Europe & Central Asia

Prospects of Japan’s Assistance for Central Asia – In the Aftermath of Prime Minister Abe’s Visit to Central Asia

Photograph: Naoki Nihei
Photograph: Naoki Nihei

The year 2015 was an important year for international development – the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’ that will determine the global development goals for the next 15 years. We, contributors of this article argue that 2015 will proved to have been a remarkable year for the relationships between Japan and Central Asian countries as well. The Prime Minister Abe visited Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, where the independence from USSR was declared in 1991 in late October. It has been nine years since the last Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to Central Asia by Junichiro Koizumi in 2006. At that time, former Prime Minister Koizumi visited only Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which are historically the region’s leading powers. In that regard, Prime Minister Abe’s visit to all five former Soviet Central Asian countries was a meaningful event for relationship between Japan and Central Asia.

Japan has built up a new relationship with this region through three steps: (1) from 1992 to 1997, soon after the region’s independence from USSR, Japan started provision of ODA to the region, (2) from 1997 to 2001, Japan initiated the ‘Silk Road Diplomacy’ which was blueprinted by the former Prime Minister Hashimoto, and (3) in 2004, former Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi started the policy dialogue ‘Central Asia plus Japan’. Through these processes, Japan has been strengthening its relationship with Central Asian countries. During the period of the first Abe Cabinet, which was a neo-conservative regime, former Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso introduced the policy ‘The Arc of Freedom and Prosperity’ as a form of ‘Value Oriented Diplomacy’, which aims to strengthen the relationship with states which share “common values such as democracy and the protection of human rights. Building on this policy, Japan has continued the cooperation with Central Asian countries by introducing ‘Central Asia plus Japan’ policy dialogue.

The historical progression described above suggests that Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Central Asia in October 2015 has provided the Government of Japan with the opportunity to reexamine their diplomatic approach to Central Asia. In July 2015, Indian Prime Minister Modi proposed ed the ‘Silk Road in 21th Century’ during his visit to five Central Asian countries. On the other hand, China has been developing the huge economic zone ‘New Silk Road – One Belt, One Road’ and has been working on deepening its involvement in this region through establishment of ‘Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)’ and building infrastructure connecting Europe and China through Central Asia from sea and land routes.

Starting from the invasion into Afghanistan after September 11th, the international community has experienced various events that could relate to Central Asian region, such as the crisis in Ukraine, Arab Spring, and the rise of IS. In particular, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that share their southern borders with Afghanistan were strongly influenced by the security issues over Afghanistan.

This paper provides recommendations as to how Japan should partner with this region for the purpose of the future economic and social development of Central Asia by reviewing the relationship between Central Asia and Japan and the current situation of development of Central Asian countries.

 

Authors: Study Group on Development in Central Asia and Caucasus Region

  • Naoki Nihei, Central Asia and the Caucasus Division, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
  • Akitoshi Iio, Ex-JICA ODA Loans Advisor (Central Asia Region)/Project Formulation Advisor, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Ethiopia Office.
  • Ryota Saito, Ph.D. candidate of Graduate school of Humanities and Social sciences in University of Tsukuba.

 

Special Edition: Prospects of Japan’s Assistance for Central Asia

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