From the CIAO Atlas Map of Asia 

Strategic Analysis

Strategic Analysis:
A Monthly Journal of the IDSA

May 2001 (Vol. XXV No. 2)


Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership in Central Asia: Implications for India
By Jyotsna Bakshi *



The Shanghai Five, formed in 1996 by Russia, China and the three bordering Central Asian states, provides the formal structure of Sino-Russian strategic partnership in Central Asia. It began with confidence building measures (CBMs) on the border and subsequently included other fields of cooperation.

China's policy of developing its western areas and Russia's policy of promoting regional integration through the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) and collective security treaty, aim at strengthening positions in their respective parts of Central Asia. China is utilising the Shanghai Forum for curbing Uighur separatism, promoting the "one China" concept and getting access to the energy resources of Central Asia and Russia. It is not directly questioning Russia's traditional role, but is trying to fill up available spaces that include increasing military contacts.

India and Russia regard Central Asia and Afghanistan as areas of common concern. The fact that Sino-Russian and Central Asian rapprochement and boundary settlements have been accompanied by peace and tranquillity agreements and CBMs in the border areas between India and China also, is significant.

India may not like to formally join the Shanghai Forum and sign its resolutions without due quid pro quo, especially from China with whom it has an unresolved border dispute. But, India can be an observer and cooperate with the Forum on issues of common concern like combatting narco-terrorism.

Central Asia in the recent past came to be divided between the Russian/Soviet and the Chinese state systems or "empires". Tibet and eastern Turkestan or the Xinjiang region came under Chinese possession and western Turkestan (comprising the present Central Asian Republics) became a part of the Tsarist Russian Empire and subsequently of the Soviet Union. Inner Mongolia became a part of China and the Mongolian People's Republic gravitated towards the Soviet bloc. The developments in Central Asia have always impacted on India, and India and Central Asia have maintained contacts since times immemorial. The British rulers of India participated in the "great game" over Central Asia and Afghanistan in the last century with a view to consolidating their hold on their prized Indian possession, but they abstained from seeking direct possession. By mutual consent through the treaty of 1907, Afghanistan was turned into a buffer state between Tsarist Russia and British India. The weak Chinese Empire in the 19th century sought to play on the contradictions of various imperialist powers and maintained a nominal sovereignty, even as it was divided into spheres of influence of various European powers. Envisaging a greater challenge from the more dominant and expanding Russian Empire, the British rulers of India tended to uphold the Chinese claims to sovereignty over Central Asian regions over which imperial Chinese hold was just nominal.

The 20th century witnessed the rise and fall of the mighty Soviet Union, the emergence of independent India after the creation of Pakistan, as well as the birth of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The disintegration of the Soviet Union completely changed the map of Central Asia and Eurasia. The geopolitical and strategic balance of power in the region and the world at large underwent a radical change. The Soviet leviathan suddenly collapsed and independence was thrust on the Central Asian Republics (CARs) that had not asked for it. Russia, the main successor state, went into convulsions accompanying the post-Soviet systemic change and economic and military decline. China, that since 1978 was already experimenting with a free market economic boom while retaining tight political control by the Communist Party, viewed the developments leading to the Soviet collapse with considerable trepidation and caution. China's own democratic movement was crushed with a heavy hand at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Soviet disintegration into 15 independent states presented both challenges and opportunities to Beijing. With the decline of the geopolitical weight and power of Moscow, that of Beijing correspondingly rose. The emergence of independent CARs opened up possibilities of enhancing Chinese influence in the geopolitically important and resource rich Central Asia. At the same time, Beijing's rulers were stung by the lurking apprehension of growing ethnic assertiveness and separatism among the restive Uighur Muslim minority in their Xinjiang province bordering on the Central Asian states. Beijing, therefore, opted for proceeding cautiously in dealing with Central Asia as well as Russia by laying greater emphasis on the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. At the same time, China tried to get the Central Asian regimes to commit to upholding China's unity and territorial integrity while abstaining from any assistance or encouragement to Uighur separatism in Xinjiang. China also abstained from trying to take advantage of the difficulties of Russia and the Central Asian states in the immediate post-Soviet period. It was constantly recognised in the Chinese writings that despite its current difficulties, Russia remains a great power with immense potential. China, therefore, joined hands with Russia in developing an abiding framework for peace and cooperation in the region. In the long term, China, in fact, hopes to gain much more in terms of extending its influence in the region through cooperative security mechanisms, rather than through a short-sighted overtly ambitious and adventurous policy.

During the bipolar Cold War years, Moscow was locked in hostile relations with the West and subsequently with China also. Economically and militarily a much weaker Russia has reversed gears and is now seeking friendship and accommodation with all the countries around it, including the West as well as China and India. Although initially the orientation of the Russian policy was totally towards the West, subsequently growing disenchantment with the West appears to have contributed to the emergence of a broad consensus in the Russian strategic community regarding the need for a balanced and "multi-directional" policy.

There is little doubt that the developments in Sino-Russian relations in general and their partnership or otherwise in Central Asia hold considerable import for India and its overall geopolitical interests in the region.

The Beginning of the Shanghai Five

The Shanghai Five grouping symbolises the formal structure of what may be regarded as Sino-Russian strategic partnership in Central Asia. Improvement in Sino-Russian relations prepared the ground for wider cooperation among Russia, China and the bordering CARs-Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan-known as the Shanghai Five. The process of improvement of Moscow-Beijing relations had started in the Eighties under Mikhail Gorbachev. The Soviet-Chinese border agreement in the eastern section was signed on May 16, 1991, and the Sino-Russian agreement on the western sector of the border on September 3, 1994. The joint statement on the foundation of mutual relations signed at the time of President Yeltsin's first visit to China in December 1992, stipulated that the two countries would establish a good-neighbourly and mutually beneficial relationship based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. It was called the stage of "friendly, cooperative partnership" between Russia and China. 1 The second Sino-Russian joint statement issued in September 1994 at the time of President Jiang Zemin's Moscow visit defined their bilateral relationship as "constructive partnership oriented toward the 21st century". The two countries also committed themselves to no-first-use of nuclear weapons and to not target nuclear-armed missiles against each other. At the base of Sino-Russian rapprochement lay the realisation that in the post-Soviet and post-Cold War world in which the US-led West occupied an overwhelmingly predominant position, the two countries could both gain by cooperating with each other. Moscow's and Beijing's earlier perception of each other as a threat, thus, gave way to a growing cooperative partnership. The joint statement signed by Russia and China in April 1996 proclaimed the forging of a "strategic partnership of equality and trust oriented towards the 21st century". China supported Russia in opposing the eastward extension of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The next joint statement issued at the time of Jiang Zemin's Moscow visit in April 1997, called for the development of a multi-polar world order instead of a unipolar world dominated by a single superpower. During President Yeltsin's Beijing visit in November 1997, it has been decided to establish the mechanism of biannual meetings at the prime ministers' level.

Whatever might be the reservations, concerns and apprehensions in certain Russian circles, forging of extensive cooperative ties with China remains one of the main thrusts of the current Russian policy. 2

The example set by Russia and China was followed by other Central Asian states. Presidents Nazarbayev, Karimov, Akayev, Niyazov, and Rahmonov from the Central Asian countries all visited China and documents defining good neighbourly relationships between each of these countries and China were signed. In 1994, Premier Li Peng of China paid an official visit to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Premier Li Peng sought to assure the Central Asian leaders that China would forever be a good friend of the Central Asian countries, and that it would not pursue a sphere of influence in Central Asia, political or economic. China offered the landlocked Central Asian states an outlet to the sea on its Pacific coast. 3 The Chinese took particular credit that in the early difficult years border trade with China helped Russia and other Central Asian states in warding off severe shortages of food and consumer goods.

The "Agreement on Strengthening Military Confidence in Border Areas" signed on April 26, 1996 at Shanghai by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan created the grouping that came to be known as the Shanghai Five. The agreement stipulated that the troops of the sides stationed in the border areas would not attack each other. As a confidence building measure (CBM), it was agreed that the signatories would notify the other side about large-scale military exercises. They would invite observers from the other side to military manoeuvres and exercises. Friendly contacts among the military personnel of the sides would be encouraged.

The first step in building the structure of Sino-Russian partnership in Central Asia, thus, comprised CBMs in the entire former Soviet-China border area. Other steps gradually followed. The priority before the post-Soviet Russia and the CARs was domestic politico-economic systemic transformation. For this, they needed a stable, and favourable external environment, and peace on the border. China also accorded highest priority to the task of economic modernisation that required peace on the borders. Russia was not in a position to re-impose or hold on to its historical control and influence over the region. China's population and economic power are largely concentrated in its eastern coastal part. China's position on its western front in Central Asia in the immediate post-Soviet period, thus, was rather defensive. It wanted to forestall the possibility of the assertion of the Uighur demand for independence in Xinjiang. The newly independent states of Central Asia were extremely fragile in political, economic and military terms. Both Moscow and Beijing were concerned that any instability and turbulence in Central Asia would spill over to their bordering areas. The two, therefore, decided to join hands for ensuring peace, stability and implementing CBMs in the region.

One important feature of the border negotiations that took place in Central Asia was that the three CARs negotiated together along with Russia with China within the framework of four plus one. Significantly, this practice was given up in November 2000, as conveyed to this author by a visiting delegation from the Moscow Institute of Far Eastern Studies. The Central Asians from now onwards shall be negotiating bilaterally with China, which, in fact, goes in China's favour.

Annual Summit Meetings of the Shanghai Five

In their second summit meeting in Moscow in 1997, the five signed the "Agreement on Mutual Reduction of Military Forces in the Border Areas". The agreement provided that in the 100 km zone on each side of the former Soviet-China border, the total strength of the army, air force and air units of the air defence force should not exceed 1,30,400. The agreement also established a supervisory mechanism over the military forces on the borders. The second agreement, thus, was aimed at reducing the number of the border forces to the level of defensive purposes only. The sides reiterated not to use force or the threat to use force, not to pursue military supremacy, and agreed to exchange of information on border military forces. The objective was to promote transparency and mutual trust and make military activities on the border predictable and subject to supervision.

Both Russia and China and the concerned Central Asian leaders are extremely upbeat about their achievements within the Shanghai Five framework. It is regarded as a new type of constructive and practical diplomacy that has imparted stability and predictability along the more than 7,500-km-long border through military CBMs. President Jiang Zemin was reported to have remarked that the Shanghai Five presented a model distinct from the Cold War mindset. The Russian president called it a unique document in the world. President Nazarbayev hailed it as unprecedented in the contemporary world. 4

The beginning of the Shanghai Five process coincided with the change of the stewardship of the Russian Foreign Ministry. In January 1996, Andrei Kozyrev was replaced by Yevgeny Primakov. Although disenchantment with the totally Westward orientation and a certain shift in the country's policy had begun much earlier in 1993-94, still Kozyrev bore the tag of being pro-West. Primakov laid greater stress on a more balanced policy between the West and the East and is associated with the concept of pursuing a "multipolar" world order.

The third summit was held at Alma-Ata in June-July 1998. President Yeltsin did not attend the Alma-Ata summit of the Shanghai Five. In his place, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov attended the summit. The joint declaration underlined the readiness of all the parties to continue to foster an atmosphere of "genuine friendship and complete trust" along the border. The joint declaration also outlined the progress made in border demilitarisation. The new element introduced during the summit was the fact that all the speakers took note of the threat to regional security posed by the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, the growth of drug trafficking, mounting religious extremism, separatism and aggressive nationalism in the region. The declaration included their commitment to fight these forces.

In addition, the signatories showed common interest in developing "pipeline infrastructure among the five states, with connections to other countries." The main reference was to the large-scale project to build a 3,000-km-long oil pipeline from western Kazakhstan to western China. Russia was reported to be showing interest in it, as the Russian companies expected a share in the construction contracts. 5

However, the fact that President Yeltsin did not attend the summit and subsequently his inability to attend the ceremony of the presentation of the new Kazakhstan capital Astana, were regarded as a slight by the Kazakhs as the personal bond between the leaders of the post-Soviet republics was regarded as the main cementing factor in the former Soviet space. 6

The Shanghai Five has provided a platform for real achievements in the field of CBMs on the border and has speeded up the process of settling the border disputes and demarcation of the border alignment on the ground. At the same time, the Shanghai Five has also been used by the parties as a platform for voicing good intentions, and adopting a self-righteous position in a world driven by power politics. 7

The fourth summit of the Shanghai Five took place at Bishkek on August 25, 1999. The background to the Bishkek summit was provided by the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, an event that brought Moscow and Beijing closer to each other in a joint struggle against hegemonism and the use of force without UN sanction. On his arrival at the Bishkek airport, President Yeltsin remarked about his readiness for a battle, "especially with Westerners". Softening the impact of President Yeltsin's words, the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, however, remarked that, "the closer Russia-China relations, the greater stability in the world" and added "the more constructive cooperation with the US, the greater stability in the world." 8

During the Bishkek summit it was emphasised that the original task set at Shanghai (1996) to build confidence and give an additional impetus to border cooperation, has been fulfilled. 9 New tasks are now emerging. These are: the struggle against international terrorism, illegal drug trafficking and arms smuggling, as well as illegal emigration and other forms of across-the -border criminal acts. Two major developments provided the background for the Bishkek summit: (a) the bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO forces; and (b) the increased activity of Islamic militants in Uzbekistan, including the attempt on President Karimov's life in February 1999, violent acts in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan, the summer attack on the border villages of Dagestan and the apartment bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities by suspected Chechen militants. The Bishkek Declaration stressed the sides' agreement on appropriate joint measures in 1999-2000 on terrorism and arms and drug trafficking, etc. Commenting on the Bishkek summit, the official media stressed that the Shanghai Five is not a political military bloc. Its main objective is to pursue sub-regional security. It was also said that the Shanghai Five is not directed against other countries. 10 The Bishkek Declaration also upheld the concept of multipolarity as the general trend for the development of the present-day world.

The sides expressed the intention to develop trade and economic cooperation between the five countries and supported the idea of reviving the "Diplomacy of the Silk Road".

At the Dushanbe summit on July 5, 2000, cooperation in the field of combatting national separatism, international terrorism, and religious extremism as well as weapons and drugs trafficking and illegal immigration became the main focus of attention. For this purpose, the five countries agreed to work out multilateral programmes, sign multilateral treaties and accords and hold regular meetings of officers from their justice, border and customs departments. 11

The border CBMs entered the new stage of implementation of the Shanghai agreements. Izvestia, for instance, reported that the first mutual inspection under the Shanghai Five framework took place in Russia's maritime territory, and another inspection would be held in the adjacent region in the northeast of China. Observers from all the five states can take part on a voluntary basis in each such inspection. 12

The declaration adopted at Dushanbe endorsed the common positions of the big two-Russia and China-on many regional and world issues as well as some favourite projects of Central Asian leaders. For instance, it endorsed the concept of a multi-polar world. Respect for human rights is mentioned with the rider that the historic specifics of every state should be heeded during the application of this principle. The application of this principle should not run counter to other generally recognised principles of international law. The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) should be universally joined. The declaration endorses a nuclear free zone (NFZ) in Central Asia, as well as the conference on interaction and confidence building measures in Asia (CICA) proposal. The declaration opposes the use of force in international relations without prior permission of the United Nations (UN) Security Council. It stresses that the UN role should be strengthened as the main mechanism for maintaining international peace and stability. The declaration also underscores the unconditional need for preserving and unfailingly observing the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which bans the creation of national ABM systems. The ABM Treaty is seen as the cornerstone of strategic stability and the foundation for subsequent strategic offensive arms cuts. The parties also oppose the US plan to build the National Missile Defence (NMD) system and the deployment of the Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) system in the Asia-Pacific region the and support the position of China, which opposes plans to incorporate Taiwan into such a system.

The Dushanbe Declaration expresses support for "the striving and efforts of China to maintain unity in the country in accordance with 'one China' principle" and for "Russia's stand on the settlement of the situation in the Chechen Republic". In view of the Western criticism of Russian military action in Chechnya, the support of the Shanghai Five appeared to be welcome relief for the Russian authorities. In all the formulations, China equates the Taiwan issue with that of Chechnya. It is advantageous to the Chinese as the Chinese do not have any control over Taiwan, while Russians have Chechnya under their effective military control, despite continued militant violence in the region.

President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan for the first time participated as an observer. He did not sign the declaration. President Putin proposed that the Shanghai Five should be called the Shanghai Forum. Hints were also given regarding its possible extension with the participation of other states of the region. 13

China's Policy Towards Central Asia: Initial Emphasis on Transport, Trade and Economic Links

China's policy towards Central Asia is determined by its desire to have a belt of good-neighbourly states on its sensitive western borders across Xinjiang, where it is facing the problem of Uighur separatism. Uighurs constitute 8 million of the 17 million population of Xinjiang. China is keen to ensure that the newly independent Central Asian states do not give any support and encouragement to the Uighurs in Xinjiang. There are around 200,000 Uighurs in Kazakhstan and around 50,000 in Kyrgyzstan. 14 On the other hand, there are small Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tajik minorities in Xinjiang. Second, the Chinese objective is to get access to the energy resources of Central Asia. Lastly, China is interested in the Central Asian markets and in enhancing its economic influence in the region. Initially, the task of ensuring security of the Central Asian region has been largely left to Moscow, the traditional guarantor of security in the region. China has concentrated on enhancing transport, trade and economic links. Russian commentators have appreciated the gesture that China has agreed to settle the border issue with the Central Asian states together with Russia in the framework of four plus one, which is seen as the Chinese recognition of Russia's special role in the region. 15 However, now it is reported that bilateral talks will replace the four plus one framework, which indeed goes against the interest of the CARs and is advantageous to the Chinese.

It appears that without directly questioning Russia's traditional role in Central Asia, China is persistently making inroads in the region by filling up available spaces. Significantly, China is also seeking to establish military contacts with the Central Asian states. Reports of growing military exchanges between China and the CARs and offers of military assistance by the former to the latter are also appearing of late. The Chinese military delegations are visiting the CARs. The Turkmen defence minister visited China in September 1999 and expressed interest in cooperation with China in the field of military training and use of equipment. 16 China extended aid of 11 million yuan to the Kazakh armed forces during the visit of the Kazakh defence minister to China in April-end 2000. 17 On July 13, 2000, a Chinese military delegation visited Tajikistan. 18 On July 23, 1999, the visiting Chinese military delegation pledged aid to Kazakhstan. 19 Of late, China has also enhanced its military ties with Uzbekistan, where the government under President Islam Karimov is carrying on a determined struggle against Islamic militancy and extremism. The author has been told that China wishes to send troops to Tajikistan which has a 1,000-km-long border with Afghanistan to counter Islamic terrorists. A large number of Islamic militants are believed to have training bases in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. China is facing the problem of militancy among its disgruntled Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang. It is an issue of particular concern as the Sino-Tajik border is yet not settled and demarcated on the ground. China has not yet renounced its claim to 28,000 sq. km. of mountainous Tajik territory, which is not very far from India's northern border in Jammu & Kashmir. Increase in the Chinese military influence in the bordering region of Central Asia is likely to alter the current power balance, which inter alia may be a matter of concern to India.

Immediately after the emergence of independent states in Central Asia, the Chinese quickly established rail and road links with the bordering CARs. Cheap Chinese consumer goods flooded the region. China has also extended access to the sea to the land-locked Central Asian states through its ports on the Pacific Ocean. Traditionally, all transport and communications links of Central Asia have been through Russia. Access to the sea across the Chinese territory helps the CARs in their search for alternative routes and in that measure reduces their dependence on Moscow. The revival of the ancient Silk Road network linking China across Central Asia to Europe and the Middle East has caught the imagination of all concerned. Moscow is keen to ensure that Russia is not bypassed in the transport and pipeline building activities in the region. It would like to be connected with them. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is keenly projecting itself as a bridge between Europe and Asia through the transport network across Russian territory. It has enthusiastically supported the route from China across Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus to Poland 20 as the northern branch of the "Silk Road".

China has a vital interest in getting access to the vast energy resources of both Russia and Central Asia in view of the increasing energy requirements of its growing economy. In view of ambitious Western projects to take Central Asian and Caspian oil and gas westwards through a new network of pipelines, China is keen to ensure that the Caspian oil and gas are not delivered only to the West. Moscow, which was the sole custodian of Central Asian and Caspian Sea energy resources and pipeline network under the Soviet Union, has reasons to be greatly concerned at the Western interests and presence in the region. The Russian analysts believe that to a certain extent it is possible to collaborate with China with a view to jointly resisting Western pressure and designs in the Caspian Sea and Central Asian regions. This is regarded as the economic logic behind the two powers calling for a "multipolar" world. 21

In the field of energy, the economies of Russia and the CARs, on the one hand, and China, on the other, are mutually complementary. In fact, Moscow regards the Central Asians as its competitors as energy suppliers. However, the best practical option before Moscow is to create mutual dependence with China by way of building oil and gas pipelines from the Russian Far East and Siberia to China. Moscow is also seeking a share in the Central Asian energy network. In June 1997, during the visit of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to China, the two countries signed an agreement on cooperation in oil and natural gas production and laying of pipelines. Under the agreement, the two would cooperate in the exploration of gas in Irkutsk in Russia's Far East, and gas supply from Kovykta gas deposit from Irkutsk district to China by a 3,360-km-long pipeline across Mongolia.

It has been projected that after the year 2005, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries will be the main source of natural gas for China. China is reported to be "conducting an active policy of attracting the gas resources of adjacent states". Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are the main partners of China. 22 On September 24, 1997, China and Kazakhstan signed a $9.5 billion agreement for the development of oil and gas fields in western Kazakhstan with Chinese aid. China is to receive 60 per cent of the oil thus produced. The agreement envisaged the construction of a 3,000-km-long pipeline from Kazakhstan to China. 23 China is particularly interested in gaining access to Turkmen gas and thus ensuring future energy security. The China-Turkmenistan joint statement issued on July 6, 2000, at the time of President Jiang Zemin's visit to Ashgabat, attaches special importance to strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation in the energy field. The two sides have agreed to conduct a feasibility study on the project of laying a natural gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan and China. The pipeline is going to be 8,000 km long and cost upwards of $12 billion. Such a route was first discussed several years ago. In the intervening years, it appeared to be dead because of the high construction cost. However, China's growing energy needs appear to have rekindled the discussion. 24

No doubt, their common interest in stability and in checking the growing influence of the West and NATO in the region, as well as the coincidence of their interests in the field of energy have provided the template for building the architecture of Sino-Russian strategic partnership in Central Asia.

Russia Remains the Main Guarantor of Security in Central Asia

While talking of Sino-Russian strategic partnership in Central Asia, it may be kept in view that Russia had inherited from the former Soviet Union almost exclusive historical influence over the CARs that remained cut off from the outside world under the Tsarist and Soviet rule. However, as the CARs consolidated their independence and established multifarious contacts with the outside world, the exclusive Russian hold was bound to be eroded. Nevertheless, Russia remained and continues to be the main guarantor of security in Central Asia.

At the time of Soviet disintegration, the newly independent states of Central Asia were militarily, politically and economically weak and naturally came within the security parameters of Moscow. In May 1992, a CIS collective security treaty was signed in Tashkent for the protection of the CIS borders. In August 1992, except for Turkmenistan, all other Central Asian states along with Russia created a 25,000-strong Russian-Central Asian force to protect the Tajik-Afghan borders to keep the Islamic militants at bay. Russia deployed its 201 Motorised Rifle division and units of its Federal Border Service in Tajikistan.

China has to reckon with this fact while dealing with Russia and the CARs.

Russia Loses Economic Position in Central Asia

Owing to a steep decline in its economy (the Russian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 40 to 50 per cent in the first few years of economic reforms) and its continued economic woes, Russia was in no position to maintain its traditional and historical hold over the Central Asian economies. All the CARs have diversified their political and economic ties with the outside world, more particularly with the Western countries that have surplus capital and modern technologies. Central Asia and the Caspian region being rich in hydrocarbon resources and other valuable minerals and metals became particularly attractive to Western countries and multinational corporations. Their geopolitical location in the heart of Asia close to the borders of Russia, China, the Indian subcontinent, Iran and the Middle East added to their value in the eyes of the West. Russia's trade and investment in the CARs have declined while those of the Western countries, Japan, South Korea and China have increased. 25

Moscow Seeks Selective Integration

To the chagrin and consternation of Moscow, the USA has declared the promotion of "geopolitical pluralism" in the former Soviet space as its goal. The most populous state of Uzbekistan in Central Asia, oil-rich Azerbaijan in Trans-Caucasus, and the second most powerful and advanced former Soviet Slavic republic of Ukraine have invited special US attention in this effort. With Western blessings and encouragement a pro-Western grouping of southern and southwestern former Soviet states comprising Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova (GUUAM) was formed mainly for economic and partly for political purposes. The West is promoting and sponsoring the East-West transport route known as the Transport Corrider Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA) and laying of the Baku-Ceyhan and Baku-Supsa oil and gas pipelines that would bypass Russian and Iranian territories. The US decision to extend the country's command responsibility zone to the former Soviet republics aroused particular Russian concern and the issue was repeatedly taken up by Russia with the USA at the highest level. 26

In response to the Western challenge, Russia has sought selective integration with the inner core of the former Soviet republics, which, for various reasons, are more willing for it. On March 29, 1996, a Customs Union was signed between four republics, viz., Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Subsequently, Tajikistan also has joined the Customs Union. With three out of five Central Asian states being within the Customs Union, Russia remains an important player in Central Asia. Uzbekistan chose to adopt an independent pro-Western course, while Turkmenistan from the very beginning proclaimed a policy of neutrality.

Moscow has constantly been wooing Uzbekistan because it has the largest population among the CARs and has considerable geopolitical weight in Central Asia. Thus, on October 12, 1998, during his visit to Tashkent, President Yeltsin signed a tripartite agreement for countering aggressive fundamentalism and extremism in the region with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and President Imomali Rahmanov of Tajikistan. President Karimov is carrying on a determined struggle against Islamic militants in the country who are especially strong in the Fergana Valley on the trijunction of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

In February 1999, the Russian position in the region suffered a setback when Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova decided to leave the collective security treaty. The Moscow-led collective security treaty was thereafter renewed with six members only, viz., Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. However, the collective security treaty and the Customs Union ensure that Russia maintains its presence and clout in Central Asia.

Rise in Western Influence

There has been an undisputed growth in the Western interest and influence in the region. Increase in Western investments in the region has also created vested interests in the US-led Western countries in the security set-up in the region. Much to the chagrin and consternation of Moscow, the USA has pronounced Central Asia and the Caspian region as areas of special US interest. In July 1994, all the former Soviet republics along with Russia joined NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme. In September 1997, military exercises for the first time took place in three of the CARs-Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan-under the PfP programme with the participation of troops from the USA, Turkey and other Western countries. Russia, no doubt, felt deeply concerned as the area thus far came under the total security cover of Moscow. But Moscow opted for avoiding a showdown with the West and acquiesced by sending its own contingent in the exercises. Since then the exercises have become an annual feature. There have been reports of US military assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, among others. However, the fact remains that Russia happens to be the next door big power in Central Asia. Whatever small military establishments, equipment and training facilities the newly independent Central Asian states have been able to assemble, are still largely based on the Russian pattern and assistance. In the complex Central Asian situation, the West would not be in a position to commit troops. In fact, Aleksei V. Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Centre has questioned the Western ability to provide "internal stability" in the region. He even suggested that Russia could become to some extent a "guarantor" of the West's mercantile interests in the region. 27

However, there is no doubt that growing Western influence in Central Asia is one of the factors that has prompted Moscow and Beijing to cooperate in the region.

Islamic Extremism and Militancy: A Common Threat

Growing Islamic militancy and extremism in the region has emerged as a common threat for the countries of the region as well as Russia and China and also for India. The Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and its mentor Pakistan have emerged as the spring-head of international terrorism, illegal drugs and arms trafficking and Islamic extremism. Beginning with the capture of Kabul in September 1996, the Taliban militia made significant gains in capturing almost 90 per cent of Afghan territory. It is universally believed that but for the support given by the Pakistan Army, a mere religious militia like the Taliban, could not gain such spectacular successes. Saudi financial assistance and drug money have also contributed to Taliban gains. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the only three countries that have recognised the Taliban government. Initially the Taliban forces enjoyed Washington's covert backing. The Taliban's objective was to bring peace and unity to the war-torn land although under a hardline and strict puritanical Sunni Wahabi code of conduct. The Taliban's supporters hoped that they would help in laying overland routes to Central Asia across Afghanistan and make it possible to build oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan, thus, reducing the region's dependence on northern routes, via Russia. Washington has been keenly promoting western routes bypassing both Iran and Russia. It has also been interested in the southern route across Afghanistan, bypassing Iran. The US multinational UNOCAL and the Saudi multinational Delta have been interested in the gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan and beyond.

However, subsequently, the Taliban fell out of favour with Washington owing to their dismal human rights record and harsh treatment of women, involvement in the drugs trade and above all, refusal to surrender Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden who has been accused of a number of terrorist acts against US targets.

It is widely believed that a large number of terrorist camps exist in the Taliban-controlled territory of Afghanistan. India in Kashmir, Russia in Chechnya, China in Xinjiang and the Central Asian states in the Fergana Valley area and the southern belt bordering on Afghanistan are also facing the problem of international terrorism. In view of Islamic militants' attacks in southern Kyrgyzstan and southern Uzbekistan, the CIS countries held the Commonwealth Southern Shield-99 command and staff exercise. Such a joint exercise was reported to have taken place for the first time. The purpose of the exercise was to prepare for a joint response not to any conventional enemy, but to international terrorist gangs. 28 In the Shanghai Five summit held in Dushanbe in July 2000, the problems of combatting international terrorism, separatism, drugs and arms trafficking were given top priority.

The Advent of Vladimir Putin

The advent of young and energetic Vladimir Putin as the president of Russia is widely regarded as symbolising the resurgence of new Russia. The basic goals of President Putin's policy are to strengthen the Russian state, pursue pragmatic and realistic foreign and domestic policies aimed at protecting Russian interests as well as speeding up the country's economic recovery.

Under President Putin, a new impulse has been given to the integration process within the former Soviet space, including Central Asia. Russia is currently working within the limits of its possibilities and resources, but it has significantly activated all its policy options. It was, for instance, reported in Krasnaya Zvezda (October 31, 2000), that so far the six-member collective security treaty did not have a collective military element. It was decided at the Minsk summit to raise the effectiveness of the treaty. New security challenges and threats were identified as international terrorism, illegal arms trade, illegal migration, organised crime, etc. On October 12, 2000, another summit meeting of the collective security member states took place in Bishkek. It was decided to strengthen collective security structures and mechanisms by creating regional collective security forces that would include three directions: firstly, East European direction comprising Russia and Belarus; secondly, Caucasus direction based on bilateral agreements between Russia and Armenia; and, thirdly, the Central Asian direction aimed at setting up regional collective security forces in the Central Asian region. The objective is to set up collective rapid deployment forces on the basis of bilateral relations between Russia and each Central Asian country, especially keeping in view the threat emanating from Afghanistan and international terrorism. 29

On October 10, 2000, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan signed the treaty on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Community in place of the Customs Union. The treaty stipulates the creation of a common market of five states. As Sergei Rogov has pointed out, "Unlike its predecessors, the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC), modeled after the EU, could lead to the creation of an effective mechanism for the development of integration in the post-Soviet space. For the first time in post-Soviet history, five countries agreed to create supranational structures, whose decisions will be binding on all EAEC members". It has been agreed that an integration committee will take the decisions by a majority of two-thirds of the vote. The vote quotas have been decided in this way: Russia will have 40 per cent of the vote, Belarus and Kazakhstan will have 20 per cent each and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will have 10 per cent each. Their contributions to the EAEC budget will also be commensurate. 30

It can be concluded on the basis of the above mentioned facts that under President Putin, Russia is consolidating its presence in Central Asia, in both economic and security fields. 31

Analysts argue that under Putin, Russia is likely to be more assertive in promoting its economic interests in Central Asia. Putin wants economic and political interests to align. Despite the weakening of Russia's economic position in Central Asia, the structures of Soviet era integration of the Russian-Central Asian economy persist. Thus, large enterprises in Russia still depend on cotton imports from Uzbekistan, especially in Ivanovo. 32 A Reuters dispatch from Moscow on October 13, 2000, reads: "The West has provided welcome investment, especially in resource rich Kazakhstan, but Russia under Putin is re-emerging as the number one influence in the region". The fear of radical Islam, especially in Afghanistan, is binding Russia and Central Asia together.

China's Campaign to Develop the Western Regions

China has launched its "Great Western Campaign" to develop the backward western regions of the country. The objective is both to reduce the glaring disparity in the developed eastern regions and the backward western regions as well as to consolidate China's hold over the minority regions through promises of economic development. It is even feared that the growing economic disparities may threaten the unity of the country. 33 Moreover, 8 million of the 17 million residents of Xinjiang are Uighurs, who are Muslims of the Turkic stock and resist assimilation by the dominant Hans. Assessments differ regarding the extent of threat posed to the Chinese system by the separatist violence in Xinjiang. According to one view, the separatist violence in Xinjiang has not acquired a threatening proportion as yet. However, it is generally agreed and the Chinese authorities also seem to believe that "separatism and the struggle against separatism will go on for a long time in Xinjiang". Between January 1997 and April 1999, Amnesty International documented 210 death sentences and 190 executions in the province. Most of those executed were Uighurs convicted of terrorism and subversive activities. The Chinese are concerned at Uighurs taking part in armed Islamic movements abroad in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and even Chechnya, because on returning home they can create problems for China. The Chinese hope to keep Uighur separatism in check through economic development of the region. China is planning to develop a number of infrastructure and oil and gas pipeline projects in the region. It is reported that in the next five years Beijing hopes to spend over $12 billion on 70 major projects. Some money will come from Beijing and it is also looking to the wealthy eastern provinces to help. 34

It may be assumed that the economic development of the western regions of China, including Xinjiang, may help in the projection of Chinese economic power further west in the Central Asian states and may change the current equilibrium of balance of power in the region in China's favour.

The infrastructure and pipeline development projects in Xinjiang, through which China hopes to both win over and further assimilate the disgruntled minorities, are creating new contradictions. They have resulted in the increase of Han migration into the region which is deeply resented by the Uighurs. The Uighurs believe that the benefits of development projects are mainly going to the Han settlers and not to the minority community.

Visitors from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan-the only Central Asian state that has joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-point out that China is vigorously trying to flood the Central Asian markets by dumping cheap Chinese goods. Kyrgyzstan, which has a relatively free economy, is used as a transit point to the rest of Central Asia. The Chinese are reported to be resorting to the unethical trade practice of labelling their low quality goods of mass consumption as "made in Kyrgyzstan". The products of the light industry of Kyrgyzstan are said to be of good quality, but naturally much smaller in quantity.

Both the Russians as well as the neighbouring CARs apprehend a creeping demographic expansion from China.

Potential Rivalry ?

The Chinese policy of developing the western regions as well as the Russian policy of promoting regional integration by forming the EAEC and strengthening the collective security treaty underscore their vigorous efforts aimed at consolidating positions in their respective parts of Central Asia albeit in different ways. At the same time, they are cooperating with each other within the Shanghai Forum. It has been decided at the Shanghai Forum to set up an anti-terrorist centre in Bishkek.

For the present, China appears to have apparently succeeded in its bid to enlist the support of the Central Asian regimes in curbing Uighur separatists. It has also sought to formally commit Russia and the CARs to the "one China" concept. However, it is argued that if Islamic extremist groups come to power in Central Asia or Central Asia slips into chaos, it may be more difficult to prevent support coming from neighbouring regions to the Uighurs. Both Russia and China, for their own reasons, have a deep interest that Central Asia is not destabilised.

China is not directly questioning Russia's traditional position, but is trying to seep into available spaces in the region, that include not only growing economic but also military contacts. In Kazakhstan, China's direct foreign investment reached $1.1 billion in 1999. Morris Rossabi has remarked that China, "harbours aspirations of replacing Russia as the dominant economic force in Central Asia, thus placing Beijing in a better position to address its domestic policy concerns". 35 It is likely that if China's economic and military power continues to grow while that of Russia declines, China may even step in to play the policeman's role to protect its economic and geopolitical interests in Central Asia.

For the present, China is pursuing a policy of restraint, since it does not want to disturb the stability in the area. Moreover, it is argued that any increase in the Chinese presence and influence would most probably be in those regions of the CARs that are adjacent to China, which, in its turn, would disturb internal equilibrium within these states.

One factor binding China with the CARs is the authoritarian political culture. Although Russia has developed all the paraphernalia of democracy, democratic culture and institutions are still new in Russia and the Russian ruling class finds no difficulty in dealing with authoritarian regimes. Indeed, the CAR regimes are increasingly becoming wary of Western insistence on human rights and democracy. In fact, the authoritarian Chinese model combining strict political control with a free market economy appears to be increasingly more attractive to the CAR regimes.

It may be assumed that China can hope to achieve much more in terms of extending its influence in Central Asia and further west through peace dividends. China appears to have enthusiastically adopted the "Eurasian project", which includes the vast region with immense resources, comprising Russia, China and the Central Asian member states that constitute the Shanghai Forum. 36 It may be kept in view that power arising from a country's military and economic might does not have to be directly exercised. The very fact of its existence can gain compliance from the relatively weaker states. Indeed, owing to its size, population and growing economic and military power, China is bound to make its weight felt in the grouping, especially in view of the fact that after the Soviet collapse, Moscow's power and influence have shrunk while those of China are on the rise. Moscow is painfully aware of it, but it would like to avoid direct confrontation with China, or for that matter, with the West. Russia's first priority obviously would be to retain its traditional influence and hold over Central Asia. Failing which, Russia may try to place itself in the position of the "balancing pole" of contending powers and interests in the region. To an extent it would also imply Russian reconciliation with the presence of the Western as well as other interests in the region. In a similar vein, a more active Indian role in Central Asia may be welcomed by Russia.

Russia is trying to craft together an anti-terrorist alliance of the major powers. 37 It has set up joint working groups on Afghanistan with both India and the USA to meet the threat of international narco-terrorism emanating from there. Both Russia and the USA have sponsored the UN Security Council resolution of December 19, 2000, that has imposed additional sanctions on the Taliban, demanding that the latter closes the terrorist bases on its territory and surrenders Osama bin Laden within a month. It is extremely significant that China (along with Malaysia) has chosen to abstain from the Security Council resolution. Thus, on the question of dealing with the Taliban challenge in Afghanistan, the positions of China and Russia are not identical despite the fact that the Shanghai Five have repeatedly emphasised the need for a joint fight against religious extremism and international terrorism. It is the strategy of the Taliban and their supporters in Islamabad that all the neighbouring countries should not unite against them and they are able to deal with each neighbouring country separately by offering promises of good behaviour. Piqued by the Taliban's recognition of the independence of Chechnya in January 2000 and its support to Chechen rebels, Russian officials in May and June, 2000 voiced the possibility of preemptive air strikes against the terrorist training bases in Taliban-held territory. The Taliban's threat to carry out reprisals against the neighbouring Central Asian countries, seems to have frightened Uzbekistan and the other CARs to distance their position from Russia. Russia itself has backed out from the threat of air strikes. The Taliban is particularly trying to reach out to China. In fact, a certain duality in dealing with the Taliban phenomenon can be discerned in the policy of all the countries of the region. Russia regards the protection of the southern borders of the CIS as crucial for its own security. It remains the main guarantor of security of the region. At the same time, after its earlier experience in Afghanistan, it would not like to again get involved in another Afghan war. It would like to act in coalition with other powers and through the United Nations Organisation (UNO) and others so inclined.

The Western analysts invariably dwell on "prospects for and tensions in Sino-Russian relations." 38 No doubt, potential for rivalry and conflict does lie beneath present day bonhomie between Moscow and Beijing. However, just now, neither Moscow nor Beijing wishes to disturb the apple cart of their strategic partnership in Central Asia. The two regard Central Asia as the "strategic hinterland" of each other. Russia would like to seek greater mutual dependence with China through increased trade, transportation links and pipeline networks as an insurance for peace and security on its eastern front for the foreseeable future. 39 Even if Russia is apprehensive regarding the likely challenge to its interests in Central Asia posed by China's policy of developing its western regions, some Russian politicians and scholars-including former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov-have put a brave face on it by arguing that China's western regions and the Russian Far East can be developed together. 40

Implications for India

The Declaration on Further Development and Intensification of Cooperation between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation issued on June 30, 1994, at the time of Prime Minister Rao's visit to Moscow stated: "The sides reiterated their deep interests in promoting peace and stability in the area between the border of the Republic of India and the Russian Federation."

Central Asia and Afghanistan, thus, figured as areas of common concern to both India and Russia. However, China has the advantage of geographical contiguity with the region, which India does not. China has moved ahead and actualised the strategic partnership with Russia in Central Asia. The Shanghai Forum has provided the structure and mechanism for such a partnership. There is little doubt that India has a deep interest in the developments in the region.

The fact that Sino-Russian and Central Asian rapprochement, boundary settlements and border CBMs have been accompanied by the peace and tranquillity agreement and CBMs in the border areas between India and China also, is extremely significant.

During the Dushanbe summit of the Shanghai Five, the possibility of other countries of the region joining it was hinted at. On January 3, 2001, Pakistan submitted a formal request for joining the Shanghai Forum as an observer. However, any decision on Pakistan's request can be taken only by consensus. Tajikistan and Russia have already made their opposition known. Pakistan's current policies as the main creator and supporter of the Taliban militia and its image as an instigator of transborder terrorism are not going to help the Pakistani military regime to break out of its isolation. Pakistan aspires to play an active role in Central Asia ever since the emergence of the CARs.

It is a sign of growing international concern at cross-border terrorism that no country wants to appear to be siding with the perpetrators of terrorist violence and those who aid and instigate it. Significantly, even Pakistan has declared its readiness to cooperate with the UN sanctions against the Taliban. However, its insistence on keeping the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders open would ensure that the Taliban continue to get aid and sustenance from Pakistan.

The Shanghai Forum has been created with the expressed aim of maintaining peace and stability in the region. On this issue as well as on the issue of jointly combatting the scourge of narco-terrorism there is a compatibility of interests between India and the Shanghai Five states. At the same time, it is understandable that India would not like to sign the Shanghai Five resolutions without due quid pro quo, especially from China with whom it has an unresolved border dispute. Moreover, China continues to give assistance to Pakistan in the nuclear and missile fields to the detriment of Indian security and in contravention to international agreements. It is in India's interest not to be isolated from the developments and processes taking place in her strategic neighbourhood in Central Asia. However, it appears that more effort is needed to instill mutual trust and confidence and take cognisance of each other's legitimate interests, especially as regards India-China relations, before any substantive cooperation is possible between India and the Shanghai Forum. In the meanwhile, India can seek an observer's status and cooperate more closely with the Shanghai Forum in combatting international terrorism, religious extremism and drugs and arms trafficking. The Shanghai Five have set up an anti-terrorist centre at Bishkek, with which India can interact.

It is true that all the CARs as well as Russia and China see a threat in the Taliban, but they are also vulnerable to the Taliban strategy of dividing the neighbours and seeking separate peace with each of them. Moreover, China has a long-standing strategic cooperation with Pakistan, which has created, and is supporting, the Taliban forces. Closer interaction and cooperation among India, the CARs and Russia can help in crystallising and firming up common positions in jointly combatting the common threat of cross-border narco-terrorism. Constructive engagement with China on these issues may also bear positive results.

It is widely believed that continued growth in China's economic and military power can change the power balance in the region in China's favour. In such a situation, Moscow can seek the involvement of multiple players in the region in place of its earlier exclusive hold over the region. Ever since Yevgeny Primakov's 'informal' proposal made during his New Delhi visit in December 1998 regarding the desirability of forming a strategic triangle among Russia, India and China, there exists widespread support in the Russian strategic community and official circles for the concept. At the same time, the Russian circles consistently emphasise that such triangular cooperation does not envisage the formation of a formal group directed against the West. It is also realised in Moscow that all the angles of the proposed triangle are not equal and difficulties continue in India-China relations. The Moscow Press has welcomed the recent 9-day visit of Li Peng-the number two man in China-to India, aimed at improving Sino-Indian relations. 41

Russia has succeeded in securing the eastern flank of Central Asia through the Shanghai Forum. It is likely that Russia would like to consolidate the western flank of Central Asia by enhancing cooperation between itself, the CARs, Iran and India. It can hope to balance the growing Chinese (as well as Western) influence in the region through such a grouping. The groundwork for such cooperation has already been made through a north-south transport agreement among India, Iran and Russia in September 2000 and earlier through a tripartite transport agreement among India, Iran and Turkmenistan. It would be in India's interest to have access to multiple routes to Central Asia. India can keep its options open and seek to maximise its presence and influence in the region through an inclusive and not an exclusive approach in seeking partners. However, certain routes like the one across Afghanistan may not be operable in the immediate future for obvious reasons. At the moment, the route via Iran is the most functional and trouble-free. Promoting close cooperation among India, Iran, the CARs and Russia would also serve India's vital geopolitical interests in the region. In fact, India has everything to gain and nothing to lose in fostering close cooperation among these countries. At the very least, it may provide India a bargaining chip vis-à-vis China. India should not allow itself to be marginalised and sidelined from the "great game" now unfolding in Central Asia.

As regards the threat of international terrorism emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan belt, it would be in the common interest of the neighbouring countries that a broad consensus-preferably a coalition-is built to take joint measures to eradicate the evils of cross-border terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking.

Steps may be taken to move beyond conceptualisation and articulation of intentions by undertaking specific studies, chalking out workable plans and implementing them. These may include, among others, measures to expand existing transport facilities to streamline the transportation of goods to and from Central Asia and Russia to India across Iranian territory. India and Iran (as a gateway to Central Asia and Russia) can come closer through multiple bonds of mutually advantageous economic transactions. India may take the initiative in forging together a multinational Caspian shipping corporation. Indian companies and expertise can be mobilised to start joint ventures in Central Asia in many sectors, from oil and gas to mining and cotton textiles, etc. It is important that the representatives from the chambers of commerce and industry and experts in the concerned fields are associated in formulating concrete plans and their efficient and speedy implementation.

The CARs themselves would like to establish multifaceted ties with as many countries as possible to give substance to their new-found independence. It may, therefore, be argued that increasing activism in the region and greater cooperation with the Central Asian countries in various fields would serve India's interests. India enjoys a friendly and non-threatening image in the region on which it can build.


Note *: Research Fellow Back.

Note 1: Chen Qimao, "Sino-Russian Relations After the Break-up of the Soviet Union" in Gennady Chufrin, ed., Russia and Asia, The Emerging Security Agenda (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 289. Back.

Note 2: Alexei D. Voskressenski," The Perception of China by Russia's Foreign Policy Elite", Issues and Studies, no. 3, March 1997, p. 18. Back.

Note 3: Xu Kui of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, "Russia's Relations with Central Asia and China, and the Question of Integration into the Asian Economy" IREX Internet site (scholar papers), January 31, 1996. The railway has provided the Central Asian countries with an important passage to the Asian-Pacific region and a convenient outlet to the Pacific Ocean. In November 1995, 78 containers from the United States were transported to Uzbekistan by this railway for the first time. Back.

Note 4: See Chen Mingshan and He Xiquan, "The 'Shanghai Five' Mechanism for Regional Security", Contemporary International Relations, vol. 10, no. 8, August 2000, pp.3-4. Back.

Eulogising the developments in Russia-China relations, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said in his statement at the Fourth ARF on July 27, 1997, "The positive and dynamic development of Russian-Chinese relations has made an impressive contribution to the cause of peace and security in the Asia Pacific region." Regarding the Shanghai agreements, he said that they have established in Asia a vast area of stability along the borders, stretching more than 7,000 km, ensuring predictability and verifiability of military activities of the five states within the application zone of the agreements. This is a good example of how stronger security in the region can be attained through confidence building in the military field and genuine arms cuts rather than by way of troop reinforcements and expansion of the areas of responsibility claimed by military blocs.

Note 5: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 4, 1998. Back.

Note 6: Konstantin Syroezhkin, "The Policy of Russia in Central Asia: A Perspective from Kazakhstan", in Chufrin, ed., n. 1, pp. 105-106. Noviye Izvestia commented that in the absence of Yeltsin, the meeting at Alma-Ata of the leaders of Shanghai Five became "purely a formality". See Noviye Izvestia, July 4, 1998 in The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, vol. 50, no. 27, August 5, 1998, pp.18-19. Back.

Note 7: Thus, the N-tests by India and Pakistan came in for criticism at the Alma-Ata summit. Foreign Minister Primakov made use of the occasion by contrasting the tense relations between India and Pakistan with the example of cooperative security set by the Shanghai Five and called upon India and Pakistan to emulate the example of the Shanghai Five. In fact, Noviye Izvestia, July 4, 1998 remarked regarding Nazarbayev's CICA proposal that it was a "conceptual rehash of an idea once put forward by Mikhail Gorbachev. . . ." "All these things", added the paper, " are repeated in various forms year after year. The vast majority of them have about as much chance of implementation as the Russian President's appeal in a recent letter to Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, that India sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons without delay". Back.

Note 8: Segodnya, August 26, 1999. Back.

Note 9: The Daily Review (Russian Press translation, RIA Novasti), August 26, 1999. Back.

Note 10: SWB, SU/3623 G/1-2, August 26, 1999; RIA Novosti, August 26, 1999. Back.

Note 11: See, for instance, Chen Mingshan and He Xiquan, "The 'Shanghai Five' Mechanism for Regional Security", Contemporary International Relations, August 2000, pp. 5-6; Ma Gang, "Formation and Development of the 'Shanghai Five' Mechanism", International Strategic Studies, no. 4, October 2000, pp. 26-27. Back.

Note 12: Izvestia, July 4, 2000. Back.

Note 13: The Hindu, July 6, 2000. Back.

Note 14: RIA Novosti, August 26, 1999. Back.

Note 15: Izvestia , July 4, 2000. Back.

Note 16: SWB/SU/3639 S1/2, September 14, 1999. Back.

Note 17: Interfax-Kazakhstan, May 2, 2000, <> Back.

Note 18: SWB/SU/3894 SI/5, July 17, 2000. Back.

Note 19: SWB/SU/3596 SI/2, July 26, 1999. Back.

Note 20: See, for details, Morris Rossabi, "The Silk Road, An Educational Resource", Education About ASIA, vol. 4, no. 1, Spring 1999. Also, Oliver Wild, "The Silk Road" <> Back.

Note 21: See, for instance, S. Kedrov in Sodruzhestvo NG no. 7, The Daily Review, August 13, 1999. Back.

Note 22: News From Russia, May 29, 1998, p. 19. Back.

Note 23: SWB, SUW/0508 WE/2, October 17, 1997. Back.

Note 24: Avdy Kuliev, "Jiang Continues Central Asian Tour with Stop in Turkmenistan", Eurasia Insight, October 18, 2000. <eurasia> Back.

Note 25: SWB, SU, 3235 B/12, May 25, 1998. Back.

Note 26: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 8, 1998. Back.

Note 27: See, for instance, Jyotsna Bakshi, "Russian Policy Towards Central Asia -I", Strategic Analysis, January 1999, pp. 1585-1586. Back.

Note 28: SWB, SU/3684 SL/1, November 5, 1999 Back.

Note 29: Dipkurier NG no. 19 in The Daily Review, December 14, 2000. Back.

Note 30: See, for instance, Sanobar Shermatova, "Putin Builds Up Integration with Kazakhstan, Kirgizia", Moscow News, October 18-24, 2000, p. 3. Back.

Note 31: "Russia and Central Asia" by Voice of America's Ed Warner, May 24, 2000, <> Back.

Note 32: Andrei Kortunov's interview to <>, November 14, 2000. Back.

Note 33: Kai Alexander Schlevogt, "China's Western Campaign", Far Eastern Economic Review, August 17, 2000. Back.

Note 34: Susan W. Lawrence, "Where Beijing Fears Kosovo", Far Eastern Economic Review, September 7, 2000. Also see, Atul Aneja, "China's Multi-Pronged Strategy to Counter Separatism in Xinjiang", The Hindu, September 16, 2000. Back.

Note 35: Morris Rossabi, "China Seeks to Bolster its Economic Profile in Central Asia", <>, August 14, 2000. Back.

Note 36: Ma Gang, n. 11, pp. 25-28. Back.

Note 37: Paul Goble, "An Anti-Terrorist Alliance ?", Washington Post, January 2001, RFE/RL. Back.

Note 38: See, for instance, RAND Report 1999; also, <> Back.

Note 39: Vsevolod Ovchinnikov, " Fear Not the Chinese Tiger", Ekonomika i Zhizn, no. 37 in Daily Review, September 19, 2000. Back.

Note 40: See, for instance, "Russia, China. Have Many Common Interests", Rossiskaya Gazeta, November 1, 2000 in The Daily Review, November 1, 2000; Ovchinnikov, Ibid. Back.

Note 41: Yevgeny Verlin, "Russia, India, China: A Friendly Triangle", Vremya MN, January 18, 2001 in The Daily Review, January 18, 2001. The author opines that the idea of an informal strategic alliance of Russia, India and China, advanced by Yevgeny Primakov, is acquiring a "visible outline". Back.