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Mainstream, Vol XLVII No 12, March 7, 2009

Karimov‘s Gamble

Saturday 7 March 2009, by Mansoor Ali

President Karimov of Uzbekistan is once again taking steps to align his country with the West in general and the US in particular. By initiating moves to build strong ties with the new US Administration he is seeking to come under Washington’s protective umbrella. Tashkent is simultaneously engaged in blackmailing Moscow: Uzbekistan is threatening Russia by projecting the possibility of the Central Asian state’s withdrawal from such regional organisations as, for example, the EuroAsian Economic Community.

This is a shortsighted approach. In the past too, that is, before the events in Andijan in 2005, Uzbekistan had changed the course of its foreign policy by hitching on to the Western bandwagon, giving the Americans the opportunity to use its airbases. What was the consequence of such “generosity” on the part of Tashkent? Washington conveyed its “gratitude” by extending support to the jihadist conspiracy in Andijan.

That the Uzbek leaders failed to learn proper lessons from that development is revealed by Karimov’s latest strategic move: to balance between the great powers to derive maximum benefit for himself and his nation. What he is unable to comprehend is that such a foreign policy trajectory could result in both Russia and the West losing confidence in Uzbekistan.

Uzbek leaders naively believe that the West would be prepared to close its eyes to the human rights violations in the country in exchange for the US’ political, military and economic influence in the region facilitated by Tashkent’s “benevolent” acts. They should understand that the US will be ready to fully back the incumbent Karimov regime only if American military presence in Uzbekistan is ensured.

It is clear as daylight that the US authorities are striving to drive a wedge into the regional organisations set up with Russian and Chinese participation. There are ample indications from available information to conclude that the Obama Administration in Washington is determined to pursue George W. Bush’s bankrupt strategy of restricting the influence of Moscow and Beijing in the region.

The rulers in Tashkent need to be reminded that for all its pious declaration Washington patronises international terrorism and drug trafficking, strains its utmost to discredit the activities of the UN, systematically violates international legal regulations, interferes in the internal affairs of other states and installs puppets governments therein. Those in charge of the White House justify such activities militating against all norms of justice, human rights and rule of law by asserting that this is the only—and the best—way to spread and develop democracy across the globe! This is the real face of the US that has been unmasked before the people in all parts of the world, especially Latin America.

Let the Uzbek leaders headed by Karimov chart their pro-US policy once more; but they are sure to shortly come to the stark realisation again that this strategy is fraught with peril for their sovereignty, independence and freedom of action: they would have to barter these away for a few pieces of silver. If they are prepared to take the plunge with the full knowledge of this danger lurking on the horizon one can only wish them Godspeed!

The undeniable truth is that Karimov is indulging in a costly gamble for which he and his country will soon have to come to grief.

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