CENTRAL ASIA AS VIEWED BY CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL ANALYSTS
Murat Laumulin, D.Sc. (Political Science), Chief Research Fellow at the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
Not so long ago it seemed that by the end of the 2000s interest in Central Asia from abroad had exhausted itself and there was nothing new to add to what had already been written about the region. The West, which paid the greatest attention to the region due to the presence of America and NATO in Afghanistan, appeared to have lost its geopolitical interest in Central Asia. Washington unofficially recognized Russia’s “legitimate” interests in the region as part of the reset policy, probably in the hope that Moscow’s influence would be trimmed by China’s increasing presence in the same region.
Now, however, everything has dramatically changed: on the one hand, the intention of Russia (led once more by Vladimir Putin, the “integrator of the post-Soviet expanse”) to expedite the establishment of a Eurasian Union has given the West a scare. While on the other, Western strategists are frowning at China’s mounting influence in Central Asia. The Iranian, Indian, and Afghan factors are also elements to be reckoned with in the geopolitical struggle around the region. In short, the rivalry has in no way fizzled out, instead it is entering a new phase.
This is amply confirmed by the works analyzed below; their authors do not limit themselves to the geopolitics, security, and international status of Central Asia; they scrutinize the domestic problems and political and socioeconomic development of the region’s individual countries.
Geopolitics and Security
The monograph Mapping Central Asia. Indian Perceptions and Strategies, which is the result of joint efforts of French and Indian academics, brought together veterans of Indian Central Asian studies A. Patnaik, K. Warikoo, S. Chatterjee, A. Sengupta, S. Gopal, and some others and prominent French Orientalists M. Laruelle and S. Peyrouse, which makes it an important contribution to Central Asian studies.
The book consists of three parts. Part I “The Past as a Link? Reassessing Indo-Central Asian History” covers the common history of India and Central Asia; it forms a bridge between the past and the present: as close neighbors, the two civilizations and regions maintained intensive contacts in the past, which were cut short in later periods. The historical memory of the new post-colonial Indian elite about contacts with Central Asia in the past has obviously bred (albeit in confabulated form) the ideas and strategic approaches of the present. The first part concentrates on the question of whether the mechanism of historical contacts of the two regions will continue to function in the 21st century.
Part II “Contextualizing Indo-Central Asian Relations” looks at the present period as a time of hopes, disillusions, and…………..