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Uzbekistan President Karimov’s long-term vision of a Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone is now much closer to realisation
March 2, 2015 15:25PM
In May 2014 an important initiative, the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, or CANWFZ, was enshrined by the actions of five nuclear states—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia—as they signed a Protocol agreeing to respect the non-proliferation framework. The idea has been discussed since at least 1993, when the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, proposed it at the UN General Assembly.
The framework went through an extensive gestation before last year’s signing, including numerous taskforces, committees, and the 2009 entry into force after ratification by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan before finally the five powers agreed to respect and observe the no-weapon zone. The nuclear-free region joins other areas around the world that have agreed to treaties banning nuclear weapons including Latin America, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Africa.
This treaty represents another important step in the path to lessening the world’s fear of nuclear weapons, region by region and country by country. It is particularly noteworthy for being demanded and created by a region and people who have personally suffered under nuclear contamination and after-effects, as Kazakhstan was the host for 459 Cold-War tests. The region is also bordered by current nuclear powers and has long played a part in great East-West power struggles.
While hugely important, the impact should not be overestimated, given regional concerns. Though the five permanent Security Council members have signed on and committed to respect the treaty provisions, little has been said regarding two other nuclear states just to the south: India and Pakistan. Though the possibility of a conflict there going ‘hot’ remains remote, the fact that they have long-standing conflicts of interest means that it is a bit naïve to assume that the spectre of nuclear ramifications has been banished from the region forever.
Nevertheless, this Treaty is a milestone that should be celebrated. It goes beyond many similar initiatives by also containing provisions that specifically attempt to prevent non-state actors from acquiring weapons. Thus, it is an important framework in emerging Central Asian security cooperation, and represents one of the most significant efforts that involved all five Central Asian states. As such, the political unity demonstrated perhaps represents good things for the future of regional cohesion and stability.
Please click here in order to read a recent press release from the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan to Belgium which elaborates in more detail on this important topic.