Experts have something to say about the development of relations between official Tashkent and Washington.
In view of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Washington is paying paramount importance to Central Asia today. Now Tashkent is waiting for a delegation of the United States Congress and the U.S. State Department to visit Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan could offer great help in the U.S. and NATO countries’ troop pullout. The point is that a developed infrastructure, including both roads and railways, has remained in Uzbekistan since the Soviet-era times. Tashkent has a good chance to receive the U.S. military hardware because large amounts of military equipment have accumulated in Afghanistan over more than 10 years of the Afghanistan campaign.
The USA wants to have a military base in Uzbekistan. However, as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) it was unable to sanction this. Uzbekistan suspended its CSTO membership last week. Despite that, the USA’s attempts to achieve a desired effect remain unsuccessful so far, an expert with the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Vassily Kashin, says.
"Uzbekistan and the USA are drawing closer to each other. We are well aware of the fact that there were similar periods in the history of Uzbekistan earlier. However, a very close partnership between Uzbekistan and the USA has remained an unachievable goal. Uzbekistan is balancing on the verge of inner explosion. Its leadership has to take various measures, including very tough measures, in order to be able to control the situation. The Uzbek authorities do not want the USA to interfere in their domestic policy. Especially, amid the developments in the Arab world. Thus, although they want to receive guarantees from the USA, they will keep themselves at an arm’s length."
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has two ways to enter Afghanistan. One of them termed the Northern route involves Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, and the other one that is termed the Southern route runs across Pakistan. This route accounted for 85 per cent of transit. After the NATO air raid on a region bordering on Afghanistan last year, Pakistan blocked the Southern route. At the beginning of this month Pakistan re-opened this route for NATO’s logistics operations and now it promises to let the cargoes go free of charge. It is rather doubtful that the Central Asian republics will approve that.
Hillary Clinton visited Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan last year. The visits of other top-ranking American diplomats preceded her trip to these countries. By the way, after 2014 parts of NATO’s military hardware could stay not only in Uzbekistan but also in neighbouring Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Official Tashkent will never approve a strain in bilateral relations, a Uzbek political analyst, Rafik Saifulin, says. Tashkent has signed a transit agreement, not a request for the permission to deploy a military base in Uzbekistan.
Kyrgyzstan serves as an example for Uzbekistan in its cooperation with NATO. As you know, there is a transshipment point in the Manas Airport in Kyrgyzstan. By the way, at a briefing in Moscow the day before NATO’s Assistant Secretary General Dirk Brengelmann stressed that NATO had no plans to set up a military base in Uzbekistan.