New Page between Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Relation
Throughout history, Afghanistan has been known as the hub for power, economy, civilization and culture, and its geographic location has influenced its surrounding areas. The geographical cohesion and religious participatory, faith, ethnic, cultural and linguistic similarities have tied Afghanistan with the countries in the region. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's geographical continuity has also created opportunities and challenges in bilateral and multilateral relations with the Central Asian countries. In particular, Uzbekistan has been one of Afghanistan’s neighboring; a country that has interacted friendly with each other.
This has to be highlighted that during Tsarist autocracy in Central Asia and the Soviet Union, Afghanistan-Uzbekistan relations were influenced in accordance with Afghanistan-Moscow relations. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan became the 25th independent state. Following that on January 2nd, 1991 Afghanistan recognized Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan commenced its Embassy in Tashkent on December 22, 1991. However, civil wars and Taliban rule in Afghanistan have strained the relations between the two countries.
Following the establishment of the Afghan Interim Administration (AIA) in December 2001, Uzbekistan has formed a formal relation with Afghanistan by appointing an ambassador to Kabul and inaugurating consulate in Balkh province. Moreover, this has led to a significant increase to top official visits between both countries. Later, that resulted in the signing of bilateral agreements on the areas of trade, industry, culture, and etc. The most important agreement that has been signed between the two countries is the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the transfer of electricity from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan, which has supplied to Afghanistan’s great need to energy sources.
Until 2014, due to the major focus of Afghanistan's foreign policy on the West and the United States, Pakistan, and India. The Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan, had an alternative position in Afghanistan's foreign policy. Then with the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG), H.E. President Ashraf Ghani, in his inaugural address on 29 September 2014, defined five circles for the conduct of Afghanistan’s foreign policy. The first circle was Afghanistan’s neighboring countries; the second was the Islamic world; the third comprised the U.S., Canada, Japan, and the European countries; the fourth was Asia; and the fifth was international organizations. Thus, Uzbekistan as Afghanistan's neighboring country entered to the forefront of Afghanistan's foreign policy, and relations between the two countries entered into to a new phase.
Further, in order to deepen relations between Afghanistan and the Commonwealth-Independent States (CIS), and Central Asia; in 2014, H.E. President Ashraf Ghani, have appointed his current Chief of Staff Mr. Mohammad Shakir Kargar, as Presidents Special Representative for Commonwealth-Independent States affairs. Mr. Mohammad Shakir Kargar was also served as first Ambassador and as President’s Special Representative to Azerbaijan, where he inaugurated the Embassy of Afghanistan in Azerbaijan. Mr. Kargar has good knowledge of Commonwealth-Independent States affairs. He was also served as Minister of Industry and Trade.
Mr. Mohammad Shakir Kargar has had priority to deepen the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan relations. As a result of his tireless efforts, Uzbekistan, alongside Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, became interested in the Afghan peace process and announced their support to host Afghan peace talks. Also, following Mr. Kargar's efforts, for the first time, Afghan students were sent to Uzbekistan to study the Uzbek language. Sending students to Uzbekistan marks the beginning of cultural diplomacy between the two countries.
Under the current government leadership, deepening Afghanistan's relations with Uzbekistan remains a top foreign policy priority. Peace and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic were two phenomena that the Afghan government had to deal with simultaneously. Afghanistan as a war-torn and impoverished country is considered one of the most vulnerable countries amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, during this period keeping food prices stable was one of the concerns of the Afghan government and the Afghan people.
In the first wave of the COVID-19 in Afghanistan, the food prices likely to rise and people could not afford to buy basic foods. As a result of the government's efforts, Uzbekistan agreed to provide hundreds of tons of food and medical supplies to Afghanistan. The entry of these foods into the Afghan market has kept flour prices stable in the Afghan markets and managed a Corona pandemic crisis in Afghanistan.
Also, in order to further enlighten the Uzbekistan and Afghanistan relations, this year on 29th Mizan; October 21, for the first time, National Day for the Uzbek Language was celebrated. The ceremony was organized at ARG, Salam Khana Palace under the supervision of Mr. Mohammad Shakir Kargar, President’s Chief of Staff. The ceremony was inaugurated by the participation of H.E. President Ashraf Ghani, along with First Vice President Amrullah Salih, Senate’s Speaker Fazil Hadi Muslimyar, lawmakers, government delegation of the Republic of Uzbekistan led by Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Sardar Oktamovich Amorzakov, and the country’s writers and cultural figures.
At the ceremony, the Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Mr. Sardar Oktamovich Amorzakov, read out the message of H.E. Shavkat Mirziyoyev the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In his message, the Uzbekistan President has congratulated Afghanistan National Day for Uzbek Language to all. And added “We’ve provided the opportunity to 200 Afghan students in Uzbekistan’s Termez city to receive Uzbek language literature, railway and other fields. Also, will continue comprehensive cooperation between the two countries. Holding this ceremony is a turning point in strengthening cultural diplomacy and people-to-people contacts; Because this ceremony expressed the people’s relations between the two countries and the ethnic commonalities between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. At the end, in his message, the Uzbekistan President has assured of overall cooperation with Afghanistan government in security, peace, trade and economic and declared his support from Afghanistan peace efforts and development programs.
Afterward, H.E. President Ashraf Ghani by congratulating the National Day for Uzbek Language to all; said “It is an honor that Uzbekistan President not only passed his message to us but dispatched a representative to Afghanistan. After a hundred-year break and the catastrophic period of Stalin, today Afghanistan and Uzbekistan have close relations and the friendship will continue forever”. Pointing to historic and cultural relations between Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, H.E. President added “Afghanistan and Uzbekistan relations were strengthening day by day, which is significant for the stability and tranquility of the people of Afghanistan and Central Asian countries”.
Thus, in this new page of Afghanistan-Uzbekistan relations, a number of official visits between the two countries have taken place. Recently, in August 2020, Afghan delegation led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Mohammad Hanif Atmar, accompanied by President’s Chief of Staff Mr. Mohammad Shakir Kargar, and representatives from Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Da Afghanistan Brishna Sherkat, and Afghanistan Railway Authority have visited Uzbekistan to sign a ten-year power transmission agreement with Uzbekistan.
Then, in November 2020, Mohammad Shakir Kargar, President’s Chief of Staff, visited Uzbekistan along with a high-level government delegation, including Mr. Abdul Tawab Bala Karzai, the former acting Minister of Higher Education. During the visit, while addressing the problems of 96 Afghan students in Uzbekistan, a Memorandum of Understanding on organizing education programs for Afghan students at the higher education institutions of Uzbekistan was signed between the two countries; Ministries of Higher Educations.
UZBEKISTAN’S POSITION IN AFGHANISTAN’S PEACE
Uzbekistan is one of the peace stakeholders in Afghanistan. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist group led by Tahir Yuldashev, has recently allegiance to ISIS. This group is the largest terrorist group in Central Asia and an enemy of the Uzbek government since the former President of Uzbekistan Mr. Islam Karimov's. The presence of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Afghanistan and the Taliban's support for the group has always been a concern. In the year 1999, Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov Uzbekistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs became the first Uzbek official to meet with the Taliban leadership. Uzbek officials said the reason for the meeting was an attempt to end the war in Afghanistan.
During the Taliban era, the Uzbek Islamic Movement had established a military base at the borders of the two countries and was in fact threatening Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan. By establishing ties with the Taliban, Uzbekistan sought to curb the group's activities and the infiltration of Uzbek fighters into Uzbekistan.
The rise of ISIS in Afghanistan and the allegiance of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to the group threaten Uzbekistan more than any other country. The presence of ISIS groups in northern Afghanistan is a major security concern in Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan is one of the landlocked countries. After H.E. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in Uzbekistan, the country is trying to attract foreign investment. Afghanistan is the country's only connecting route to South Asia and one of the most important routes connecting Uzbekistan to the world. Only a secure and stable Afghanistan can secure Uzbekistan's security interests and connect it to South Asia and the world. Therefore, Uzbekistan has always announced its support to host peace meetings in Afghanistan and remains one of the countries influencing peace in Afghanistan. And Afghanistan welcomes the efforts of Uzbekistan for building this relationship between the two countries.