Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Politics and Geopolitics / The future of Russia and the world: estimates and projections / Articles
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan: competition or cooperation?
Material posted: Pankratenko Igor N.Publication date: 16-06-2018
In recent days, in the Kazakhstan media have intensified the debate about who in the foreseeable future will become a regional leader in Central Asia. The seed for heated discussion was the forecast of the political scientist Marat Shibutov, who said that after 10-12 years, Uzbekistan will overtake Kazakhstan in terms of economic growth and standard of living of the population.

The argument of Shibutov brought the idea that Uzbekistan has what has helped the economies of South Korea, Taiwan, China and Vietnam: trained, technically competent, active and numerous population, which is willing to work for little money. However, he admits that in 2017 Kazakhstan's GDP amounted to 158,2 billion and GDP of Uzbekistan 30.7 billion the Difference is more than five times.

Oil to fire was added by the recent announcement that the beginning of the year Uzbekistan received the most loans and credits of international organizations, as well as can become a leader in Central Asia in attracting foreign direct investment. In its latest report, the world Bank noted structural problems with the attraction of investments in Kazakhstan.

But is it possible in these circumstances to say that the center of world interest in the region gradually moved from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan? Or all the same something can interfere with our neighbors? Which strategy is more advantageous for Tashkent – the rivalry with Astana or mutually beneficial cooperation? Do foreign investors from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan?

Can you talk about the aggravation of the competition between the two countries? How much more time may be required by the Uzbeks to tell the world about yourself? Whether is the maximum strengthening of relations with Uzbekistan, opening its markets and thus contributing to a serious spurt of its southern neighbor? It time the same level of cooperation in Central Asia, as it happened, suceuses?Swazis it is possible to recall a recent proposal of Dariga Nazarbayeva to create in your TSA the Schengen. How is it feasible?

All these issues are now mainstreamed in the Central Asian political discourse. To answer them, we asked the experts.

Sultangaliyev, a political scientist: "the Uzbeks, unlike us, were able to maintain many of the achievements of the Soviet period"

In relations between our countries, I hope, forever gone are the a period of rivalry and child pothouses, which was caused primarily by subjective factors. Uzbekistan is actively modernizing its external and internal policies, particularly developing economic ties with the near and far abroad, leaving voluntary isolation, which as a penance imposed on the country by the late Islam Karimov.

By the way, perhaps it is due to this conservative approach, the outgoing President of Uzbekistan, this country had a strong Foundation to leap into a successful future.

In Uzbekistan, of course, enough internal problems, but the hard policy of the authorities to the modernization of the political and socio-economic policy many of them can be successfully solved on its own.

For example, persistent high unemployment can be offset by active participation in international economic unions, such as the EAEC.

The question of the withdrawal of foreign investors from Kazakhstan in Uzbekistan on the agenda. These countries are interested in different sectors of the economy, but because there between RK and RU there is not much competition. In my opinion, Uzbekistan in comparison with our country has more serious potential to become a full economic and military-political leader of the region.

Uzbeks, unlike us, have managed to preserve many of the achievements of the Soviet period in agriculture and industry and continue to actively increase its own production.

The rise in the region of Uzbekistan, frankly, Kazakhstan is unprofitable. First of all, from the point of view of its own national security and protect economic interests. However, nothing prevents the country to move towards development of its own economy and to constructively compete with its southern neighbour.

With the countries of the European Union, of course, can not be compared, including in the integration aspect. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that since coming to power in Uzbekistan, a new leader and is associated with significant intensification of the foreign policy elites of both countries began to come to awareness of the interconnectedness of our countries, which due to geographical location, economic characteristics and historical and cultural heritage. Indicated the need to find understanding in solving regional problems and the development of national economies.

After speaking about "Asian Schengen", the same Dariga Nazarbayeva had in mind primarily the fact that it will increase the influx to our region of foreign tourists – particularly from Western countries. The offer is more than relevant and practical. However, no "Schengen" will not work if we do not raise the level of infrastructure in the Kazakhstan level, which today is extremely low.

Of course, the increase of tourist flow will be a boon to Central Asian countries, especially as all of us have something to show and something to be proud of. His public initiative, announced during the meeting of Uzbek and Kazakh parliamentary delegations, Dariga Nursultanovna has sent another meaningful message is not an internal homegrown elite and the representatives very near to the Kazakhstan abroad.

Dmitry Mikhailichenko, coordinator of the analytical projects of the Eurasian center "Samrau": "Healthy competition can bring benefits to both countries"

For a long time, the economic potential of Uzbekistan was constrained by personal ambitions and subjective factors, in one way or another related to Islam Karimov.

The election of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, marked the smooth, but serious reversal in the direction of cost-effective cooperation and smoothing of the existing conflicts, especially in Central Asia itself.

In this context, I would not say that the world's interest has gradually moved from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan. Rather, Tashkent is catching up, and fast, previously missed.

If to speak about structural problems in Uzbekistan, I would note, first of all, the strong administrative pressure on business, high levels of corruption, as well as the use of forced labour during the cotton harvest.

If the President of Uzbekistan will be able to keep his word and to solve at least the cotton question, his popularity in the West will increase even more. The preconditions for this. Almost immediately after the visit Mirziyoyev in Washington USA refused to buy Turkmen cotton. Mirziyoev satisfied with the West and Asian States, and it brings results. Karimov, unlike the current President, after the Andijan events had the opportunity to visit Western countries.

I believe that Uzbekistan have declared their economic interests in Central Asia. In my view, healthy competition between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan can benefit both countries. At the same time, it can be conducted not only and not so much about competition, but about constructive cooperation.

I think that while Central Asia is still not ready to create your "Schengen". Such statements are mainly used to demonstrate alternative of the Eurasian integration development. At the same time, we must recognize that in the region over the past two years done a lot in order to overcome old conflicts between neighbors.

Igor Pankratenko, Deputy Director of the Russian Center for strategic estimates and projections: "Neither in Uzbekistan nor Kazakhstan is not dreaming of a tough division"

I do not think that structural problems in the economy of Uzbekistan represent serious obstacles to its development. They are definitely present, but the essence of those economic reforms, held in Tashkent, in my opinion, allows to smooth them down. Because the country's leadership focuses on the modernization and development of those sectors, industries and activities that will ensure high economic growth, introduction of advanced technologies and innovations in production.

That is, it is, as far as can be judged from the Uzbek sources, on the accelerated development of such sectors as gas processing, petrochemical, chemical industry, energy, automotive, electrical industry, pharmaceutical industry, machine tool industry, the industry of modern information technologies and telecommunication systems.

Success in these areas appear to be significantly smooth out those distortions and imbalances that are present in the national economy of Uzbekistan, as well as they are present almost in any economy in the world.

I think that neither in Kazakhstan nor Uzbekistan has no politicians and social groups, directly so dreaming of a hard confrontation between the two neighboring States. Well, a peaceful rivalry

never rule out mutually beneficial cooperation. Importantly, in this rivalry no one in Astana or Tashkent did not forget about the responsibility, which are two countries – the responsibility for security and stability in the region for its peaceful development.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is, by and large, different niches of investing, therefore, in my opinion, a massive outflow of investors should not be expected. Well, then, if such fears are present, you probably need to create the conditions under which those investors will not go away.

As for the competition between the two countries... In recent history, since Soviet times and after, it so happened that Tashkent and Astana are doomed to competition for regional leadership.

But it is on peaceful competition, which in General is absolutely fine if it is based on common sense and goes to these two States only good. Because it creates the forward momentum. And, of course, does not exclude the common mutually beneficial projects.

Probably, all CA countries there are certain claims against Uzbekistan. Business as usual in relations between the neighbors. But what Tashkent is categorically not to blame, so it is in some sinister and secret "plans of the Uzbek sages", hidden from others. Even more so now. About his interests and how he sees the future of the region, Tashkent says rather loudly and articulately.

At some stage, Kazakhstan has chosen the single path of economic development based on the exploitation of oil and gas reserves, and Uzbekistan went the other. And what we are now seeing (the opening of markets, the development of cross-border cooperation and so on) – a logical result of different development paths.

That is, on the one hand, since this result is logical and objective, to terminate it by administrative methods, erection of barriers, at least non-constructive – will not hold these barriers. On the other, this window of opportunity, as the process it is possible to channel complementarity of the two economies and use it in the interests of development of Kazakhstan. The choice is there for Astana.

Obviously, the future internationalization and mutual integration of economies. This is happening in the world all the time. So in strengthening economic ties with its southern neighbour Kazakhstan is wise and modern.

Well, that "neighbor will get more" jerk will do so, I think, the Kazakh businessmen and politicians are not born yesterday and are able if you wish to defend the benefits to their country.

You know, I'm an internationalist, who followed the poet dreams of "a world without Russia, without Latvia live uniform human hostel". But how bright this dream, so she and utopian. Today in Central Asia is not that integrating the kernel of the idea and community of economic interests, which would create preconditions for the emergence of the Union, such as the EU.

The experience of the Eurasian economic Union is more embarrassing than inspiring. With China's initiative "Belt and Road", which seems to be as it becomes the alternative to the Eurasian Union, there are more questions than answers. And I suspect even comrade XI in Beijing do not have a clear idea of the final results of this project as an integrated initiative.

Other unifying region projects there, but issues and contradictions rife. And if so – so theme "raw", not her time. PR it is certainly possible, but after a couple of specific questions enthusiasts of the idea of "Central Asian integration" as a very quickly moving away from the responses.

Should Kazakhstan take on the additional burden of implementing frankly "crude" initiative, to which there are no objective prerequisites and to which it is not ready the other States in the region? I think not.

As for the proposal of Dariga's Nursultanovna, the idea, of course, wonderful. Especially since, as I understand from her speech at the meeting with Kazakhstan senators colleagues of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan in Sochi, they were talking about tourist visas. It seems that in this format the question is quite solved. And, of course, such a move would have quite a positive effect. And, in addition, it creates a good Foundation for the future, because one of the variants of the name of this "tsentralnoaziatskii Schengen" – Silk-visa. Quite clearly associated with the Chinese initiative "Belt and road".

Grigory Trofimchuk, an expert in the field of foreign policy, defence and security: "Attempts to destabilize Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will affect the entire region"

Loans West – one of the signs of a gradual slope of Uzbekistan in the wrong direction, although the country takes money not only from there.

Parallel symptoms visible in the field of human resources with an eye to the dominance of Pro-Western officials in the highest governing echelon. For example, the Minister of foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan can be Sadyk Safayev, with strong ties with the West and relevant external organizations.

Perhaps these trends are interlinked, and record credits go to Tashkent is not just, especially since the strengthening of its cooperation with Washington is visible to the naked eye. Extending the openness of Tashkent to foreign tourists can be put in the same number, although this field are trying to expand in many countries.

In principle, there is no sensation, as in the previous President of Tashkent, within the five Central Asian States, had a special position for cooperation with the United States. This fact emphasizes the difference between the us-Kazakhstan and us-Uzbek relations.

Threat to itself, the limits of Astana feels more clearly, despite the fact that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are included in the total American scheme of cargo delivery to Afghanistan. The countries of the region has long sought, so to speak, in Europe, but it always seemed a bit strange, taking into account geographical dislocation. So make your own "Tsentrosoyuz" instead of the EU some proponents of change seem to be a more adequate option.

The only question is, who will control the conditional "CA", considering that, for example, the European Union and the Euro will not survive for weeks without the direct support of the United States – like countries of old Europe to criticize the administration now Donald trump. Nevertheless, increased integration between the five already being tested in practice, bearing in mind the recent summit of the countries of the region, which Russia was not invited.

It is necessary to say in advance that a strong Central Asian "EU" will not work because there are too many points of possible strategic undermining of such a unit. All the talk on this subject – only to divert attention. The West will not make a bet on Astana, as with Tashkent to implement such a project easier – for a number of parameters. Astana in this sense, rather, prevents the strengthening of Western influence in the region with a purely Western point of view, it is easier to deactivate than to invest here.

Therefore, in parallel with development of cooperation of Kazakhstan with Uzbekistan, the competition between them will increase, and most serious, political level. If the United States seriously will be included in the Uzbek economy, they will automatically be included in the related economy of Kazakhstan, if at that time the Uzbek-Kazakh integration reaches the desired proportions.

Foreign investors from the West and from the East – will try to "settle" in all countries of the region, as it is possible in principle. To translate the main assets of the republics (land, companies, real estate, raw materials) under foreign control without any war. Opportunities for this in Uzbekistan as they have more than in Kazakhstan. Especially given the fact that Kazakhstan is still included in the EEU and has certain obligations to partners, including Moscow.

It would be strange to continue to think that foreign investors are an unequivocal and unconditional boon to those countries in which they are introduced.

In any case, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan compared with the other three countries play in Central Asia's special role as the destabilization of any of them will automatically affect the entire region.

Andrey Kazantsev, politologicheskogo, Director of the analytical center of MGIMO: "Kazakhstan should catch up"

Uzbekistan in Mirzaeva created a new international reputation and is now reaping its fruits. Kazakhstan just have more to "catch up", as it now has a competitor.

But you have to understand that now in Uzbekistan are relatively a lot of money simply because previously, the investment flow was artificially frozen by the policies of Karimov. It is as if pent-up demand.

Then this factor will not be – it will develop fully. The development of relations with Uzbekistan – is another way to enhance the competitiveness of Kazakhstan, as greater openness increases the competitiveness. In addition, Kazakhstan will receive their dividends from economic growth in Uzbekistan.

Askar Muminov


RELATED MATERIALS: Politics and Geopolitics