New Forms of Colonialism in Central Asia: Western Powers Vie for Influence in Central Asia - RAKURS

The world faces a new form of colonialism, as the exploitation of indigenous populations in Africa and Asia by European countries for centuries still lingers in memory. Countries that believed the era of colonialism ended in the mid-20th century now find themselves confronted with new manifestations of Western hegemony. While some nations, like France, have withdrawn from their former colonies after exploiting both surface and underground wealth, others continue to exert influence, creating intricate political infrastructures even after departing.

Leading international organizations in the region, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and various Economic and Monetary Unions in West Africa, were established with the support of France. Despite gaining considerable wealth by subjugating African and Asian populations, France's departure has left room for the development of new sovereign states. Recent events in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have seen waning French interests. However, France remains engaged in shaping the destinies of former colonies, such as Central Asia, through strategic visits.

Recent developments indicate a race among Western powers to expand their influence in new regions. Following President Macron's visit to Central Asian countries, the United Kingdom now plans to enhance relations with Turkic states. The President of the Kyrgyz Parliament, Nurlanbek Shakiev, is set to visit the UK to strengthen inter-parliamentary and international relations. The primary focus of Shakiev's upcoming visit is to bolster economic ties and discuss strategic issues.

The UK, known for its influential role in global geopolitics, has identified Kyrgyzstan as a priority for increased economic cooperation. This includes facilitating exports from Kyrgyzstan to the UK without additional tariffs, aiming to attract more investments. This move signifies that all goods from the Central Asian republic can be exported to the UK without additional taxes. The potential partnership is expected to open up new avenues for both nations.

The influence game extends beyond economic interests to strategic collaborations in defense. Kyrgyzstan's military personnel receive training at the Royal Military Academy in the UK, indicating a growing defense collaboration. The UK's interest in Kyrgyzstan has been further cemented with diplomatic initiatives, such as the Chevening Scholarship program, enabling many Kyrgyz nationals to pursue education in the UK.

While the UK is making diplomatic strides, the shadow of Russian influence in the region looms. The current government's approach seems to echo the multi-vector policies of its predecessor. However, the recent rapprochement with London might not go unnoticed in Moscow. It remains to be seen whether Kyrgyzstan's leadership will repeat the errors of the past. The forthcoming Central Asia-UK summit in 2024 will likely mark a turning point.

In a related development, President Japarov has received a letter from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing concern about the proposed law on foreign agents that could be accepted in Kyrgyzstan. The US Department of State emphasizes that they have already witnessed the negative consequences of such laws and urges the Kyrgyz government to consider the potential impact on citizens' access to essential services. Blinken suggests that the law, as currently proposed, jeopardizes citizens' access to vital services in healthcare and education and calls for a dialogue to address concerns.

The international community, represented by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Klément Nyaletsossi Voule, has also expressed concern about the criminal responsibility imposed on QHT representatives. This suggests that the proposed law may infringe on international human rights standards. As global powers vie for influence in Central Asia, local citizens and their rights may find themselves caught in the crossfire of geopolitical struggles.

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