Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Central Asia: Geostrategic tremors

/ games / great /
The Asia Times report on a conference that didn't quite make the news:
"Overshadowed in the Western press by the Group of Eight summit of leading industrialized nations and the complications to it caused by the London transit bombings, another summit - the July 5 meetings in Astana, Kazakhstan of the heads of government of the six members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - promised to have greater geostrategic significance than the more widely reported events.

Created with its present membership of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in 2001, the origins of the SCO date to 1996 when Beijing initiated the Shanghai Five, which included all the current SCO members except for Uzbekistan. The official purpose of the alliance, according to its founding declaration, is to form a comprehensive network of cooperation among the member states, including military security, economic development, trade and cultural exchange.

Translated into geostrategic terms, the SCO arises from a confluence of interests among the major power centers of China and Russia, and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, with the exception of Turkmenistan, which pursues a foreign policy of studied neutrality and isolation..."

Among the results: a demand by Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan for a timetable of US base withdrawal.

At the same time economic integration plans are moving ahead and, conceivably, this assessment might not be unrelated.

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