The word ‘Reclaiming’ in the heading of this article may make you curious. What exactly do I mean by ‘reclaiming’? What has been reclaimed here? As you go through this article, some of your questions will be answered based on my personal understanding of this region.
Unlike many other regions of the world, my connection with Central Asia is very recent. A few years ago, based on my interest in global affairs, I was invited to participate in a survey by a Moscow based think-tank. This survey gave me realization and importance of Central Asia. Later for a client, I did an extensive analysis of Central Asia from a strategic point of view and also studied the history of this region to get some perspective. For the voluntary translation of ‘Zero Cost MBA’ in Central Asian languages, I interacted with a lot of local organizations from Central Asia brought me closer to this continent. Simultaneously, understanding of Russian language opened new doors to me. I had detailed discussions with individuals from different nations as part of language exchange activities.
I have spent a lot of time studying this region through history, economics, and from a strategic point of view. In an ever-changing geopolitical scenario, this place occupies a unique place in current global business strategy equations and that’s what I am going to talk about in brief.
What is it?
Collectively, it is the region of 5 countries in the west of China, south of Russia, ending with the word ‘-stan’, which in the Persian language means ‘land of’. Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan are the name of those regions.
Global geopolitics: Collaboration, Global Security, and a vital link between Europe and Asia made this region significant in the decision making process. 20th Century might be remembered for the Cold war with 2 blocks eyeing regions to include them in the sphere of influence, but in the 21st century, we are heading towards a multi-polar world. Different powers(USA, Russia, India, China) are trying to increase their circle of influence in Central Asia. The Belt and Road Initiative by China will be an interesting development to look for in the coming decade. The recent inclusion of many countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Eurasian Economic Union has only highlighted importance given to this region by other economic powers.
Natural resources:Various studies have highlighted the presence of vast reserves of Oil & Gas in Central Asia. The region may not give competition to top producers, but it can certainly influence price variation. It was in the year 2007 when I first tried to understand the logic behind price estimation of Oil. Over the years, I was able to merge micro-economic policies, geopolitical strategies, and demand for oil importing nations to analyze this phenomenon in a more scientific way. World economy runs on Oil and abundance of these reserves make Central Asia a strategic interest. Majority of these reserves are underdeveloped, so a lot of things to expect from this region in coming future. Especially countries like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan are now regarded as a key player in global energy security.
History: Historical writers have never given enough credit to Central Asia for its role in shaping the narrative of important events in history. This region acted as a gateway allowing smooth trade, information flow, spiritual believes to flow from Asia to Europe and from Europe to Asia. This place was a melting pot for the different school of thoughts to come together and shaping the regional identity of Central Asia. Cities like Bukhara, Samarkand, Kandahar, Tashkent played a significant role in trade. Much of this region was part of ancient Silk Road, a route where Innovations like Gun Power, first invented in China were reached to Europe and further west. Efforts to revive this old route with much more modern transportation infrastructure are currently in progress. Not to forget, this land witnessed some of the most bloody battles in history. To gain control of ancient Silk Trade Route lured many kingdoms into conflicts with each other and they brought their own uniqueness in shaping the unique identity of Central Asia. There is no doubt that this region is home to an uncountable number of ethnicity, languages, and customs.
Geography & Lifestyle: Central Asia sits on a very rugged terrain making most of the place inhabitable for the human. It also makes farming a difficult task. Much of the population still live nomadic life throughout the country. Access to good connectivity is possible in recent years but only limited to cities. Home to Gobi Desert, Aral Sea, and Pamir Mountains this place attracts a lot of tourists but surviving in those conditions is no easy task. Post-dissolution of USSR, things have started to change in some regions with better connectivity and infrastructure. This region offers a lot of potential in terms of development and that is attracting a lot of investment from major financial powers.
Conclusion: There is a lot to say about this region, though I hope you understood the title of this article. The region which has played a key role in shaping global history is now trying to claim it’s role through modernity, economic growth, and human development.