Ashgabat, 26 October 2015 (nCa) — As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan tours the region, some op-ed writers and analysts are gleefully reporting that Japan has arrived in Central Asia to counter the growing Chinese influence.
These are the same people who serve as doomsday prophets in every given scenario, as if the world cannot function without a zero-sum tussle.
The disappointing news for them is that Japan is not competing with anyone in Central Asia.
Central Asia plus Japan is the mechanism, in place since August 2004, that defines the structure and scope of partnership.
It is based on cooperation, not competition. The driving principles of Central Asia plus Japan are: strengthening of peace, stability and democracy in Central Asia; strengthening of economic foundations of the region by cooperative initiatives; strengthening of intra-regional cooperation in the regional countries; maintenance and development of good relations between Central Asia and neighbouring regions and the world community; cooperation between Japan and Central Asia in terms of regional issues and issues with international dimensions; and economic, political, cultural and humanitarian cooperation on the base of equality and mutual respect.
The Central Asia plus Japan, because of its proven track record of more than a decade, has been recognized as an effective platform for regional integration and cooperation, adding to the contribution being made by regional groupings such as SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization).
As we saw on 23 October 2015 in Ashgabat, the 19 documents signed between Turkmenistan and Japan are all related to solidification of partnership in the areas that don’t encroach on the interaction sphere of Turkmenistan with China or any other country.
All of these projects, generally in the downstream gas chemical production, are in the areas where Japan is a known industry leader.
Because of the characteristics that help classify Central Asia as a unique zone, the region is an excellent place for cooperation for all, including Japan and China.
The fast appearing infrastructure in Central Asia in the transport, energy and communications sectors, where China is playing a key role, is conducive for the implementation of the Japanese projects. On the other hand, the know-how and technologies provided by Japan are helpful for better cooperation of the region with China and other partners. It is undoubtedly a situation where everyone benefits.
There is also the need to look beyond the immediate outcome of the visit of Prime Minsiter Abe. — In Mongolia and all the countries of Central Asia, Japan is providing stimulus and essential components for economic development, which will directly translate to shared prosperity in the region.
The growing layer of seamless prosperity across the region will act as insulator against extremist tendencies and ideologies. This layer of approaching prosperity is going to be seamless because Japan has worked hard to identify the areas where each country needs assistance and support, and has come up with the solutions that will equalize the field for all.
A major beneficiary of this would be Russia, which is worried about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and how it could impact the Central Asian region. We are sure that Russia would not only spare no effort to make sure that Central Asia plus Japan dialogues accelerates to fruition but will also find ways to unite this process with SCO.
EU can be another beneficiary. A progressive and developed Central Asia can simultaneously be a better market for EU products and a source of value added items at competitive prices.
As a matter fact, there is ample space here for everyone except the USA, a country perpetually intoxicated by its delusional exceptionalism. If it can somehow get out of its stupor, Uncle Sam should be able to see what everyone can see already: The days of zero sum game are over. This is a live and let love world.