cooperation as a result of shifting realties after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan had limited diplomatic and political relations since their independence from the Soviet Union due to factors such as unresolved border negotiations. However, relations improved significantly in 2016 and 2017, when the Kazakhstani-Uzbek border was finalized, giving both states a strong foundation for future cooperation on regional projects and security. The death of long-term Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov and the election of President Mirziyoyev was a decisive turning point.   This new strategic alliance is especially important because it will likely impact the three other neighboring Central Asian states – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Indeed, the improvements in diplomatic and political relationships over the last five years have already helped to create an environment that has allowed for increased economic growth and trade turnover.

The December 6 meeting between the two heads of state focused on enhancing the existing relationship between Nur-Sultan and Tashkent with discussions focusing on aspects of politics and diplomatic relations, economics, and humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan. There is significant room for advancing cooperation in bilateral trade, with most attention given to promoting increasing trade in agriculture and industrial production. The goal is to at least double the trade volume between the two states, with the current balance standing at five billion dollars annually, and a proposed goal of ten billion. Additionally, increasing the seriousness of the relationship was a move to strengthen cooperation on issues such as securing water supplies and sufficient energy, both of which have become more critical in the last year as Central Asia struggles with drought and energy shortages.

The alliance between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan could also have significant impact on improving regional stability. Cooperation between the two largest states in Central Asia in creating a united front when dealing with the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan will be decisive in alleviating the crisis. Uzbekistan has already made itself a lead partner in supplying food aid to Afghanistan through the Termez distribution network operated by the United Nations World Food Program, and Kazakhstan has also assisted in supplying wheat, flour, and grain shipments. Working together on humanitarian efforts will further strengthen ties between the two countries, as well as demonstrate the new direction that Central Asia wishes to take in terms of security, focused on independence and improving military capabilities to safeguard the region without undue influence by regional and global powers.

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