Multi-Vector-Directional Foreign Policy in Central Asia

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Central Asian states have adopted different strategies in their foreign policies since they gained their independence. Kyrgyzstan has generally displayed a pro-Western stance. Uzbekistan, on the other hand, followed a closed foreign policy for a while. While Tajikistan develops its relations within a limited framework; Turkmenistan, on the other hand, has taken steps to strengthen its neutrality by acting within the scope of the “Status of Permanent Neutrality”. In addition to all these actors, Kazakhstan has tried to turn its geopolitical position into an advantage with a proactive approach, to balance regional and global powers, and to increase its gains by establishing relations with different actors. In this context, it has developed a roadmap that will not bring its sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and unitary structure to the discussion, within the framework of a win-win approach, which will stay away from fierce competition between countries.

The strategy in question is generally described as a multidimensional foreign policy approach. In this way, Kazakhstan has taken into account all the risks, evaluated the opportunities, and maximized its gains. In addition, Kazakhstan has turned into one of the geopolitical, geostrategic, and geoeconomic centers of Asia and even Eurasia with the investments it has attracted from different countries and the corridors that have developed in the context of investments such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

The gains achieved by the Astana government, thanks to the foreign policy adopted, also affected other Central Asian states. Because it has been seen by the states that the closed, threat thought is at the center of the policies determined within the framework of a single orientation reduces the gains and increases the risks. At this point, it is seen that Central Asian states have updated their foreign policies within the framework of a multi-vector understanding.

Known as one of the most democratic states in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has adopted a foreign policy understanding in which the West is at the forefront for a long time. However, this situation caused Kyrgyzstan to follow a policy disconnected from the regional reality and turned into a field of global competition. The most concrete examples of this are the social movements experienced in various periods in the country. As a result of these movements and the change of government, it became difficult to establish political stability in Kyrgyzstan. After the last protests in October 2020, the administration changed again. After this process, it is seen that the political stability in the country has increased. Thus, the Bishkek administration has taken steps to strengthen its relations with many actors from the United States of America (USA) to China, from Russia to India, and from Pakistan to European countries.

Uzbekistan, which followed a relatively open foreign policy in the process of gaining its independence, has become more closed due to various domestic events and terrorist attacks. During this period, the relations of the Tashkent government with the world began to weaken. However, with Mr. Şevket Mirziyoyev becoming President in 2016, Uzbekistan has gone through an important transformation process in its foreign policy.

With the liberalization steps taken in domestic politics, the Tashkent government has developed a network of relations based on mutual respect and common interests with both regional and global actors in order to use the full potential of the country. In this context, Uzbekistan; has strengthened its position as one of the central countries of Central Asia by getting closer to actors such as Russia, China, the USA, Europe, Pakistan, and India.

Tajikistan was a state with limited relations with various states. Conflicts within the country for a while prevented Dushanbe from using its full potential. However, in the face of both ensuring stability within the country and the increasing interest of global powers in Central Asia, Tajikistan is also trying to strengthen its relations with many countries from China to Russia, from the USA to India. Especially in the last period, the Dushanbe government aims to increase its gains by following a proactive foreign policy.

Finally, Turkmenistan is a state with Permanent Neutrality Status. It has established relations with various countries on the basis of mutual respect. However, within the scope of its neutrality status, it preferred not to pursue an active foreign policy for a while. It has been implementing a proactive foreign policy for the last few years as a result of the intensification of globalization, the prominence of the economy in relations between countries, and the positive effect of its geopolitical position. With this policy, it strengthens its relations with various countries, from Russia to the USA, and from China to India, without compromising its neutrality. In addition, the Ashgabat government, which has developed multidimensional relations with its neighbors, supports the resolution of problems through peaceful means such as dialogue with its neutral state identity.

As a result, Central Asian states are proactively following a multi-vector foreign policy based on a win-win. In this case, the gains of Kazakhstan in the last 30 years have been effective. In addition, Central Asia is turning into one of the important centers of Eurasia and the world today. Unless the necessary strong relations are established in this transformation process, the states will have significant losses. Actors are also aware of this situation. However, while establishing strong relations with one side in the process of increasing stress and tension in the world; ignoring the other side could strengthen the perception that states make their choices in a polarized world, and may lead them to face different threats. The most important way to prevent this and to get gains from all parties is seen as a multi-vector foreign policy. While the regional states are maximizing their interests with a win-win approach; take care to stay away from the conflict environment that global competition will bring. Therefore, it can be said that these countries have adopted the multi-vector foreign policy as their main strategy and will continue to implement it for a long time.

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.