Indo-Uzbek bonhomie

Dr. Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to Uzbekistan happens to be the second visit by an Indian premier in 14 years.

As the world tries to reduce its dependence of middle-eastern oil, powers like US and China are intensifying efforts to increase their influence in the Central Asian region. Ayesha gives a detailed account here.

At this juncture, India’s (new found?) interest in the central Asian country may not come as a surprise. M K Bhadrakumar, former Indian ambassador to Uzbekistan, explores Indo-Uzbek relationship from an Indian viewpoint, in his article, “Why Uzbekistan matters to India“.

However in all this bonhomie, there’s a catch:

Bhadrakumar writes:

Therefore, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tashkent at the present juncture becomes conspicuous as an indulgence in “independent foreign policy”.

It comes hardly six or seven weeks after President George W Bush made a stirring call from the ramparts of Purana Qila in Delhi that India should join hands with the US in the spirit of their strategic partnership, in lighting the torch of freedom and democracy in areas of darkness in the contemporary world, such as Central Asia.

Uzbekistan would have every reason to feel gratified that New Delhi has not allowed itself to be influenced by the hostile American policy.

Over the Andijan events in particular, Delhi remained an attentive interlocutor for Tashkent – appreciative, even if mutely, of the imperatives of regional stability and security.

And Ayesha points out:

The US agenda therefore has focused on combating terrorism and security issues and have thus tempered with initiatives that promote democratization in the region. “Flawed elections and human rights abuses have been met by lukewarm reprimands from top U.S. officials rather than meaningful penalties on regional governments. This has been backed by diversion of funds from programs promoting democracy and liberal values to programs aimed at bolstering the security of the region.”(Hill) Blank notes that oil producing states like Uzbekistan that have repressive governments and closed economies get far greater aid than progressive states yet non-supplier states like Kyrgyzstan. Policies like these only strengthen the authoritarian regimes of the regime and the take the region further away from ideals of democracy. As we have observed through out the course, Central Asian states are transitional states and the conditions are rife for social upheaval. By blindly supporting the authoritarian regimes in the region, America is helping increase the instability in the region and is fueling the anti-status quo forces.

You could find out more about Uzbekistan’s domestic politics and Human rights record here. How India views these concerns would only be known after Manmohan’s visit.

Darn! What’s with oil rich nations and their oppressive regimes!

[tags]India, Uzbekistan, Central Asia[/tags]