Central Asia after 9/11: Challenges and Prospects for the Future
In a recent discussion at the Kennan Institute, Ambassador Baktybek Abdrisaev, Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United States and Canada, discussed the impact of the U.S.-led war against terror in his country and the entire Central Asian region. Ambassador Abdrisaev noted that the Kyrgyz Republic and other Central Asian states have learned many lessons since gaining independence and added that there are several prospects for increased integration with Russia, China and the West.
Abdrisaev began by highlighting the recent visit of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev to the United States earlier this month. In meetings with President Bush and other White House officials, the Kyrgyz leadership expressed their gratitude for the support from the U.S. during eleven years of independence and pledged their continued assistance in the war against terrorism. He noted that other agreements like the Shanghai Organization for Cooperation, headquartered in Bishkek, have provided an opportunity for leaders of the Kyrgyz Republic to engage in a constructive dialogue with leaders from Russia, China, and the other Central Asian states. According to Abdrisaev, the presence of U.S.-led coalition troops has increased stability and brought peace to the region, but Kyrgyz leaders recognize that "peace and prosperity cannot be brought to Central Asia solely on the basis of military commitment, democracy and economic prosperity are also essential."
Abdrisaev discussed many of the lessons that Kyrgyz leaders have learned during the economic transition. Kyrgyzstan was the first CIS country to institute land reform, which combined with other reforms, led to the its accession to the WTO in 1998. He explained that despite financial assistance from international financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF, and a positive appraisal from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, widespread poverty and other social problems continue to plague the country. As proponents of Russia and Kazakhstan's accession to the WTO, Kyrgyz leaders are looking to develop a region-based market, which would provide cheaper access to much-needed resources.
Abdrisaev noted that President Akaev has proposed many new reforms aimed at promoting the democratic process and furthering human rights. Kyrgyz leaders recognize the country's shortcomings in the area of human rights, including the recent clash between protesters and police in southern Kyrgyzstan, which led to the dismissal of several government and key ranking officials. He described the Kyrgyz government's plans to create a council that will oversee the development of a new democratic code. He further explained that last month's Constitutional Convention, which brought together opposing parties and factions in the Parliament, resulted in a recommendation for constitutional reform. President Akaev and others recognize that, "a strong presidential government is a condition for stable democratic development," but hope to develop a "strong and capable Parliament," that would lead to the redistribution of authority among the various branches of government, creating a system of "checks and balances."
Abdrisaev concluded by saying that Kyrgyz leaders hope that the recent reforms combined with increased cooperation with Russia, China and the U.S. will lead to greater economic development and stability for Kyrgyzstan. The latest meetings between Presidents Bush and Akaev illustrate a new level of understanding between the two countries and Kyrgyz leaders look forward to assuming a prominent role in the stabilization and development of Central Asia.