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Monday, December 9, 2019

Uzbekistan: New Scapegoat

Friendship of Convenience


US warms up with Uzbekistan, trampling its own set standards
SRAY AGARWAL | Issue Dated: April 22, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : Uzbekistan : New Scapegoat | Friendship of Convenience | US warms up with Uzbekistan |


In yet another repetition of its old ways, the US is trying to befriend Uzbekistan as the latter could serve as a gateway for US forces to enter Afghanistan. US President Barack Obama is all set to embrace Uzbekistan as an ally despite the Uzbek regime being criticised for human rights violations. 
Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a visit to the country which was followed up by President Obama calling his Uzbek counterpart personally on the occasion of Uzbek national day. Uzbekistan can play a crucial role for the US in the Af-Pak policy and would allow smooth inflow of all items ranging from food to weapons to the hinterland.
A few years back, United States was quite vocal about instances of human rights violations in Uzbekis tan. Not very long ago, in 2004, USA even imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan and curtailed their arms deals and military aid. But with other nations like Libya undergoing political turmoil, the US is perhaps left with no other option but to find a new "friend". 
Highlighting its double standards, the US has started renewing its ties with Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov who is infamous for his oppressive regime and bloody massacres. A few months back, America resumed selling arms to Uzbekistan in spite of the fact that the same would be used against the local people. This comes as a surprise especially when America is trying to invade Uganda on the pretext of human rights violations there. Similarly, the US also voted against Sri Lanka, accused of violating human rights during its long drawn civil war, in UNHRC. And the same US also supplied arms to rebels against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. 
Like other past allies of America, Uzbekistan also possesses huge reserves of oil and natural gas! Further, 193 hydrocarbon fields have been discerned in the country and exploration is being carried out in 33 fields. 
Till lately, the oil exploration was largely monopolised by the state-owned Uzbekneftegas. These oil fields are opening up to the American oil giants like Tethys. Uzbekistan is so determined to maintain its dominant role in Northern Distribution Network (NDN) that it went to the extent of allegedly sabotaging train traffic from reaching its neighbouring Tajikistan. 
With Uzbekistan having the most developed railway network among Central Asian nations, America can benefit
immensely from this friendship as around 75 per cent of American "ground sustainment cargo" is shipped through
the NDN.
They say history repeats itself. And the future of a nation that ignores lessons from the past can hardly be bright. It’s imperative for United Nations and other human rights organisations to pressurise Karimov to mend his ways before he reduces Uzbekistan to ruins. The Central Asian nations should learn to work together instead of against each other to maintain stability in the region as well as achieve some growth. These short-term, selfish goals of a few nations could cost the entire Central Asia heavily in the long run.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017