Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to create common visa space
Kazakhstan offers Central Asian countries to create a Central Asian Schengen zone - Silkviza to attract foreign tourists. This idea was expressed by the Chairman of the Kazakh Senate Committee on International Relations, Defense and Security, daughter of the country's president Dariga Nazarbayeva at a meeting with deputies of the Uzbek Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Foreign Economic Relations, Foreign Investments and Tourism.
A common visa system, according to Nazarbayeva, is necessary for the development of tourism throughout the Central Asiatic region. "It is important to stimulate not only the development of tourism in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but also the arrival of tourists from far abroad to our countries who want to see all the sights of Central Asia at once, and it requires a common visa system," Nazarbayeva said, suggesting to name it Silk Viza. The senator also advocated the unification of customs procedures using computerized systems: "A transparent, open and friendly border should be established, then relations in all spheres will be built by themselves."
Director of the Group of Risk Assessment Dosym Satpayev believes that Nazarbayeva is trying to translate the Kazakhstan model of entry into the country to other Central Asian states. "Citizens of many countries of the world can enter Kazakhstan without having a visa, especially those considered a priority in terms of investments by Kazakhstan," a Kazakh expert told Vestnik Kavkaza. In his opinion, the idea of creating a common visa space for Central Asia can be supported in Uzbekistan. "If Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan start creating an analogue of a common visa space, then other countries in the region may join in. At the second stage, most likely, Kyrgyzstan will join them, and maybe Tajikistan. Turkmenistan is unlikely to lift visa restrictions; the traditional policy of Ashgabat is of a closed nature," Satpayev noted. The political scientist believes that this initiative can be regarded as one more step towards the creation of regional cooperation in the sphere of economic interaction.
Heads of Central Asian countries announced the start of regional cooperation on March 15 in Astana, which hosted a consultation meeting of the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan was represented by the chairman of the Mejlis Akja Nurberdiyeva. This was the first such meeting in 13 years. President of Russia Vladimir Putin was not invited - the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev said then that Central Asia will solve its problems by its own strength. In this statement, Moscow analysts saw an alarming symptom of the Kremlin's loss of its allies.
The situation in the region has started to change after the change of power in Uzbekistan. New president Shavkat Mirziyoyev has started with stabilization of the situation in the region. Tashkent and Dushanbe settled a long-standing dispute over the construction of the Rogun hydroelectric power plant, signed trade agreements, resumed air traffic, interrupted in 1992 due to the civil war in Tajikistan. The parties also agreed to restore bus and rail service and canceled the visa regime, introduced for citizens of the two countries in 2001, for 30 days.
Tashkent concluded an agreement with Bishkek on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border demarcation and delimitation. A $100 million loan was allocated to Kyrgyzstan for the development of trade relations. Uzbekistan plans to transfer energy-consuming productions to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Against this backdrop, the relations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan stand out. They are not just good, but allied. The two countries' economies complement each other in many industries. They have close transport relations. Transit routes from Uzbekistan in the north and east direction pass through Kazakhstan, and a significant part of the increasingly expanding commodity flow from Kazakhstan to the south passes through Uzbekistan. The implementation of projects on setting up joint production of cars, buses and lorries between Kazakh and Uzbek enterprises GM Uzbekistan, SamAuto and Asia-Auto is on the way. On the day of the summit, Presidents Nazarbayev and Mirziyoyev opened the Year of Uzbekistan in Kazakhstan, and Nursultan Abishevich awarded Shavkat Miromonovich the Dostyk Order of the 1st degree for his services in strengthening peace, friendship and cooperation between their peoples.
Experts believe that a common visa space will facilitate the cooperation of not only the two countries, but all countries in the region. "Foreign businessmen indicate that it would be interesting for them as investors to invest in not just Kazakhstan, because its market is small. It would be beneficial for them if the region was united as a common economic field, and then it would be interesting in terms of investment appeal. It was not the first idea to consolidate the region. Therefore, from a pragmatic perspective, this idea is understandable. If the message voiced by Dariga Nazarbayeva is adopted by Uzbekistan, and the mechanism is worked out in practice, then Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have realized the benefits," Dosym Satpayev told Vestnik Kavkaza.
The expert believes that this initiative should be implemented independently, without the participation of third countries. "There should not even be a sign of "big brothers" in this project, the rules of the game should not be imposed. Our countries are sensitive to this, and started to understand that there are not so many countries left in the post-Soviet space in terms of investment attractiveness. Offering a visa initiative, Kazakhstan can once again pay attention to itself. There may be a feeling that zealous notes are being seen in Astana now, in the sense that Uzbekistan is bypassing Kazakhstan, so that investors to consider our countries not separately, but as a single economic organism," Satpayev said.
The head of the tourism committee of the CIS Business Center, Anastasia Pavlova, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza in an exclusive interview, said: "The initiative to create a prototype of the Schengen zone in the Central Asian region is 100% positive. The question is how well this initiative is prepared, how well this zone will be tested and how much respectful the inclusion of all Central Asian countries into this zone will be carried out. In terms of the CIS, I consider this initiative to be positive as well. This will facilitate the movement of tourist flows across Central Asian countries. Thus, at the expense of the tourist economy the gross domestic product is increasing, as well as tourist security - the most important topic by today's standards."
According to Pavlova, it is likely that additional expert consultations with Russian specialists can facilitate project execution, who would suggest how to better implement the initiative. "The consultations, of course, will be followed by testing of the initiative in the test mode. And here Russia observers are required to monitor the test work of the emerging Central Asian 'Schengen zone'. I believe that Russia plays a key role in the CIS, but does not pretend to be a teacher in this matter. Russia is a friend, it is a neighbor, as well as handshakeable, negotiable partner of the Commonwealth, without participation of which any innovations on the territory of the CIS will be incomplete. And even if the voice of Russia is of advisable character in this case, it is very important for the successful implementation of this initiative," Anastasia Pavlova believes.