Are Pashtuns Central Asian or South Asian


Global political developments in Central Asia: Many players in the new "Great Game"

CIS membership and regional integration

The assertion of sovereignty of the new states forms one side of their politics, another is their inclusion in supranational structures, in cooperative communities and larger economic areas. In the ex-Soviet area, this includes the - admittedly very amorphous - CIS and its regional subdivisions.

The foreign policy of the individual states differs in their behavior towards "integration". In 1996 Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan took part in the so-called "deeper integration" in the CIS within the framework of a customs union with Russia and Belarus, while Uzbekistan distanced itself significantly from it; Turkmenistan is extremely critical of multilateral ties, prefers bilateral relations and emphasizes its "neutrality". Due to its crisis situation, Tajikistan is hardly capable of integration.

The Central Asian states are in a complicated process of integration that points in different directions. In general, one can differentiate between a "south-north axis" and a "south-south axis". The first is shaped by the structural inheritance of the former Soviet economic area and concerns integration into the CIS, the second includes integration efforts on a regional basis and cooperation with "southern states" outside the CIS, e.g. in the Middle Eastern cooperation community OEC (Organization of Economic Cooperation).

Since September 1993, various forms of economic union, customs, payment and currency unions have been decided within the CIS, all of which have remained little concrete. Corresponding "integration" steps required sacrifices with regard to the newly won national sovereignty, which some states were not ready for. The distrust of Russia's position in the CIS grew, especially after the adoption of the Russian CIS strategy in autumn 1995, in which a powerful Russian integration policy in the "Community" was associated with the state's preservation of the Russian Federation itself. A camp of "dissidents" emerged in the CIS. Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan rejected the organization of payment and currency unions and also kept their distance from security cooperation in the CIS framework. Uzbekistan has distanced itself most from Russia in Central Asia since 1996. On the other hand, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed a separate agreement in January 1995 to form a customs union. In March 1996, Kyrgyzstan joined this club, which is now called "Community of Integrated States"(GIS). Russia and Belarus founded a"Community of Sovereign States " (GSS), which a year later becameUnion of Belarus' and Russia"was condensed.

Parallel to such experiments, which can only be called "integration" with reservations because they only created weak mechanisms for economic or security cooperation, a regional "integration" process was taking place in Central Asia. In January 1994 Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan signed a treaty establishing a Central AsianEconomic zone. A Central Asian Bank for Cooperation was set up, a five-year program for integration was created, and its own customs union was created. Here, too, the establishment of institutions left a lot to be desired, and this regional economic zone was overlapped by the "customs union" of the "community of integrated states". After all, freedom of trade was achieved between the three countries, tariffs were harmonized and joint ventures were made easier. The three states justify regional integration not only with economic arguments, but also with common security interests, with the need for ecological cooperation in the Aral region and with cultural and historical arguments that refer to the historical and spatial context of Central Asia. Here, too, "integration" is limited by the sovereignty of the individual states and the mistrust that one of these individual states could become a hegemon in the region - a suspicion that particularly affects Uzbekistan. Even though the three heads of state recently concluded a "pact of eternal friendship", which, in view of the developments in Afghanistan, was primarily intended in terms of security policy, the common ground that has been invoked here has its limits.

External actors

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a historical slogan of the 19th century that denoted competition for influence in Central Asia was revived: Great Game. But while the big game for the Asian "heartland" was essentially played between two players, between the British and Russian empires, today a multitude of regional and major powers are trying to gain influence in the region. At the beginning of the nineties, the view for relevant actors narrowed to the Competition between Turkey and Iran. In Western representations were this competition and the potential for influence of the two Competitors overestimated. One sensed a struggle for the souls of the liberated oriental peoples of the former Soviet Union and presented them, as it were, to the alternative between the western path of development mediated by Turkey and the Islamist model. The foreign policy of the new Central Asian states was much broader. As far as is known, the foreign policy options of the local population were by no means one-sided in one direction. In 1993 opinion polls in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan tested not only the relationship to religion and other issues, but also the attitude of the population towards the foreign policy orientation of their country. The following picture emerged: The own geopolitical environment was seen as uncomfortable and critical of states like Iran and Afghanistan was kept at a distance; the partner determined by ethnic kinship Turkey was influential, but not as important as western and Russian ones Suggested ideas about a pan-Turkish renaissance in Eurasia; also the Faith community of Islam did not appear as an essential criterion for foreign policy Orientation. Younger respondents in particular saw the greatest opportunities in Foreign and foreign trade policy oriented towards Western Europe and Japan. Older years left on the other hand still recognize a clear connection to Russia and the ex-Soviet area.

If negative ideological influences on the "forgotten Muslims" were expected from a country in the West, it was from Iran. Iranian influence was automatically related to the religious sphere, to the export of the Islamic theocratic state model. However, this picture is based on misjudgments in several respects: On the one hand, a complexity of cultural currents in today's Iran is overlooked and reduced to the Islamist ideology of the regime; on the other hand, the religious and cultural situation in the countries to be influenced was not correctly assessed, and their susceptibility to radical Islamic messages was overestimated. In addition, Iran's political interests in the Caucasus and Central Asia were misjudged; they cannot lie in the destabilization of these regions. If Tehran is Islamist-terrorist Supporting movements in the Middle East does not mean that it is against those discussed here Countries practiced the same. There are differences between Tehran's strategy in the Gulf and in the Middle East and its approach to the CIS area. With regard to its own ethnic population structure, it was clear to Iran that it would not be able to benefit from the collapse of the multinational empire on its doorstep, that this historical event presented fewer opportunities than risks for its own security policy. The question is also to whom in Iran the release of the former Soviet southern periphery passed, the "Islam firsters" or the "Iran firsters". Was there primarily open space for Islam or for Iranian cultural heritage?

Iran can build on old cultural ties in Central Asia, i.e. especially in the zone between Amu-Darja and Syr-Darja, which is characterized by urban and oasis cultures. Dynasties ruled here that were shaped by Iranian culture or even of Iranian descent. Here, Persian had functioned as the lingua franca and the language of literature and law offices for centuries, while the vernacular languages ​​predominantly belonged to the Turkish family of languages. It is different with the religious connection possibilities. Iran has been a wedge between the Sunni Ottoman Empire and the Sunni rulers in Central Asia since the adoption of Shia as the state religion (in the 16th century). Its religious culture differs from that of Central Asia, especially after seven Soviet decades in this region. With its northern provinces, Iran is in geographical contact with the Caspian-Central Asian region, which Turkey lacks. In the In Iranian CIS politics, the religious state ideology did not prevail over pragmatic ones Diplomacy and security and economic interests. A British study names the options of this policy with the following keywords: "enhancing regional stability, discouraging unfriendly penetration, developing neighborly relations and economic cooperation, and maintaining good relations with Russia". [Edmund Herzig, Iran and the Former Soviet South, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London 1995, p. 47.] Of course, Tehran did not put aside the religious accents of its foreign policy towards the CIS countries, if only because of the competition with other Islamic actors like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and the model rivalry with Turkey. Iran initially used its ethnic-linguistic relationship with Tajikistan - in contrast to their Turkic-speaking neighbors in Central Asia, the Tajiks belong to the Iranian language family - for religious influence and supported the building of mosques and Islamic educational institutions there. However, he soon became aware of his ideological obstacles in the CIS area: where there was ethnic-linguistic proximity to a Soviet successor state, in the case of Tajikistan, the Sunni orientation of Islam there acted as a denominational barrier, wherever the other way round Denominational possibilities existed, as in the case of Azerbaijan (with a Shiite majority of the population), the ethnic (Turkish) identity took precedence over the religious one. Therefore, the Iranian influence in the CIS shifted to pragmatic goals - the Financial Times speaks of in this context "triumph of commerce over ideology" - and to have a say in the settlement of regional conflicts in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

At the same time, they intensified Iranian-Russian relations, for which there are points of contact both at regional political level (common position in determining the legal status of the Caspian Sea, rejection of Turkish influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus, settlement of the Tajikistan conflict, common ground in Afghanistan policy) and in world politics (rejection of the so-called "unipolar World order "and the" American global hegemony "). From Almaty in the east to Ashgabad in the west there is consensus that the Islamist state model is absolutely unacceptable for the Soviet successor states, but there are differences in terms of contact with Iran. The Uzbek foreign policy is currently closest to the American policy towards Iran, with its focus on isolation and blockade measures against Tehran. Other states reserve the right not to exclude Iran when considering their future export routes.

Islamic foreign policy is a high priority for Saudi Arabia, whose influence in the CIS was more offensive than the Iranian. The common term "Wahhabism", which the Soviet authorities used to describe Islamic revival movements in Central Asia, especially in the Fergana Basin, indicated the Saudis' missionary activities as early as Soviet times. "Wahhabism" is the religious state ideology of the Saudi dynasty and an extremely puristic variant of Islam, which, however, hardly accommodates the religious syncretism in Central Asia. Saudi Arabia has invested significant sums of money in a package of relief efforts to promote Islam in Central Asia and Azerbaijan. Points of contact for the intensification of relations with Central Asia are the memory of the region's brief membership of the Arab caliphate, the contribution it had made to the high Islamic culture of the Middle Ages, and the existence of a Central Asian, especially Uzbek diaspora on the Arabian peninsula. There were also economic interests. But Riyad's religious influence came to the fore in such a way that it was perceived as intrusive by the governments. During a state visit to Saudi Arabia, the Uzbek Foreign Minister Komilov expressed his government's concerns about excessive influence by third countries in Central Asia. Other Arab states such as Kuwait and the Emirates were also involved in Islam in Central Asia.

Another Islamic actor is Pakistan, that at the same time another that south asian Dimension of influence on Central Asia, because his foreign policy actions are assigned to his conflicted relationship with neighbor India. Pakistan acts with his Central Asia policy in the vicinity of three explosive regional conflicts in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Tajikistan and against the background of its contrast to India. It is its internal structure likewise complicated and unstable and of ethnic, religious and power-political conflicts. For Islamabad, the collapse of the Soviet Union opened up the prospect of a space that was seen as a potential market for Pakistani goods and as an "Islamic heartland" with an impact on Indo-Islamic culture in past centuries. Islamabad saw opportunities for a geopolitical gain in land from India, which had had relations with Central Asian union republics in Soviet times. Pakistan was separated from this area, however, by the chaotic conditions in Afghanistan, which turned out to be the main obstacle to a Pakistani Central Asia policy. Islamabad was all the more interested in relying on an actor in the inner-Afghan drama who was capable of assertiveness and the creation of order, of Islamic order. For this came the previously supported by the Pakistani secret service Talibanmovement in question.

The upswing of this movement since 1994 and its support by interested actors stood apparently also in connection with the interest in fundamentally new transport connections between the former Soviet Central Asia and its southern environs. Basically two countries come into question for this "southern route": Iran or Pakistan. In this context the rivalry between the US and Iran had intensified, not least with regard to access to the great oil and gas reserves of the Central Asian countries. They are interested in to loosen their one-sided transport dependence on Russia and their trade relations with States in the Middle East and South Asia to intensify. The inclusion of Iran in the Caspian-Central Asian transport logistics would be its political weight throughout Increase "Eurasian" space. And that hits a neuralgic point in American Perception of geopolitics in the region. That is why American diplomacy has been supporting since 1996 Transport connections between Central Asia and Pakistan. This includes the plan for a 1120 km long pipeline from Turkmenistan via western Afghanistan to the port of Karachi. The American company Unocal and a Saudi Arabian partner, the Delta Oil Company, want $ 3 billion. invest in this transport artery. US diplomats promoted this project in both Pakistan and India. Washington's interest is aimed at isolating Iran, and less at rivalry with Russia. Russia should be included in the project as far as possible. In August 1996, the largest Russian energy company Gazprom joined the consortium concerned. The said pipeline is just one of several projected export channels for oil and natural gas in the Caspian and Central Asian regions. There are seven pipeline projects for the transport of natural gas from Turkmenistan alone (via Afghanistan to Pakistan, via Turkey, via Iran and via China to Japan) with an investment volume of 2.5 billion to 22 billion US dollars. For the time being, raw material marketing is still completely dependent on the old transport system via the CIS countries.

The most sensitive security line in the geopolitics of Central Asia runs along the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, between two "states", both of which are the decline of statehood have suffered and form two overlapping zones of conflict. Here the ethnic plays Factor probably a more decisive role than the much touted "Islamic." Fundamentalism". Afghanistan consists of over 20 ethnic groups, the regional independence of which prevented a solid Afghan nation-state from being formed, although the country was grouped into a "state" as early as 1747 under the Pashtun dynasty of the Durrani. Some of these ethnic groups have their counterparts in the titular nations of neighboring states such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Afghanistan's borders with the Soviet successor states hold just as much potential for ethnic conflict as its border with Pakistan, which is burdened by the so-called Pashtun or Pathans question. A disintegration of Afghanistan into its ethnic components would affect the security of neighboring countries.

The following are located along the historical border between Afghanistan and the Russian Empire Military potential opposite: In Tajikistan there are 25,000 Russian border guards, 5,000 Russian soldiers and officers of the 201st Motor Rifle Division, around 1,000 soldiers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and at least 10,000 soldiers from the national army of Tajikistan Helicopters and airplanes and other heavy armaments. The military constellation of forces in the country speaks against an advance by the Taliban to the border with the CIS, which has been invoked in the Russian media since autumn 1996 as the utmost danger for the Central Asian region. The Taliban troops face tens of thousands of fighters from the alliances directed against them (according to a Russian source 60,000 former government soldiers under Ahmad Shah Mas'ud, 70,000 under the command of the Uzbek General Dostam and 80,000 neutral forces from various Islamic and ethnic parties).

A secret plan of operations against the Taliban was allegedly drawn up in the spring of 1997 between Russia and the Central Asian CIS states. In March 1997 the Russian press reported that a logistical base for Mas'ud's troops had been set up in Kuljab, Tajikistan. Tashkent had already given the Uzbek General Dostam, a key "warlord" in Afghan drama, political and military support. Central Asian states are becoming increasingly entangled in the Afghan conflict nodes. However, some reports in the Russian press appear questionable, according to the assumption that the Taliban are preparing to storm the CIS area and to conquer Samarkand and Bukhara. This ultra-traditionalist movement is more likely to be limited to the restoration of Pashtun rule over an Islamic Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, which had become uninteresting for both Moscow and Washington after the withdrawal of Soviet troops at the beginning of the 1990s, has again attracted the attention of major and regional powers to the extent that Central Asia as a whole has been upgraded as a geostrategic object. In Russia it is seen as proven that the Taliban movement was supported not only by Pakistan but also indirectly by the US in order to weaken the Iranian position in the region and to be a local ally in developing transport links from Central Asia to Pakistan and at the containment of drug trafficking from Afghanistan. For its part, Russia is trying to use the Taliban's offensive to strengthen and legitimize its position in the southern CIS. This had previously been challenged in particular by Uzbekistan, which questioned both CIS integration and Russia's claims to power in the region. Uzbekistan had come very close to US policy on Central Asia.

If one follows some representations in the Russian media, one has emerged with regard to Central Asia Russian-American great power rivalry around a geostrategic space that Routing of its transport channels and access to its raw materials developed. On On the American side, Zbigniew Brzezinski especially demanded the geopolitical presence of the USA "in the new post-Soviet republics of Eurasia to the borders of China ". The former Foreign Minister Caspar Weinberger expressed himself in May 1998 in an article in the International Herald Tribune, headed "Caspian Access is Crucial for the West" with that in mind. In In 1996, Washington paid particular attention to Uzbekistan in its Central Asia policy. The point is not, however, to force Russia out of the region. Rather wish Washington a normalization of Russia's relationship with this region. And that means that Russia does not register any exclusive claims to power over the Caspian region, but one becomes a significant actor among other actors, one economic partner among others, and that Routes for the transport of the regional raw materials run across its territory Find complement in alternative routes.

The former Soviet Central Asia lies in a geopolitical field of forces, the regional framework of which is formed by states such as Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. In recent years, economic actors from other regions of the world, from Western Europe, Japan, etc., are increasingly appearing. The larger geostrategic framework of international politics in Central Asia is formed by Russia and China, traditional powers of influence in the history of the region, and the world power USA, which are among the new players heard in the "Great Game". Relations between China and Central Asia deserve a separate contribution.

Economic development of the Central Asian CIS countries in the nineties

* for 1996 estimate; Source: Economist Intelligence Unit Country Reports / Country Analyzes 1-4th quarter 1996

© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | April 1999