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Eastern Express 31.10

Major world powers are looking to gain influence in Central Asian countries. Russia’s dwindling influence has emboldened some local leaders and nowhere is it more readily apparent than in Kazakhstan, the region’s largest country, which may now be looking at a gradual realignment. Will this plan succeed, and who stands to benefit from this change?

Since the Soviet Union collapsed, Central Asian states have become part of the Russian, Chinese, and recently European spheres of influence. Their independence was not free from Kremlin’s political games. Emomali Rahmon, the president of Tajikistan recently recalled how both he and Putin witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“Then like now, and you have to forgive me for saying this, not enough attention was paid to the small republics, the small nations,” said Rahmon. His recent outburst in Putin’s presence was widely commented on, but was this enough to start talking about “winds of change” sweeping across the region?

Central Asia remains an interesting region for many powers seeking to broaden their political and economic influence. And global politics abhors a vacuum.

Recently, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, visited Kazakhstan and joined Central Asian leaders for a meeting concerning economic ties and closer energy co-operation. His visit is considered a strong political signal of the European Union’s commitment to the region, but they are not alone in this regard. Neighbouring China is likewise deeply interested in pursuing its own political agenda in Kazakhstan as well as the other Central Asian states.

With plentiful natural resources, including uranium, and numerous trade and development opportunities, Central Asia is likely to remain the subject of interest among its neighbours. The trick for regional leaders is to ensure that they do not lose out in the process and can reap the benefits of arrangements to be made in the near future.

Eastern Express’ guest

Bruce Pannier, former Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty correspondent, was TVP World’s guest invited to shed more light on the issue.

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