What did Putin, Nazarbayev and Mirziyoyev talk about in Turkestan?

What did Putin, Nazarbayev and Mirziyoyev talk about in Turkestan?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev visited Kazakhstan’s Turkestan Region last weekend. In the city of Saryagash on the border with Uzbekistan, the heads of two states were met by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was the initiator of an informal meeting, according to informed sources of Vestnik Kavkaza.

Turkestan region appeared on the map of Kazakhstan last summer and earlier it was called the South Kazakhstan region. According to the decree of the President of Kazakhstan, Shymkent was named Turkestan on June 19, 2018 and received the status of the regional center. The term "Turkestan" united Kazakhstan, Central Asia and Xinjiang. Since the end of the 19th century to 1918, there was a Turkestan Governor-General with the center in Tashkent, which included all four Central Asian republics and four regions of Kazakhstan. Then the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created as part of Russia. Later, there was a tacit rivalry between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for this term. "In fact, Kazakhstan called dibs on the term Turkestan," political analyst Daniyar Ashimbayev believes.

The 'Turkestan region' project, according to political scientist Dosym Satpayev, has become not only the center of spiritual and cultural development of Kazakhstan, but the development of the idea of 'Ruhani zhangyru' (Nazarbayev's program article aimed at reviving spiritual values of Kazakh people in the light of all modern risks and challenges of globalization). Dosym Satpayev told Vestnik Kavkaza that the authorities attempted to give impetus to the development of the region by administrative methods.

The meeting place - the Turkestan region, apparently, was not chosen by chance and should symbolize the beginning of the economic development of the three countries' regions. Moreover, the meeting focused on the results of the first forum of interregional cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan. It was held in the same format as Kazakhstan-Russia annual meetings.

The informal conversation between the three leaders took place near vineyards spread out around the southern residence of the Kazakh president. Experts believe that the leaders of Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan needed to compare the notes on their interaction in the Astana-Moscow-Tashkent format. "It is known that Vladimir Putin and Shavkat Mirziyoyev achieved excellent results during the Russian leader's visit to Uzbekistan: the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan, the creation of 79 joint ventures, and further plans to increase the export of Uzbek products to Russia. Of course, serious changes in Russia -Uzbek relations affect the situation in Central Asia as a whole. They also affect Russian-Kazakh cooperation, opening up new opportunities for it," the Candidate of Historical Sciences, researcher at the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, chief analyst of the expert center 'Eurasian Development' Alexander Vorobyov told Vestnik Kavkaza.

According to the expert, Moscow and Tashkent are unlikely to establish full-fledged trade and economic cooperation with each other without the active involvement of Astana in this cooperation. A significant share of cargo traffic between Russia and Uzbekistan inevitably passes through Kazakhstan. This state is a kind of bridge between Russia and Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan and other EEU countries, including Belarus. There are other important issues that can be addressed only jointly by the leadership of the three countries: security, border guard issues. "The fact that after the completion of their historic meeting on October 18-19, Putin and Mirziyoyev were visiting Nazarbayev - in the Uzbek-Kazakh borderland - is indicative. With this gesture, the Russian and Uzbek leaders emphasized that Kazakhstan is also included in this rapprochement of the three countries, that it plays and will play a significant and constructive role in it in the future," Alexander Vorobyev believes.

Director of the Tashkent Center for Research Initiatives 'Ma'no' Bakhtiyor Ergashev believes that the three presidents cannot but be disturbed by the events in Afghanistan: "According to the latest information, there are up to 11,000 ISIS militants (the group banned in Russia), who migrated from Syria, on the Afghan border. As Syrian Idlib was liberated, not only ISIS militants are leaving it, their number wasn't great there, but also al-Qaeda militants (the group banned in Russia), as well as Tawhid wal-Jihad, led by Abu Saleh Al-Uzbeki and Katibat al-Imam al-Bukhari (the groups banned in Russia) - a total of 600 militants. The Uyghurs are also leaving - the Turkistan Islamic Party (the group banned in Russia). Their are leaving for Afghanistan." Answering the question of Vestnik Kavkaza of a threat posed by these militants to Central Asian countries, given the fact that the Taliban movement (the group banned in Russia), operating in most of the territory of Afghanistan, is at war against ISIS, Bakhtiyor Ergashev said that the movement is really at war with ISIS. “There are some Taliban troops who buy up ISIS militants, but then either destroy them or force them to obey. The Taliban are at war with ISIS for one simple reason - they did not recognize the power of the self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to Taliban, the idea of the caliphate was initially wrong, and they disagree with it. Let me remind you that when militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (the group banned in Russia) pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in February 2015, the next day they were eliminated. Taliban and ISIS have ideologically irreconcilable confrontation," the expert explained.

Another situation, according to Ergashev, was with the Imam al Bukhari and Tawhid wal Jihad battalions - they pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. The expert recalled that the Taliban also pledged allegiance to Sheikh Usama bin Laden. Therefore, the Taliban say: we have killed and will kill ISIS, but will not touch out brothers from al-Qaeda.

“What are Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan supposed to do in such a situation? The Taliban agree to fight ISIS, but  will not touch Al Qaeda and the Uzbek, Uyghur, Chechen groups affiliated with them. The question is very serious. And the Kabul government has no forces to fight against them. This issue is becoming more acute and dangerous every day," the expert said.

Therefore, Ergashev noted, the presidents discussed regional security issues, heightening the threats of transference, the likelihood of destabilization from the inside by the so-called 'sleeping cells'. "It is clear that they will not go against Uzbekistan directly, but they will create their own structures and cells. This is a threat, and the problem must be solved,” Ergashev believes.