U.S. congressmen organize Uzbekistan caucus
The Congressional Uzbekistan Caucus was organized in the U.S. - a lobby organization that will focus on improving Washington-Tashkent relations. The establishment of the group was initiated by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who discussed its contours with members of the U.S. House of Representatives during his visit to the U.S. in May.
Back then Mirziyoyev met with Mississippi congressman Trent Kelly. Their talks were the basis of today's actions by Kelly and his colleague from Texas Vicente Gonzalez. According to experts, this is an attempt to adjust the U.S. policy towards Uzbekistan, the Central Asian state itself will continue the current foreign policy, based on the balance between external partners - without assigning a particular priority or ignoring someone, defending its national interests in the first place.
Experts consider Tashkent's approach as logical. U.S.-Uzbekistan relations were 'shaken' during Islam Karimov's presidency. After the Andijan unrest, Tashkent fell into disgrace with Washington, being 'blacklisted' as a state, where human rights are an empty sound. The situation has started slightly changing in the last year of Karimov’s life, and when Mirziyoyev, who declared a democratic reversal, came to power, serious changes were announced.
However, things aren't exactly what Uzbekistan wanted. The country was withdrawn from Washington's list of rogue states, but at the same time Tashkent does not receive any special "preferences", feeling itself alongside Kabul or Islamabad. Therefore, the caucus is what Tashkent needs.
According to political scientist, doctor of historical sciences Rafik Sayfulin, U.S-Uzbek relations should be assessed carefully and without unnecessary emotions. According to him, Washington has achieved its goal by obtaining the consent of the Uzbek authorities to restore the northern route of U.S. military supplies in Afghanistan. It seems that military technical cooperation will continue as well, in any case, there is an agreement on thematic negotiations between Washington and Tashkent. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in turn, was recognized by the U.S. as one of the progressive leaders of the region. "The reforms being implemented in Uzbekistan have also been approved," Sayfulin told Vestnik Kavkaza. It was reflected in specific agreements worth almost $5 billion. Thus, it can be considered that in exchange for political support from the Uzbek leadership, Washington received the preferences it needed for the transit of its cargo to Afghanistan.
"The United States is not a state that can be ignored or confronted. It is natural that Uzbekistan, at least at a declarative level, prefers to maintain partnership relations with the United States. On the one hand, to some degree, it will secure the leadership from the U.S. possible interference in the internal affairs. On the other hand, Tashkent continues its traditional balancing between the political centers of power - Moscow, Beijing, Washington," Sayfulin believes. According to him, the creation of a caucus outlines the future of the Washington-Tashkent relations, but no more than that. Therefore, the issue of these relations' nature is still open. But one thing is certain, Sayfulin says, the Uzbek-American cooperation does not damage the relations between Tashkent and Moscow., as well as its relations with Beijing. "Russia and China firmly occupy their positions in relations with Uzbekistan, and there is no alternative to them. These two states accounts for half of Uzbekistan's foreign trade turnover. And it was worth remembering that Uzbekistan has always striven for equal relations with partners, and has never been 'friends with someone to the detriment of others'. This is the cornerstone position of Tashkent, and it will not change it," Sayfulin believes.
As for the caucus, it will be convened twice a year to work out proposals for improving relations with Tashkent and hand them over to the senior U.S. leadership. On November 19, the first meeting of the Uzbek-American parliamentary group was held in Tashkent. The congressmen were also received Uzbekistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov. According to the press service of the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "the foreign minister welcomed the creation of the Uzbekistan caucus in the lower chamber of the United States Congress for the first time in the entire history of bilateral relations." The sides discussed topical issues of the Uzbek-American agenda, the prospects for strengthening and expanding ties between parliamentarians and "legislative consolidation of positive trends in the dynamically developing Uzbek-U.S. cooperation," the Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan said.