Security in Central Asia: Parliamentary Conference in Islamabad

The representative circle of participants in the Islamabad parliamentary conference on combating terrorism can be considered one of its positive results. However, it seems advisable to expand further the number of participants in the inter-parliamentary platform for dialogue and include, in particular, the states of Central Asia.

On December 24-25, the first regional parliamentary conference on combating terrorism and mutual cooperation was held in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. The event was attended by the heads of parliaments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkey. Russia was represented by Vyacheslav Volodin, the State Duma speaker.

This conference was initiated by Pakistan, which has been familiar with the problem of terrorism for several decades. According to the Pakistani authorities, only this year the country’s economy suffered a loss of $123 billion because of terrorist attacks.

Eurasia Archipelago. Prospects for a Continental Security Arrangement Andrey Sushentsov
A key continent, Eurasia, could become a continent of cooperation in the 21st century. The Eurasian mainland is the longest and most densely populated landmass in the world, which contains key military and economic power centers. Continental powers can address security and development challenges jointly but to do this they need to create a continent-wide transport, energy and communications infrastructure as well as a stable continental security system. Prospectively, all of this could unite the continent and lead to political stability.

The initiative of Islamabad was considered successful and timely in the capitals of other Eurasian states, and during the second meeting of speakers of Eurasian parliaments in Seoul this summer, an agreement to hold this conference was reached. The reasons for interest of key Eurasian states in its implementation are quite simple: first of all, the need to maintain stability, develop economies, and strengthen international ties. One of the key conditions to achieve these goals is to stop the terrorist threat and ensure security in Eurasia.

Moreover, the Eurasian countries needed to “synchronize watches” about the two key processes that fundamentally affect security in Eurasia. First, this is the settlement of the Syrian conflict, where progress has been made thanks to the operation of the Russian armed forces, as well as the diplomatic efforts of Russia, Iran and Turkey. The main forces of ISIS are now defeated and scattered, but this success also gives rise to new challenges. The militants leave Syria and try to move into the territories of other countries, including Russia and the states of Central Asia.

Second, the situation in Afghanistan needs more attention today. The social and economic situation in the country remains extremely difficult, the power of Kabul in some regions is very weak. At the same time, there is a creeping growth in popularity of the ISIS ideology in Afghanistan, which, together with the influx of extremists from Syria, makes the situation even more difficult. The situation with the production of drugs has not improved either. Revenues from their sale often go to finance terrorist activities. Today, there is also a process of coupling between criminal elements and extremists. A particular concern for Russia and the Central Asian states is the fact that concentration of militants is growing in the north of Afghanistan.

These issues were discussed during the inter-parliamentary conference in Islamabad. In particular, the participants in the event came to the conclusion about the expediency to develop joint mechanisms to control the movement of terrorists across the borders. The Russian side also pointed to the need for approximation of the laws of the Eurasian states in the sphere of security and countering terrorism. Following the results of two meetings, one of which was devoted to the search for common strategies to combat terrorism in the region and the role of parliaments, and the second one to strengthening regional ties, the participants prepared a joint statement. The document was signed by the heads of parliaments of the participating countries.

However, the main result of the first regional inter-parliamentary conference on security is different. The conference marks the emergence of a new platform for dialogue and synchronization of the Eurasian states’ positions. Thanks to this format, the existing interaction between the heads of state and executive authorities is complemented by interaction between representative bodies, which is also very important for understanding each other’s positions. It is already known that the next second inter-parliamentary conference on security will be held in Tehran.

The representative circle of the conference participants can be considered one of its positive results. Special attention should be paid to participation in this event of Turkey, which is one of the key participants in the dialogue on Syria. Meanwhile, it seems advisable to expand further the number of participants in the inter-parliamentary platform for dialogue and include, in particular, the states of Central Asia. Today this region experiences a difficult situation in terms of the terrorist threat. There is a tendency when criminal groups and extremist forces splice, radical ideas are “rooted” into national soil, and there is increase in propagandistic Internet materials. Even Kazakhstan, whose population faces a significant drop in the standard of living, is not an exception. However, if in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan the situation is generally stable, in Kyrgyzstan the presence and activity of extremist forces are more noticeable, due to a more open political system and less control over public life. It already happens not only in the south of the country, but also in its “secular” and more prosperous north.

However, the greatest concern is caused by Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Tajikistan has a long and insufficiently strengthened border with Afghanistan, where the concentration of militants and criminal groups is growing in the north. During the meeting of the heads of state at the CSTO summit in Minsk last November, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon drew attention of his colleagues to the problem of the threat from the Afghan territory. In early December, the commander of a Tajik military unit was killed in a clash on the border with Afghanistan. As for Turkmenistan, there are serious questions about the potential ability of its army to counter the extraordinary situations that may arise from the south. All of this undoubtedly affects the interests of Russia, especially since the two states of Central Asia – Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, based on the principles of free movement of goods, services, capitals and people. The rest of the region is also closely connected with Moscow in political, economic, humanitarian and cultural terms.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.