COOPERATION BETWEEN IRAN AND THE CENTRAL ASIAN STATES: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
Dmitri Varnavskiy, Researcher at the Department of Asia and Africa of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences (Kiev, Ukraine)
The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted, among other things, in the emergence of a new political and economic situation in the Central Asian republics, whereby new dominating factors are taking precedence and influencing its development. There has been a change in the line-up of political players interested in the region’s evolutionary process, as well as in the balance of global and national forces in Central Asia. New actors, including Iran, have become actively involved in the game for the region’s future.
Tehran’s policy toward Central Asia has not always been consistent and well-balanced. But the overall modification of its foreign policy in the 1990s greatly affected Iran’s strategic course toward the Central Asian states as well.
During his visit to the Central Asian countries in 1993, Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani emphasized that the main purpose of his trip was to establish business contacts. But prior to this, the country’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati said that Iran was not looking at its relations with these republics from the commercial standpoint. This clearly showed Tehran’s pragmatism, after all, this statement was probably made keeping in mind that the Central Asian countries repeatedly demonstrated their desire to develop primarily economic relations with Iran, without political undertones. For example, a representative of the Turkmenistan Foreign Ministry said that Turkmenistan needed Iran to gain an outlet to the sea for its commodities, but in so doing Turkmenistan has no intentions of becoming an Iranian-style Islamic state. The former head of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia mufti Muhammad-Sadik Muhammad-Yusuf also spoke in the same vein when he noted that the Turkish path of development was more acceptable to Uzbekistan.
The pragmatic wing of the Islamic Republic of Iran understood that the cultural dominant could become a more reliable springboard for launching Iran’s intensive penetration into the region and spreading its influence there. Therefore, Tehran quickly reoriented itself toward reviving cultural communality, in particular, especially in the 1990s, by actively promulgating the common cultural heritage of the region. In so doing, attention was focused on the need for a cultural revival to achieve true independence and…………..