OSCE Summit in Exchange for Water

By Sergey Rasov

Nursultan Nazarbayev has recently paid a visit to Tashkent. Last time in April of 2008 the similar bilateral meeting resulted in a scandal, when Islam Karimov without hesitations harshly reacted on the initiative of Nazarbayev to create the CAU: “the initiative to establish the Central Asia Union is not acceptable for Uzbekistan. I want to declare it once and for all, for there will be no speculations on this subject.” This time everything was different ...

We won’t remind that the relations between the two leaders are frankly speaking left much to be desired. Hidden competition for the role of a leader within Central Asia region naturally affected the interrelations between Islam Karimov and Nursultan Nazarbayev. Uzbekistani Leader didn’t hide his negative attitude towards all unions, blocks and coalitions and other integration initiatives of Nazarbayev. A peculiar point of view of Karimov icnludes CSTO, Collective Rapid Reaction Forces, Central Asia United Energy Systems, Aral and so on. That is why any bilateral meeting of Presidents gives much food for thought to analysts and politologists. This time Nursultan Nazarbayev made an open statement, that Astana and Tashkent had reached an agreement. “There are no disagreements between our states, which are constantly searched by our “friends”. There are no collisions, competition, leadership – these all are figured out. There always have been those who strive to bring in distraction. But we have enough will, political understanding to prevent it”, - said Nazarbayev during the final press-conference after the talks with Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov.

A reasonable question arises, what has happened that the Leader of Kazakhstan made peaceful statements? Without doubts the answer lies within the main negotiation subject – water problems of Central Asia. Last time these issues were officially discussed a year ago in Kazakhstan during the Summit of International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) state-founders’ leaders, which ended with no results. Before that Tajikistan suggested to found a consortium on Rogun HPP construction, Kyrgyzstan asked Russia’s support on granting 1.7 billion USD for the construction of a cascade of Kambartin HPP...

But they never succeeded. Naturally, if not to consider that Tajikistan actively holds the campaign on selling of “people shares of Rogun”. The position of Islam Karimov is extremely rigid – no construction of big hydro-technical objects within Central Asia region without independent competent expertise. Till recently, there have been no allies of Karimov. The position of Russia was unclear. First they promised Tajikistan to finish Rogun HPP, then Moscow assured Tashkent that it won’t do that without its approval. Later Russians decided to credit Kyrgyzstan , but haven’t done that still. Lately, Energy Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Shmatko during the meeting with Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov has made his mind – first expertise and then talks on credit.. The construction of Kamabrtin HPP in Kirgizia is suspended now. Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov put Uzbek Leader in a bad temper with his statement that Central Asia states should pay Tajikistan for it not to reduce the scope of water thrown into trans-boarder rivers. From its side, the authorities of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are verbally ready to hold an expertise. This has been already declared by a new Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Daniyar Usenov, and not so long ago Tajik Government signed a memorandum on mutual understanding with the World Bank on the ground of which the process of feasibility studies will start, which as promised will include the representatives of interested  states. Also Emomali Rahmon hold a meeting with General Director of the department of Central and Western Asia of Asian Bank of Development Juan Miranda who expressed the support of constructive position of Tajikistan...

Getting back to the visit of Nazarbayev to Tashkent, note that Karimov has found an ally in Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Head of Kazakhstan addressed to the colleagues Rahmon and Bakiyev with a persisting favour “not to start construction” before the results of expertise.

“We raise these issues not because we want to violate their rights, or don’t want to agree and we object the construction of these HPPs. We can’t start the projects as far there are no expertise results”, - summarized the Head of Kazakhstan. What lies under this statement?

Firstly, Nursultan Nazarbayev takes up the role of an intermediate and a peacemaker within complicated personal interrelations between Central Asia Presidents. The relations between Karimov, Bakiyev and Rahmon, are more than tensed. Also Nazarbayev declared that Kazakhstan as well as Uzbekistan are ready “to participate within the construction of these objects after the results of the expertise”. But it’s not clear what President meant. The Rogun consortium died without being born, and Kyrgyzstan revealed no activity to attract the funds of neighbors.

Secondly, Islam Karimov although tensed but still acknowledged the right of Nazarbayev as an aqsaqal, the senior, leader of Central Asia.

From the other hand, why Nursultan Nazarbayev took the side of Karimov? What is his benefit? What is his interest? The answer lies within the spread statement of the Kazakhstan Presidential press-service. – We are grateful to the authorities of Uzbekistan for support of our Chairmanship in OSCE and the holding of OSCE Summit in Astana, - declared Nursultan Nazarbayev during the press-conference in Tashkent. For Nazarbayev the Summit of 56 OSCE member-states, which hasn’t been hold for 11 years, is as significant as the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi for Vladimir Putin. However, until recently Islam Karimov hadn’t give its approval and now it’s gained. Roughly speaking, the result of the visit of Nazarbayev is a deal: holding of OSCE Summit this Autumn in Astana in exchange for the support of the rigid position of Islam Karimov on construction of hydropower plants within Central Asia region only with the approval of Uzbekistan. Although it’s not enough. Still all the efforts of Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kanat Saudabayev to obtain the approval for the Summit from the US Administration gave no results. It’s left to persuade Barak Obama.

Probably here Nursultan Nazarbayev will have to make definite concessions. Maybe these will include the review of crimincal cases against the representatives of the opposition, journalists and human rights advocates, and possibly Nazarbayev will approve the sending of “Kazbat” to Afghanistan, which earlier was requested by the NATO leadership.
Translated by Eurodialogue.org from politcom.ru