Japan as no “other”: Decolonizing Alternative for Central Asia?
By: Timur Dadabaev
Over the past 30 years, the Japanese approach to Central Asia has been to secure the Japanese presence in the region by offering Central Asian nations an additional option of an international partner among traditional choices, such as Russia, and, in most recent history, China. The schemes offered to facilitate engagement between Japan and Central Asia were vibrant and diverse, reflecting the changing realities of the Central Asian region and the changing role and perception of the “self” in Japan. (1) As is well documented in previous studies, the search for engagement schemes started with the 1996 Obuchi mission to Azerbaijan and Central Asia, spearheaded by the Member of Parliament and later Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, which produced a strong endorsement of wider engagement of Japan in the region. It resulted in P.M. Ryutaro Hashimoto’s 1997 Eurasian/Silk Road Diplomacy speech, in which the concept of the Silk Road was first used as a geopolitical concept, embracing Central Asian states, China, Russia and Japan in an imagined net of interdependence(3). While the administrations of P.M. Obuchi (1998-1999) and P.M. Yoshirō Mori (1999-2000) did not proactively engage with the Central Asia region, it was P.M. Junichiro Koizumi’s administration (2001-2006) that aimed to aggressively shake up the Japanese approach to this region by announcing the Central Asia + Japan Dialogue Forum, a set of annual inter-ministerial and high-level talks to support Central Asian regional integration and to facilitate a larger corporate presence for Japanese corporate interests, in the face of growing Chinese and Russian pressures. The particular importance of the Central Asia + Japan forum is that it offered an alternative option of a distant yet powerful external economic partner to the region, which did not display a neo-colonizing tendency or strive for domination, as was widely feared regarding China and Russia.(3)
Most recently, PM Shinzo Abe (2013-2020) attempted to further dynamize Central Asia-Japan relations when he visited all Central Asian states and lobbied for larger participation of Japanese corporations in Central Asia. In his approach to strengthening Japanese competitiveness, PM Abe introduced the notion of high-quality infrastructure by arguing that Japanese infrastructure projects based on high-quality and sustainability standards(4) offer more sustainable and reliable alternatives (as compared to Chinese projects, for example) for developing countries inclusive of Central Asia states.
Visions of the Region and Japanese Foreign Policy
In approaching Central Asia, the Japanese government utilizes both multilateral and bilateral channels, which include extending its support to individual state-building efforts and encouraging regional cooperation through Central Asia + Japan, as described above. In doing so, the Japanese government aims to display a certain degree of sensitivity toward disparities between regional states while facilitating long-term regional consolidation in light of growing pressures by other large players, such as China and Russia. In this sense, Japanese support for Central Asian states can be likened to Japanese support for nation- and regional-building in the ASEAN region.
By Mirzohid Rahimov
April 19th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
Central Asian nations consider the development of alternative regional transport communications important aspects of their national economic and political strategy, and the republics have become active participants in various international projects to promote economic cooperation with different countries and regions of the world. The development of internal Central Asian communication networks in general, and Uzbekistan in particular, gives the possibility of extending not only national communications, but also broaden networks in Central Asia. The Angren-Pap rail project is very important for national connectivity and for increased international communication. Different international experiences in economic transformation are relevant for Central Asia’s regional connectivity.
By Kairat Bekov and Gregory Gleason
April 1st, 2016, The CACI Analyst
Competition over technological advantage has replaced rivalry over territorial advantage in the great games of contemporary Central Asia. One of the main thoroughfares of the modern “Silk Road” is the telecommunications highway. The impending advent of fifth generation telephone technology is opening yet a new sphere of interaction among the countries of Central Asia offering as many opportunities for regional cooperation as it creates for competition.
By Sreemati Ganguli
February 5th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
The recent ground-breaking ceremony of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, was followed by several Indo-Russian Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) on energy during the 16th annual Indo-Russian Summit in Moscow in December 2015. These events add to Rosneft’s decisions in 2014 to buy a 49 percent share in Essar Oil in mid-2015 and to cooperate with OVL, both Indians companies, on exploration and hydrocarbon production in Russia’s offshore Arctic. Also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Central Asia in July 2015, particularly Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, to declare India’s growing importance as an alternative energy market in Eurasia, aside from the EU, China and Japan, and as a potential power in the energy-rich Eurasian space.
By Najia Badykova
January 15th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
On November 24, a Japanese delegation met in Ashgabat with the deputy foreign ministers of five Central Asian states in a “Central Asia plus Japan” format to discuss regional security, sustainable development, trade and investment, as well as regional cooperation and disaster prevention. In October, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited all of the Central Asian states as a part of Tokyo’s efforts to strengthen economic relations with the resource-rich region, holding talks with Central Asian leaders mainly devoted to the energy issue. This is an important shift in Japanese foreign policy. Its long-time competitor China is already established in Central Asia and Tokyo’s recent initiatives have been described as part of the growing competition between China and Japan.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.