Policy Paper No. 2 – Political and security relations – Mapping Central Asia’s relations with other Asian states

The second SEnECA Policy Paper focuses on the political and security relations between the five Central Asian countries on the one hand, and India, Japan, Iran, Turkey and South Korea on the other. When talking about Central Asian countries’ relations with other powers, the focus is mostly laid on the EU, Russia or China. However, the five countries mentioned above describe a vital part of the regional power balance and should be mentioned. So, what are the issues that Central Asian countries collaborate on with India, Japan, Iran, Turkey and South Korea? Do these issues differ from country to country, or can patterns be found across the region?

Few of the countries examined have included one another in their national strategy papers, with the exception of Turkey. Ankara features prominently in the foreign policy strategies of all five of the Central Asian states. With deep historical ties, since their independence, Central Asian states have relied on Turkey’s assistance to enter international economic, financial and political multilateral organisations. The majority of Central Asian states have also supported Japan in its bid for a UN Security Council seat and vote alongside South Korea in UN votes.

Political ties are also underscored by shared security threats and challenges. The continued instability in Afghanistan, in particular, is a concern for countries in this region given that drug trafficking as well as the potential risks around radicalisation and terrorism remain a considerable challenge. Afghanistan is a particular driver of activity for India, Japan and South Korea.

Furthermore, Central Asian republics and South Korea have a similar understanding of responsibility for international security and stability in Asia. Central Asian states and the other Asian states covered in this paper have had few disputes. There has in the past been political tension between Turkey and several Central Asian states for a variety of reasons. Iran has had a variety of disputes over territorial boundaries and natural resources, as well as Iran’s nuclear programme and the resulting restrictions placed on Iran in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement between the EU and Iran on curtailing Iran’s nuclear programme. Indeed, the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty also ensured that the support for a country’s nuclear weapons programme was limited. Despite this, Iran has, by some countries, been used as a counterbalance to Russian influence in Central Asia.

Read the full paper here.