By: Abdul Naser Noorzad
From diplomacy to economic transaction
Common threats like terrorism, drugs and increasing religious fundamentalism are the most urgent challenges of a region that require strengthening friendly relations and proper cooperation for their bridling in one hand and further regional convergence on the other. Common cultural, religious and social roots are the bases of relations among Afghanistan and the central Asian countries that emphasizes on proper friendly relations with these countries.
Beside that, whereas economic growth has increased the importance of unrenewable sources of energy. As improvement of these cooperation within the regional convergence and peaceful neighborliness requires mutual dependence among various political actors at the level of the region, Afghanistan cannot be an exception from this rule and out of this transaction and equation.
As the economic corridor and connecting point of south and central Asia, importance of Afghanistan is effective due to this reason that in transition stage to a desired situation and economic political stability and can us this location as a connecting bridge of south and central Asia, invest the income from this location for rebuilding of economic infrastructure and improve legitimacy of its political system in one hand and exploiting available atmosphere based on regional convergence, Afghanistan intends sincerely to overcome urgent security and political challenges. After 9/11 foreign policy of Afghanistan was arranged based on five circles: the first circle which emphasizes on maintaining close ties with neighboring countries friendly relations based on good neighborliness and regionalism. In this direction, particular attention of the Afghan government has been concentrated on establishment and improvement of relations with these countries specially the central Asian countries who have entered different transactions and reiterate on mutual bilateral positive deals in economic, political and security fields.
Studying of Afghanistan’s foreign policy and the role of this country could play in various fields, requires comprehensive assessment of this country’s past, present and future in economic, political and security equation of the region and the world. In the wake of long devastating wars and conflicts and chaotic situations, isolation and playing passive role in regional, universal political economic transactions, Afghanistan has found a chance to examine a new chapter of its political life and from a passive and isolated player in economic- political deals to be changed to an active and effective actor.
As it was earlier mentioned, convergence with neighboring regional countries shaped the first circle of Afghanistan foreign policy, geographical closeness, ethnic, linguistic and cultural, historical links of the Afghan people with inhabitant of central Asia as well as economic trade relations among them are the most outstanding component of Afghanistan’s foreign policy in this region. At domestic level, Afghanistan’s foreign policy has been set up on two basic pillars: the first pillar is rebuilding and development and the second one is restoration of security in the country (Tamana, Afghanistan’s foreign policy, 2014). Increasing relations of Afghanistan with surrounding countries is justifiable within the theory of rational choice, because it is the only product of regional transaction and convergence that could help Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries toward removal of current challenges. In these transactions, Afghanistan has been considered as a dependent variable while the international system as a dependent one, because considering the role of international system as well as rich, developed and powerful countries, the role of this dependent variable would be slight and impractical.
Besides that, every country like Afghanistan who has always been considered as a strategic environment due to its outstanding location, needs relations and transaction to gain economic, political sources within the policy of neighborliness and regionalism in order to reduce causing of tension threat and exerting pressure on itself in one hand and within the framework of the two abovementioned elements of neighborliness and regionalism and using the “rational choice theory” be benefitted the advantages of economic, political transaction in its surrounding.
The role of Afghanistan as an economic corridor and connecting point of south and central Asia much more appreciable. Issues like energy, gas, rail way, transit of commercial commodities from south to north will be discussed in this analysis
within the framework of foreign policy and diplomacy. Afghanistan’s approach to neighboring and regional countries taking into account economic, political and security situation, has been an approach depending to opportunity and exploitation of the advantages transaction at regional level which has already been mainly inserted emphatically in the doctrine of foreign policy. Amid these efforts, this country as an active and important player and actor in economic- political transactions is in urgent need of adoption of reasonable and calculated foreign policy at three dimensions of domestic, regional and international system, so to change the world vision to Afghanistan as a “Center of creating challenges” to a more reasonable and acceptable country “The economic corridor between south and central Asian nations”. The tension avoiding policy and emphasizing on creation of understanding and regional consensus within the framework of foreign policy doctrine and economic-political transaction gifts particular position to Afghanistan so to be recognized as an active element in the current regional and global transaction in one hand and in the light of it overcome its domestic problems like security-economic challenges.
It is not only needed in this direction that Afghanistan should concentrate all its capability to create proper condition to settle major challenges like terrorism, drugs and insecurity but also the regional countries should also endeavor seriously and sincerely to facilitate regional convergence and create proper atmosphere of cooperation toward “Rehabilitation of spirit of regional cooperation”. Afghanistan’s geopolitical location as economic corridor of north and south Asia increasing challenges arising from the growth of terrorism, religious fundamentalism, drugs, human trafficking and opportunities like trade- transit and the use of available regional resources can help Afghanistan and regional countries to rehabilitate and strengthen spirit of cooperation could help to overcome current challenges in the region that have main roots in insecurity and instability in Afghanistan which the danger of their out breaking and expansion to central Asian countries is frankly high in one hand and could gift plenty of economic advantages to these countries on the other.
Exploiting confidence building measures, creation of cooperation spirit and current potential in this country would enable them to connect south Asian countries who need energy to central Asian the countries who produce energy. At the moment fortunately, relations of Afghanistan and the central Asian countries have promoted to highest level and both sides realizing the sensitivity of the issue and available
regional opportunities, as they have always been strongly emphasizing on its further improvement.
1- Afghanistan and Uzbekistan:
Following the establishment of the Interim administration in the wake of 9/11 after withdrawal from a period of isolation of its foreign policy, Afghanistan embarked on the way of capitalist development and assumed open doors policy. Transaction with foreign world particularly neighbors and regional countries was positioned in the first circle of its foreign policy. Our northern central Asian countries welcomed new approach of Afghanistan and realizing regional security and economic challenges, they resorted to reciprocal steps. As one of our powerful neighbors, Uzbekistan, has lot of ethnic, tribal and cultural commons as well as geographical with Afghanistan. After collapse of the USSR, in its approach with its neighbors especially Afghanistan, Uzbekistan gained further independence. Taking into account importance of Uzbekistan in political, economic and commercial transaction, position of this country in Afghanistan foreign policy is very important. Assessment of this country’s foreign policy together with its historical foreground paves the way of better understanding of both countries’ transaction in the field of foreign relation and policy. This is the main content of this section. Afghanistan is one of the world geopolitical variable in the 21st century and therefore is at the focus of neighboring and world countries’ attention. Due to this sensitive location this country is making efforts to have future predictions to draw roadmap of her relations with the global countries. These prediction are based on national interests requirements, necessities, needs, available political, economic and security challenges and better exploitation of geographical location. Maintaining good and friendly relations is not only need of Afghanistan but is an important and vital element for regional stability, security and economy. In his direction and for this purpose certain initiatives for easing of regional ties and overcoming current challenges within the process of “Heart of Asia” were recommended by Afghanistan. All member of this process including Uzbekistan realizing ground realities in the region have committed to implement suggestions of this process.
Beside that, following the end of cold war and 9/11 changes in the world politics, suitable grounds of direct cooperation between Afghanistan and neighbors have been provided. Uzbekistan could be effective for Afghanistan economic
development and ensuring security. Our linguistic, cultural and geographical commons in one hand and Uzbekistan’s foreign policy of non-interference in our domestic affairs on the other have managed to play important role in further improvement, strengthening and expansion of relations of both nations. Besides that, common threats including terrorism, drug trafficking and political instability have created good grounds of mutual cooperation between the two countries.
In 1991, following the collapse of the then USSR, Uzbekistan declared independence and Afghanistan immediately recognized it officially that ever since relations of both countries took mutual content. In 1992, Afghanistan embassy was opened in Tashkent. During the Taliban rule no official relations existed between the two countries. After, 2001, and ousting of Taliban from power, relations were re-established between the two countries. In 2002, a declaration of good neighborliness, in the direction of principals of Afghanistan’s foreign policy was signed with a number of neighboring and regional countries. Based on article 8th of Afghanistan’s constitution, spirit of cooperation and detent with neighbors was put at the top priority of Afghanistan’s diplomatic apparatus. Our relations with Uzbekistan could not be an exception from this rule (Strategic Studies Center, 2014).
A transit memorandum of understanding (MoU) through Afghanistan on trade, economic relations was signed with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan as well as Iran. A separate Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between the Afghan and Uzbek ministries of commerce (Strategic Studies Center, 2014). The Afghan and Uzbek senior authorities paid official visit from each other’s countries regularly that help further improvement of mutual relations between the two countries.
We can claim that since 2001, considerable changes have taken place in Afghanistan-Uzbekistan relations that resulted in further strengthening of both countries ties. Uzbekistan foreign policy of non-interference in Afghanistan domestic affairs has paved the ground for friendly ties, cooperation and mutual good will. Under such policy and vision further grounds of economic-trade transaction have been provided. The most important dimension of Afghanistan foreign policy regarding Uzbekistan are as following:
1- Respect to its national sovereignty and non-interference in Uzbekistan’s domestic issues;
2- Improvement of economic-trade cooperation;
3- Coordination on areas of war on terror and insecurity;
4- Cooperation on transit-transportation affairs;
5- Expansion of cultural relations and improvement of economic cooperation (Strategic Studies Center, 2014).
Reciprocally, the following points are key issues in Uzbekistan’s foreign policy regarding Afghanistan:
1- Attention to global mutual interests;
2- Priority on humanitarian values in relations among government;
3- Respect to equal principals;
4- Principal of transparency of foreign policy;
5- Prioritizing of international norms to domestic norms.
The abovementioned principals are observed as basic elements in foreign policy of Uzbekistan in its relations with Afghanistan. Besides signing of trade-transit agreements, Uzbekistan agrees with Afghanistan in war on terror and drugs.
Since security and political threats affect the whole region, it requires a time consuming and expansive war. Therefore, concerns on terror, extremism and political instability threats has created suitable opportunities of cooperation, between our two countries. Beside that SCO and ECO have provided framework of even action for both countries which support political opportunities. Furthermore, both countries are making strategic efforts to overcome environmental challenges with expansion of relations with trans-regional and developed western countries. Therefore, intentions of both countries in war on international terrorism, religious extremism and drug trafficking in coordination with big regional and global policies, improves opportunity of global cooperation for these two countries. Beside efforts of both countries in war on terror, both countries endeavor for covering of borders and preventing of terrorists infiltration, have paved the good ways of cooperation.
Hardliner Islamist factions like Hezbul Tahrir and Uzbekistan Islamic Movement jointly threat Afghanistan and Uzbekistan national interests and security. Common interests of these two countries require them to jointly repulse the common threat and undertake more coordinated measures on common borders to counter-terrorism threat.
The central Asian countries realize that military-political tranquility in Afghanistan is certainly a precondition for seeing unity and stability in central Asia and they are required to contribute and cooperate practically and seriously.
Taking into account their national security and interests for restorations of reliable security and stability in Afghanistan, they make essential possible efforts in this direction.
Due to common cultural, linguistic and geographical grounds between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, way is pave for further improvement of close bilateral ties. SCO’s long term programs, regional historical background for movement of commercial caravans on Silk Route and taking into consideration increasing importance of economic relations for eradication of insecurity and improving of economic relations have provided regional opportunities for economic cooperation between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan (Strategic Studies Center, 2014).
At present, commercial exchanges and transaction between the two countries amounts to US$ 163.7 million, including US$ 161.7 million export of Uzbekistan to Afghanistan and US$ 2 million exports of Afghanistan to Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan has already constructed eleven bridges between Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Both are facing certain challenges. Tajikistan fears of Uzbekistan influence in central Asia and consequently follows very close relations with Russia and has even deployed Russian troops on Afghanistan borders. While Afghanistan and Tajikistan have friendly relations, this has overshadowed Uzbekistan’s relations with Afghanistan. Border disputes could also cause deterioration of Kabul-Tashkent ties. Uzbekistan has border claim with all its neighbors. Beside, abovementioned problems we can also mention political, commercial, economic, cultural and security challenges of these two countries, but despite of that we can talk of vast horizon of relations between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan in the field of petroleum transit and connection of Uzbekistan to the south Asian markets.
Concerns on return of instability in Afghanistan and overtaking of power by radical Islamists, have made Uzbekistan to adopt preventive measures in tis foreign policy before Afghanistan. Therefore, Tashkent is seeking establishment of security relations with China, Russia, USA, Kazakhstan and Iran (Richard Wietz, 2012).
So Uzbekistan’s share in restoration of peace in Afghanistan would be in advantage of it and the region and could guarantee regional peace and stability. Afghanistan’s relations with Uzbekistan is a circle of Afghanistan’s foreign policy and its expansion could cause development and pave the way of regional economic development, security and sustainable stability. Beside its other neighbors, Afghanistan has always welcomed presence of Uzbekistan beside it and makes efforts to strengthen its relations with Uzbekistan to pave the way for regional stability.
2- Afghanistan and Tajikistan:
Afghanistan and Tajikistan relations have been pursued on the basis of a policy of convergence and detent. The two countries have similar views on combating terrorism, drug trafficking, political instability. The common interest between the two countries has strengthened their relations. Co-operation in economic and commercial fields within the Shanghai Organization has led to the emergence of similar interests. Afghanistan and Tajikistan as two friends have always been trying to overcome regional challenges. Afghanistan’s particular perspective to Tajikistan has been due to their cultural, linguistic, and religious commons. Convergence of Afghanistan and Tajikistan in understanding of common challenges and available opportunities in the region has created suitable ground for closer cooperation. Both countries have been trying to minimize growth of extremism and pave the way for restoration of regional security. Although these two countries are landlocked but opportunities like having rich natural resources of oil and gas as a privilege can be useful toward more strengthening of relations between the countries and attraction of more investment for overcoming geographical restrictions and improving of spirit of cooperation(Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
Historical relations between the two countries further strengthened after the Independence of Tajikistan in 1992 and ever since both sides have been trying to improve their ties with signing of political, economic, cultural and security agreements. In short, Afghanistan’s foreign policy before Tajikistan has been set up on the following bases:
-Expansion and strengthening of bilateral relations;
-Fight against terrorism and narcotics;
-Supporting of an independent and stable Tajikistan;
-Policy of non-interference in each other affairs; -Strengthening of cultural relations;
-Developing economic relations including playing a constructive role in transit projects (Center for Strategic Studies 2014).
Reciprocally, Tajikistan’s foreign policy toward Afghanistan includes:
-Supporting Afghan Unity and Independence;
-The Way to the crisis and ensure peace in Afghanistan;
-Assuming Afghanistan as a security and energy partner;
-War on drugs inside Afghanistan (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
In the light of these principles, agreements have been signed on trade, transit, energy transfer, railways construction, health, development of cultural exchanges, joint struggle against terrorism and extremism between the two countries.
Due to increasing influence of terrorism and fundamentalism in the region including Tajikistan, this country has been facing serious threat of terrorism and emphasizes on joint war on it by both sides. In war on terror and extremism and drugs, both countries have common interests and are requesting serious role of SCO in restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Both countries are trying to pave suitable ground for regional convergence through economic and commercial plans. Tajikistan is trying to exploit all regional opportunities to attract foreign investments. Realizing regional opportunities Afghanistan has always welcomed partnership in all regional plans in various regional meetings (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
Tajikistan tries to encourage its friends in SCO and further improve ground of regional convergence among its neighboring counties. But Tajikistan’s support of Afghanistan for gaining of SCO membership is facing challenges, because this country has close ties with Russia and due to grave rivalry of Russia and the USA, Afghanistan’s relations with Tajikistan may be overshadowed.
In total, Afghanistan’s foreign policy before Tajikistan aimed to fight destabilizing factors in short term, expansion of economic cooperation and efforts for improving
of these relations at regional level in mid-term and preservation of deepening of relations in long term despite of all challenges.
The agreeable interests of both countries have paved the ground for further deepening of mutual friendly relations. These friendly relations have caused both sides to make efforts with good will toward strengthening of their relations and have no concerns on each other neighborhood. Tajikistan has located in oil rich region that could bring benefit to Afghanistan. Therefore, Tajikistan importance to Afghanistan is very high, because this country plays a vital role in its foreign policy and key attention is paid to it in the first circle.
3- Afghanistan and Turkmenistan
Relations between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan do not have a long dated background, and the main reason of this, being Turkmenistan as a young independent country. This means that political instability has affected the relations between the two countries before 2001. But after 9/11, relations between the two countries were in normal state and without tension. Like other Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan has taken neutrality in its relations with Afghanistan and has tried to play a neutral role in the political developments in Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the fall of the Taliban, this country has been trying to play a greater role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The importance of Afghanistan for Turkmenistan is due to its location because it can be the shortest way of transferring Turkmen’s energy to South Asia. Reciprocally, the foreign policy of Afghanistan toward Turkmenistan is based on multilateralism, on the one hand, and regionalism on order to have more economic benefits on the other. From the fact that Afghanistan is dependent on energy imports, Turkmenistan can play a very good role in strengthening the economic foundations and energy supply needed by Afghanistan. On the other hand, it could be a transit route through Kazakhstan, Russia and Europe to Afghanistan
Insufficient research has been done to understand Afghanistan’s foreign policy with Turkmenistan, in order to have an academic study on relations between the two countries from one hand, to have deepen the relations between the two countries, from other. To do this, all the backgrounds of the historical relationships of these two political units should be considered, in addition of challenges and opportunities. Afghanistan has about 763 km border with Turkmenistan through Faryab, Jawzjan, Badghis and Herat. In the past, at the time of the Soviet Union,
the relations between these two political units were very limited, dependent on Moscow’s policies. Afghanistan officially recognized Turkmenistan’s independence during the role of Dr. Najeebullah’s government and the diplomatic relations between these two countries were established.
Regardless of the political instability and fluctuations in this country, the government of the Mujahedin led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, recognized the independence of Turkmenistan and subsequently maintained its diplomatic agency in that country. Reciprocally, Turkmenistan, also opened its political entities in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif (Zahir, 2006, 79), which strengthened bilateral relations between the two governments, and the diplomatic relations were in normal state. In addition, Afghanistan was one of the first countries to recognize the neutrality of Turkmenistan and adopted the same policy. In the wake of the Afghan civil war, especially between the government of the Mujahedin and the Taliban, Turkmenistan allowed both parties to open political entities to prove its impartiality. Despite the political instability in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan’s relations with Afghanistan have never been tensed and have been accompanied by diplomatic warming ties, but relations between the two countries are more based on economic requirements than political ones.
After the defeat of the Taliban, the relationship between the Afghan Interim Administration led by Afghan Ex- President Hamid Karzai and the Turkmenistan was promoted to the level of the ambassador, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai opened the Afghan Embassy in Ashgabat in 2005 (Strategic Studies Center, 2014). Signing of trade agreements between the two countries, helped the warming of political relations between these countries. The Turkmen side supported the foreign and domestic policies of the interim administration, led by Karzai, calling for peace and stability in the country. As a result, numerous visits by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the country led to the signing of five agreements in the first phase, and the second trip was to negotiate on the TAPI project (Strategic Studies Center, 2014).
This is why the two countries have made great efforts to improve relations in different fields. These efforts have confirmed that the two countries are using the existing political opportunities for mutual relations and avoiding marginal issues and the inertia of the regional and international powers in bilateral relations. A summary of the existing political opportunities between the two countries based on neutral policy, can be showed in two points:
Turkmenistan’s neutral policy in the field of foreign relations;
-Creating a new political, economic and security environment in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.
This is the fact that security challenges affect bilateral relations and cannot be consolidated normally, the two presidents stated in a joint declaration in 2007 on consolidating peace and stability, building a space of trust and good understanding at the regional and international levels. The two countries emphasized on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, organized crime and transnational crime and drug trafficking which are a major threats to the two countries’ relations. While Turkmenistan, like other Central Asian countries, does not face much of the threat posed by terrorism.
In the cultural sphere after 2001, bilateral relations between the two countries intensified, and both sides emphasized on the continuation and expansion of bilateral relations on the basis of the policy of neutrality in their foreign policy, in which the role of Turkmenistan in the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan is very valuable and understandable. Therefore, the interest of both sides in the development of relations and the emphasis on foreign policy impartiality is a sign of a serious commitment to the full development of relations between the two countries. Turkmenistan’s gratis aids to Afghanistan’s educational institutions, such as construction of hostel of Jawzjan University, the construction of Jawzjan and Faryab universities, increase the number of scholarships for Afghan youth are mentionable (Ministry of Higher Education, 2010). The use of cultural and academic opportunities between the two countries, in one hand, reduces the security challenges among the countries and helps to develop relations between the two countries on the other.
As previously noted, the expansion of economic and trade relations between the two countries has a significant impact on easing of security challenges of the Central Asian region, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan can contribute to economic growth and reduce security challenges due to good geographical locations, especially the neighborhood of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan with China, which has a high economic growth, can be another advantage to strengthen regional cooperation in reducing the security, economic, and political challenges. Because China needs energy and raw materials for its industrial production to continue its economic growth, and Afghanistan is a good route to export Turkmen gas to China.
Silk Road as the oldest transit route can provide a good opportunity for regional cooperation, not only between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, but it can be a good alternative to trans-regional investments. Turkmen Bashi’s port in Turkmenistan is another good opportunity to connect Afghanistan to Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia, and to solve the problems of the lack of access to free waters and trade with Azerbaijan through this route connect Afghanistan to European countries. At the same time, Turkmenistan is a good transit route for Afghanistan to connect this country to Kazakhstan and Russia (Strategic Studies Center, 2014).
Considering the above points, it can be admitted that there are no serious obstacles on development and strengthening of relations between the two countries, and both countries can use commercial, economic and political opportunities in the region.
4- Afghanistan and Azerbaijan:
Azerbaijan is the largest oil-rich country in the Caspian Sea that due to its geographical location, has always been at the center of attention of the regional powers, including Russia, Iran and Turkey. The political fate of this country is the same as the fate of Afghanistan, which has always suffered by the supremacy and hegemony of regional powers. Both Afghanistan and Azerbaijan agree that expansionist policies in the region by large powers will lead to regional pessimism and stagnate political and economic development.
Both countries look at each other optimistically and the relations between the two countries are warm. Azerbaijan, gained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Afghanistan was one of the first governments who recognized its independence. Like Afghanistan, this country severely suffers from the religious extremism and drug trafficking. Therefore, as an active and pragmatic actor, this country has embarked on Afghan affairs, and has made a comprehensive contribution to the war on extremism and development in the country. The historical background of relations between Afghanistan and Azerbaijan goes back to the years before. Both countries have a moral and traditional approach to enforcing their foreign policy based on mutual respect. Relations between the two countries can be divided into five periods: 1- the ancient period, 2-the pre-occupation period of the Soviet Union, 3- the occupation period of the Soviet Union, 4- the period of the Mujahedeen 5- the Taliban rule and the period after 2001.
The collapse of the Taliban regime and the establishment of the interim administration and new government in Afghanistan are a milestone in the history of relations between the two countries. Since then, a new chapter has been opened in relations between the two countries, and Baku’s pragmatic foreign policy in Afghanistan is quite tangible. Based on foreign policy of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan has embarked on the second circle of the foreign policy of Afghanistan as a country from the Caucasus region.
From the perspective of the government of Afghanistan, the main factor in the development of good relations between the two countries is the opinion of the policy makers of Azerbaijan that they oppose any kind of prolonging of extremist and terrorist activities in the Central Asian countries, and in particular in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan is to trying eradicate this destructive phenomenon. Azerbaijan’s cooperation with Afghanistan and its active participation in the reconstruction and eradication of extremism and drug trafficking can serve as examples of a pragmatic policy of this country in the field of foreign policy.
Afghan policymakers, value Azerbaijan’s role not only in the post-war reconstruction process in Afghanistan, but also in its support for counter-terrorism and contributing to the ISAF contingency mission. Relations between Kabul and Baku have a special strength. There are many political and economic opportunities available to both countries to make optimal use of it. Political opportunities between the two countries focus on membership in regional organizations. The membership of both countries in the Islamic Conference Organization, the ECO has created a further deepening of the relationship between the two political actors.
Regional and international threats have created opportunities to adopt similar policies both by Kabul and Baku. In this way, the two countries can use the opportunities and potential of the region to turn regional and trans-regional rivalries into commercial and economic opportunities along with political issues and create a good field of cooperation between these powers. In terms of geo-strategy, Azerbaijan is the gateway to Central Asia, and Afghanistan can make greater use of this golden opportunity in regional trade, playing a greater role as a connecting point of South Asia to its north and Europe.
The role of Azerbaijan in the training of Afghan diplomats has also been very valuable. With a grant of $ 300,000 in military equipment from Afghanistan, this country donated 24,000 books to Afghan education in 2012. Economically, Baku can invest heavily in Afghanistan.
The continuation of these investments in Afghanistan will lead to economic development in this country. At the same time, the membership of both countries in ECO has created many commercial opportunities in creating a common market.
The look of the Azerbaijani policy makers to Afghanistan is positive and valuable. These politicians see Afghanistan as the centerpiece of stability and security in the region. Because they believe that the reduction of security challenges in this country contributes to the economic growth and development of the entire region and creates more convergence among the countries of the region. Based on the seventh principle of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, the country’s greater focus is on regionalism, so Afghanistan can be considered as an important country in facilitating transit and trade and transferring energy to South Asia.
5- Afghanistan and Kazakhstan:
Kazakhstan’s ability in the field of agriculture, its richness in terms of underground resources, its neighborhood with China and Russia, the country’s rapid economic growth and its membership in regional organizations and other processes, are mutually adding on the importance of its impact on economic and political situation in Afghanistan. In addition to this, Kazakhstan is paying particular attention to the causes of Afghanistan due to its adjacent to Central Asia, historical, cultural, and joint security challenges such as terrorism, narcotics, the presence of NATO and the European Union and the United States’ military presence on the ground and this country owns a unique importance for Afghanistan due to its geography (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world, the largest country in Central Asia, and the second largest landlocked republic after the Russian Federation. The role of the country is very high for a country like Afghanistan, which is struggling to achieve stability and meet the needs of its economy. Afghanistan should benefit Kazakhstan’s experience in the political, economic, and business sectors and its growth in the field of agricultural sector.
As Afghanistan is a landlocked country that has no access to free waters, Central Asian countries, in particular Kazakhstan, known as “The Soviet Union’s stockroom of Wheat”, up to some extent, can meet some of the country’s food supply needs. Both countries are trying to strengthen and expand efforts to strengthen bilateral relations. While both countries are present in organizations such as ECO, Shanghai; they are trying to make further efforts to ensure collective security, sustainable development and economic prosperity in joint work within the framework of the Shanghai and ECO with the centerpiece of Afghanistan. The efforts of all the countries of the region within the framework of regional efforts is aimed to create a space of trust and regional cooperation to bring Afghanistan and the whole region to a stable and lasting development and to face the dangers and challenges confronting the whole region especially Afghanistan.
In 1992, Afghanistan was the first country that recognized Kazakhstan’s independence and established diplomatic relations with this country. Although Afghanistan does not share any border with this country, common threats, such as terrorism, drugs and religious extremism, and the availability of opportunities in the region for the development and growth of regional economies, compensate this geographical separation (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
During the Taliban rule, there were no official relations between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, but in 2003, relations between the two countries went up to the embassy level (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014). The subsequent visits of the officials of both countries show the importance of mutual relations between the two countries. Kazakhstan’s aid to Afghanistan in the field of food, scholarship, construction of highways, in the political sphere and support the accession of Afghanistan to the Shanghai’s organization membership is also mentionable in this regard (Ahmadullah Sutuk, 2012, Afghanistan newspaper). There are also many political opportunities between the two countries. Such as the two countries ‘cooperation in SCO, bilateral cooperation of the two countries, existing cooperation in the framework of the Istanbul / Central Asian Process (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
The visits of the Afghan authorities to Kazakhstan and the numerous visits of Kazakhstani officials to Afghanistan have shown the importance of bilateral relations. Existing political, commercial and economic capacities can be used as an important factor in consolidating relations between the two countries. The membership of both countries in the ECO can contribute to the economic development of the region and to address the existing regional challenges, using existing capacities of this organization. Although this country is not being directly threatened by terrorism, its officials have been seriously aware of this and are worried about the deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan. It forms the basis of joint work between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan and requires more efforts of the region to address the potential and actual dangers of the region.
The signing of numerous agreements and the implementation of these Agreements will ensure the welfare of both countries.
In addition, this country, having good relations with Pakistan, can play a role in reducing tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the security field, the two countries can play an important role in the region and establish the basis for the joint work. The relations between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan with NATO, the relations between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan with the Treaty of Shanghai, and bilateral relations between the two countries can be the basis of collective and bilateral work to address the dangers of the spreading of terrorism in the region. In the commercial and economic fields, using of Kazakhstan’s rich experience in agriculture, investing in Afghanistan’s mines, cooperation between the two countries within the framework of the ECO and the use of existing transit capacities can be considered as examples of the consistency of relations between the two countries.
As the security challenges are one of the important issues for the strengthening of relations between the countries of the Central Asia and Afghanistan, and in particular Kazakhstan, so if serious attention is not paid to the instability of Afghanistan, this problem may spread to the Xinxiang provinces of China, Chechnya and Dagestan in Russian Federation and the entire Central Asian region. On the other hand, one of the main routes of drug trafficking produced in Afghanistan is through Kazakhstan’s Chu port to the outside (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
The two countries try to adopt a policy of neutrality in their foreign policy, but there are obstacles to the implementation and expansion of this policy at the regional level. Kazakhstan traditionally tries to strengthen its ties with Russia and China, while based on the comments of NATO’s authorities, “Afghanistan is, an ally outside the geographical area of NATO”. This will lead to problems in the field of cooperation on a larger scale.
The development of economic relations between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan enjoy particular importance. Afghanistan is trying to achieve political stability through economic development, while Kazakhstan is trying to achieve international trade through trade and have access to the international markets and free waters. The amount of trade transaction between the two countries is over $ 250 million (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014). Another issue that increases the importance of Afghanistan to the Central Asian countries is the proximity of Afghanistan to the free waters. This is an acknowledgment that if there is no alternative to accessing to the free waters, there is no shorter route rather than Afghanistan to the west and south. Due to this Afghanistan is gaining ground in regional politics and trade.
6- Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan:
The two countries of Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, despite having mutual interests, have had limited relations, but the Istanbul process has created many political, military and economic opportunities for strengthening and expanding cooperation between them (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014). While cooperation between regional countries within the framework of regionalism policy, on the one hand, leads to the growing economic and trade benefits between the countries of the region in one hand h, limit the development of common security and military challenges on the other.
Perhaps if the policy of regionalism did not exist in foreign policy of most Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, the deterioration of the situation would have been much higher than today. Fortunately, this policy has worked so far that the majority of Central Asian countries have come to realize that common threats and existing opportunities taking into account the existing potential in the region to make this regionalism more conducive toward joint work. The pace of change in the international system forces the leaders of states, taking into account the political and security conditions of the region and the whole world, should adopt necessary measures, timely solutions to the challenges and take effective steps to use existing opportunities in the region.
Kyrgyzstan gained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. After the independence of Kyrgyzstan, like Afghanistan, it also suffered political turmoil and failed to establish diplomatic relations with other countries. After the establishment of the interim administration in Afghanistan, the relations between the two countries have been warming up. But the low level of diplomatic relations in the years after independence, has left this country to play an active role in relations with its neighbors. Afghanistan’s relations with Kyrgyzstan have not been consolidated yet. For this reason, common and essential norms and meanings have not been established between the two countries. Therefore, diplomacy and cooperation between these two countries, can be assessed on the basis of real factors and variables (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
The effective and objective variables in the foreign policy of the two countries, are divided into two parts: national and transnational (systematic). National variables, that has reference to the economy (import and export of goods, use of geography for transit, etc.), security (counterterrorism, weapons smuggling, etc.), scientific and cultural (training and human resource use), etc., the two countries could identify and develop their resources based on these variables (Iraj, 106: 1387).
Transnational and systematic variables are those variables that comprise the structure and process of the region and the international system. The international system has various forms, such as the balance of power, the unipolar or multipolar system, and so on, each of which has influenced foreign policy of countries (James 1971: 100).
For example, Afghanistan’s foreign policy in the bipolar system cannot be the same with its foreign policy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At present, international systems and regions are influenced by a variety of political, economic, and cultural variables and is moving to a degree of cooperation and convergence (Qavam, 2007: 72). Due to the fact that Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan have similar policies about the United States, the changing structure of the international system and the region facilitates the development of Afghan-Kyrgyz co-operation.
Given the lack of effective cooperation between Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, it cannot be ascertained about the realities of the two countries’ relations with foreign policy elements, but based on the Afghanistan Regional Cooperation Strategy document, the most important pivots of Afghanistan’s foreign policy towards Kyrgyzstan and other regional countries are “expanding relations with the countries of the region with a view of securing energy, expanding trade and transit, mining, agriculture and health, attracting foreign investment, combating drug trafficking, exchanging workers and attracting skilled workers(Regional Cooperation Strategies document, 2011).
Kyrgyzstan by granting military bases to the US to fight terror, has indirectly supported Afghanistan in the field of security. However, Kyrgyzstan under the leadership of Askar Aqayov as an active member of SCO, and totally after 9/11 did not support the US policy in the central Asia, but this country allowed NATO forces carry out their logistic supplies (Bengal, 209: 1384). During the US-led war in Afghanistan in March 2002, the Kyrgyz authorities vowed to handover Manas
military base to the United States, based on the decision of the Kyrgyz government until July 14, 2014.
Instead of granting military base to US, Kyrgyzstan, has considered several goals. These goals are more affected by domestic issues, especially economic problems, the expansion of national sovereignty, narcotics, the empowerment of the national army, and the pressure on militant Islamic groups in Kyrgyzstan. Hence, the US victory on Islamic groups and the formation of a capable government in Afghanistan has a positive impact on the interests of Kyrgyzstan. Therefore, cooperation with the United States and allies in the fight against terrorism and drug has been evaluated as one of the key factors in the provision of the Manas military base with 1,500 troops as a long-term strategy for Kyrgyzstan.
Afghanistan’s constructive engagement with Kyrgyzstan has been more economic by its nature. During this period, numerous agreements were signed on international airlines, electricity, war on drugs and weapons, development and support of investment, exemption from additional taxes, agriculture, and education. Only limited agreements were implemented between the two countries. And the rest is not implemented. Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan can collaborate with multiple partnerships and there is no barrier to their bilateral cooperation. The Istanbul process and confidence-building measures are considered to be a good cooperation between Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. Undoubtedly, the expansion of bilateral cooperation between Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, will increase interests of Afghanistan.
In the current situation, the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan before Kyrgyzstan needs “strategic confidence-building”. This will be interpreted in the concept of convergence in economic, industrial and cultural spheres. If such a process starts, more effective trends can be arranged in the regional cooperation areas in Central Asia.
Due to the cultural interrelationship Kyrgyzstan, has long-standing relationships with Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz ethnic minorities in Afghanistan are a small minority of about 8,000 people who live mostly in the mountainous regions of Wakhan, Badakhshan province (Kazemi, 2012). The Kyrgyz authorities have always expressed concern about the health and education and other problems of the Kyrgyz minority in this country. (Nazarov, 2012)
One of the focal points of political cooperation between Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan is the observer membership of Afghanistan in Shanghai Organization. Afghanistan wants to improve its position and be close to Kyrgyzstan as a periodical head of Shanghai, and has a positive influence on the position of Afghanistan in this organization (Nazarov, 2013).
On the other hand, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan have signed numerous agreements in the economic and commercial spheres. Agreement on the Business Council and implementation of some projects, such as transmission or purchase of electricity from Kyrgyzstan (Casa-1000), and some other agreements that have not yet been implemented (Center for Strategic Studies, 2014).
In order to consolidate their relations, the two countries need to engage in political, economic and security cooperation to resolve the challenges and take advantage of opportunity. At the level of economic cooperation, economic interactions between the two countries will increase the economic potential of the two countries and will increase the volume of exports and imports. At the political level, cooperation between the two countries in the context of confidence-building measures in the Heart of Asia provides the ground for strengthening of this process, which will solve the crisis in the region. At the security level, the existing security challenges, if not taken seriously in Afghanistan, could expand the scope of the problems to the whole Central Asia and the countries of the region.
Foreign policy means pursuing the goals of countries in the international environment in relation to governments and other countries. Foreign policy is the world’s thematic guide, and includes all of the international goals in order to reach it. Afghanistan’s foreign policy is based on mutual respect, good neighborliness with the most of Asian countries. Opportunities such as common culture and language, the position of Afghanistan as the South-North Asian highway and the existence of common security threats, such as terrorism, religious extremism, drug and human trafficking that not only faced Afghanistan and whole region with challenges, but also have provided good regional convergence and opportunities. It also facilitates Central Asian and Afghan governments to focus on regional convergence to address challenges and opportunities. Therefore, Afghanistan is not only an important element of economic convergence between Central and South Asia, but it is considered to be a key rout of trade and transit between the two regions and this is possible if the countries of the region agree on the principle of regional convergence and regionalism based on collective profit. If a country wants
to succeed in its foreign policy, it must pay special attention to regional issues in some way or be out of regional problems or minimize its regional problems. This principle is still considered in the foreign policy of Afghanistan, as well as in the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus region, where the principle of regional cooperation between Afghanistan and the Caucasus region is more reliant on this point. Afghanistan’s foreign policy focuses on five circles based on a plan: the first circle forms relations with neighboring countries. The first three Central Asian countries, such as Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, are at the forefront of Afghanistan’s foreign policy, and are more important both in terms of their neighborhood with Afghanistan and the threats, challenges and opportunities that these countries share with Afghanistan. The countries of the Caucasus are in the second loop of the foreign policy of Afghanistan at the level of the countries of the region. Although these countries, unlike Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, don’t face direct threats and challenges but cultural, business and economic opportunities have further strengthened ties between Afghanistan and these countries.
It is equally important for Afghanistan to understand the sensitivity of the issue of regional convergence, in order to overcome the high level of security threats that are predominantly rooted in the fragile economies of the countries of the region and Afghanistan, and on the other hand, Afghanistan focuses on the high level of economic trade and opportunities. The neighboring countries of Afghanistan (Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) understanding the issue and with the growing danger of expanding religious extremism, terrorism and drugs are trying to benefit from existing political and economic opportunities in a regional convergence, to limit the growth and expansion of this plague of the era.
Meanwhile, the independent variable (international system) and the influence of powerful states on the scene are somewhat considered as barriers to this plan. The presence of NATO and the United States in Afghanistan and their influence on its foreign policy, on the one hand, and the influence of the Shanghai Organization on the foreign policy of the central Asian countries and the Caucasus region, are among the other variables that could be effective on the success or failure of this plan.
It’s clear that a stable Afghanistan is in the interests of stability and security in the region. Afghanistan also understands this and is in the process of setting up a five-
loop foreign policy; Central Asian countries, such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, are placed among the neighboring countries, the second loop is the Caucasus countries. It is intended to take into account the importance of these countries in their interactions and their external relations with Afghanistan, as well as the role that these country play in reducing regional threats and creating good business and economic opportunities. Therefore, if this process of regional integration is to proceed on the basis of understanding and cooperation, the profits from political and security issues, as well as trade and economic, will significantly prosper the countries around.