Ashgabat, 4 November 2015 (nCa) — It was a few days of Kerry Go Round, with Ignorance Made in USA stamped all over it. The lack of focus and substance left the region scratching its head in wonderment.
The visit of John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, to Central Asia was built around the exotically named C5+1 format. The meeting of Kerry with the regional foreign ministers in Samarkand on 1 November 2015 was the centerpiece of the visit, leading to the issuance of two documents:
- Joint Declaration of Partnership and Cooperation by the Five Countries of Central Asia and The United States of America
- New U.S. Assistance Programs in Central Asia
The combined effect of both of these documents is a mix of quite a bit of disappointment and a little bit of alarm. Here is why:
- Improvement in regional trade, transport and communications, energy linkage, and transit opportunities – The region is already in deep engagement on bilateral and multilateral basis for building up all of these areas. Any separate drive under the C5+1 format will either duplicate or nullify the efforts because of two reasons: 1. There is lack of trust owing to the past history of US activities in the region; and 2. The USA, at present, can contribute nothing but its rhetoric, thus making its participation merely a source of irritation.
- Enhancement of favourable business climate in the region to attract foreign direct investments – This is also an area where the USA cannot bring anything attractive to the table because of its inability to separate business from politics.
- Environment and climate change – The region is already engaged in various processes in these areas. If the USA was sincere in offering cooperation in this sphere, Kerry could have voiced the support for Turkmenistan’s offer to host the regional centre for climate change technologies but he was mum on the issue. Moreover, there are a number of platforms including the various organs of the United Nations that are better suited for this cooperation than the C5+1 structure.
- Trans-boundary threats including the situation in Afghanistan – Again, C5+1 is a counterproductive idea for dealing with threats simmering in Afghanistan. By taking up the Afghan issues through C5+1, the region will be ignoring the logical players in the equation such as Russia and China. This will be a recipe for sure disaster.
- Human rights – This is an area where the region needs to take stock of its internal policies, and rather quickly, but anything coming from an American mouth automatically falls on deaf ears. This is the debris of the short and sad history of Central Asia’s engagement with the USA. As a matter of fact, bringing up the human rights situation in its arrogant style, the USA is doing no service to anyone.
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The entire American system is based on pursuit of relations from the position of authority and strength. There is no concept of equality and mutual respect. This is the fatal flaw in the prevailing American model.
The brave and buoyant American media accompanying Kerry tried to paint this dullish lecture tour as a remarkable attempt to regain influence in the region. Their self-indulgent virtuousness cannot see that whatever little influence the USA had in the region was lost because of repeated attempts to bring colour revolutions in country after country. There is no reason to blame Russia or China for the erosion of the American influence here.
The inability to learn from the past mistakes is also a worrisome feature of the American attitude.
They were in obscene rush to remove Saddam Hussein and the stinking outcome is there for all to see. They rushed into Libya to remove Gaddafi and no one knows now how to deal with the mess that has been created there. They are mindlessly fighting for the removal of Assad in Syria, totally oblivious of what can happen next.
Every time when there was the opportunity for a negotiated settlement, they went for a war. Every time when there was the need to focus on peace, they concentrated on the removal of a sitting government through violent means. Every time when there was the chance to bring stability they torpedoed all such initiatives.
Central Asia is keeping a watchful eye on all of this. What is the guarantee that under the guise of C5+1 the USA will not trigger the process of unseating one or more of the current governments in Central Asia?
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Not everything was in futility. There was at least one positive outcome of Kerry visit: Ms. Carol Morello of Washington Post rudely interrupted the meeting in Samarkand, reminding everyone in the region of the perils of befriending the United States. Her rudeness and lack of manners was wonderfully timed to reiterate the known fact that equality and mutual respect are alien concepts to the ‘American way of doing things.’ — Exceptionalism at its best.