Policy Paper 2. Reform and Change in Uzbekistan

Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies jointly with the NESA Center for Strategic Studies, UA: Ukraine Analytica and the OSCE Academy in Bishkek introduces its second policy papers, edited by Roger Kangas. Policy Paper 2 is devoted to reform and change in Uzbekistan.

It is widely believed that Central Asia had entered a new phase of “multilateral cooperation” that has taken place since Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016. Uzbekistan has recently gone through a ‘smooth’ political transition. The country was led by Islam Karimov for almost 25 years since independence. After his death in 2016, then Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev became the President. Mirziyoyev’s emergence as the new leader was barely surprising, as he had served as country’s Head of Government for more than a decade.

Uzbekistan is a strategically important country. It is centrally located in Central Asia, and borders all other Central Asian Republics (CARs) and Afghanistan. It is also the most populous country in the region, having ethno-cultural linkages with all the neighbors. Therefore, any major political event in Uzbekistan is bound to have a profound impact on rest of the region.

However, if we look at the situation without “rose-colored glasses,” it becomes obvious that all steps that the Mirziyoyev administration is trying to make are nothing more than an attempt to simply restore the relations of good-neighborliness with a high degree of economic complementarity between the Central Asian Five that the countries of the region enjoyed during the Soviet period.

In the end, the Mirziyoyev regime is seen as walking the extra miles to popularize the Strategy amongst the people of Uzbekistan, as well as the world community. The government is publishing books, articles, posters and pamphlets, conducting talks, seminars, and conferences in Uzbekistan and in other countries to let people know about their reforms. The Embassies of Uzbekistan are instructed to spread the word in their respective countries. This kind of ‘over exuberance’ and hyper-activity of the state machinery is understandably raising a few eyebrows. In the nutshell, Mirziyoyev’s reforms are being received positively by the people, as well as by the strategic community in the region. Some of the changes, like improving relations with neighbors, are welcome and praiseworthy. However, one needs to be ‘cautiously optimistic’ about these reforms.

Read the full paper Reform and Change in Uzbekistan.

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