The conference of the Valdai International Discussion Club titled “Russia and Central Asia facing the challenges of the new World – a joint path to the future” opened Thursday (20 May) in Kazan. The two-day forum is attended by more than 60 experts from 16 countries, including Russia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Great Britain, Hungary, Germany, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, France and Estonia.
President Rustam Minnikhanov of Tatarstan welcomed the participants, noting the symbolism of choosing Kazan as a host city for the Valdai Central Asian forum. Tatarstan serves as a vivid example of a centuries-old dialogue of cultures, a meeting place of East and West, he said.
“The Republic of Tatarstan actively involves in the processes of Eurasian integration, implements joint humanitarian and economic projects with the countries of Central Asia,” Minnikhanov stressed.
Developing trade and economic ties contribute to strengthening the strategic partnership with the Central Asian states, he added.
Russia and Central Asia – strategic partners
“For Russia, the Central Asian states are strategic partners with whom we share a common history, language and close human ties,” said Andrey Rudenko, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Director General of the Second Department of the CIS Countries at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
He has cited some significant indicators in his remarks approaching the success of economic interactions between Russia and the Central Asian region.
The total volume of Russian accumulated investments in the Central Asian region nears US$ 50 billion. In Kazakhstan, the accumulated capital investments reached US$ 36 billion, in Uzbekistan – exceeded US $ 10 billion, in Tajikistan — US $ 1.5 billion.
Despite the adverse impact of the pandemic, countries have not only managed to maintain, but even in some areas to increase the bilateral trade. The total trade turnover of Russia with the Central Asian countries in 2020 grew to US $ 28.5 billion.
More than 10,000 Russian and joint ventures, represented in almost all sectors of the economy, are successfully operating in the Central Asian region.
“These figures refute the recent arguments that Russia allegedly has no economic interests in Central Asia and Russia is ostensibly going to leave there. That is absolutely not true. We are not going to leave there and we will not leave [the region],” assured Andrey Rudenko.
The deputy foreign minister also revealed his country’s plans to develop energy and water cooperation with Central Asian countries. Russia offers its partners from Central Asia the advanced nuclear industry technologies. There are big prospects for cooperation in the development of renewable energy.
Russia intends to engage in the restoration of the unified energy system of Central Asia.
The joint efforts can be made to improve the ecological situation in the Aral Sea region. According to Rudenko, Russia prepares the special program to support the countries of Central Asia in the field of water use for 2021-2030.
Russia and Central Asia not only share a common historical past, when all six countries were part of Soviet state. The geopolitical landscape in the region and in Eurasia as a whole is rapidly changing, due to such developments as withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, pandemic, and the escalating geostrategic competition between the leading players in world politics. Thus, there is a need for a kind of reconciliation of positions, including in the expert community, who possess a certain influence on decision-making process. The present Central Asian Conference of the Valdai Club is an opportune platform for this purpose.
The conference’s panel discussions will highlight some pressing issues for Russia and the five Central Asian countries, including: social consequences of the pandemic; the future of security in the Central Asian region; the impact of changes in the global economy on Russia and Central Asia; and the specifics of Russian policy in the Central Asian region. /// nCa, 21 May 2021