As we learned in this week case study, after the US imposed its sanctions on Iran, it turned to its Eastern neighbors and successfully developed mutually beneficial relationship with Russia, China and India. In addition, Iran reached out to Central Asian states, including Uzbekistan. Initially, Iran was treated “coldly” because of the fear of the spread of the political/radical Islam. Iran respected the wishes and only pursued its economic interests in the region.
It also obtained an observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) led by China, and became an important part of the Chinese Silk Road project, taking an active participation in numerous railroad and road infrastructure development throughout the Central Asian states.
Iran and Uzbekistan developed successful bilateral trade relations (reaching over $400 million US dollars in 2014, according to the Uzbek ministry of foreign affairs webpage). Iran receives Uzbek cotton, metals, fertilizers, chemical fibers and exports construction materials and consumer products. Both countries signed cooperation agreements in different sectors, such as agriculture, transport, oil, gas, construction, pharmaceuticals and banking. Uzbekistan also received access to the Persian Gulf region through the Iranian ports.
There is an active exchange of delegations, meetings and visits between the governments of both countries. In the recent visit to Tehran, the Uzbek envoy expressed the following, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has a special political position in the region and its economic capacities are outstanding; Tashkent has always prioritized broadening of all-out relations with Tehran.”
As we learned in the earlier post, President Karimov has been commended for his ability to maintain diplomatic balance with the West and the East, always looking out for Uzbek interests.
Cooperation with Iran serves two purposes, internal – developing relations with Uzbekistan and each of the Central Asian states; and external – helping China and Russia counterbalance the West. At the same time, Iran’s growing role in Central Asia should not be ignored by its partners in the East and in the West.
Cooperation of the Republic of Uzbekistan with Near East, Middle East and African Countries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Retrieved from http://www.mfa.uz/en/cooperation/countries/376/
Iran Calls for Broadening of Trade Ties with Uzbekistan (October 27, 2015). FARS News Agency. Retrieved from http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13940805001239
Iran’s Growing Role in Central Asia? Geopolitical, Economic and Political Profit and Loss Account (2014). ALJAZEERA CENTER FOR STUDIES. Retrieved from https://studies.aljazeera.net/en/dossiers/2014/04/2014416940377354.html
Why is Central Asia Excited About the Iran Deal? (April 2015). The Diplomat. Retrieved from http://thediplomat.com/2015/04/why-is-central-asia-excited-about-the-iran-deal/