Uzbekistan will today open the high-level “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities” summit in Tashkent.
The two-day meeting will host the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Afghanistan, Prime Minister of Pakistan and executive delegations from all Central and South Asian states, the EU, US and China. Topics of discussion will include regional security, economic integration and culture; special emphasis will be placed on the future of Afghanistan.
Today’s summit comes amidst the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban’s strongest offensive since their 1996 surge and after the signing of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan railway project in February. The railway would provide Tashkent with expedient delivery of Central Asia’s exports to Pakistan’s port in Gwadar if security along the route could be guaranteed.
Expect President Mirziyoyev to call for cooperation on stabilizing Afghanistan. An ally of Kabul, Mirziyoyev likely hopes today’s summit and the new Central-South Asian railway project will remedy Afghanistan’s security issues by persuading the Taliban’s patron saint, Pakistan to reign in the insurgents or lose out on flourishing Central Asian export markets. Nevertheless, as the Taliban have grown increasingly independent of Islamabad, today’s summit is unlikely to make significant progress in addressing Kabul’s endemic insecurity.
Bilal is the Director of Training and Development. He holds a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University where he extensively researched the US war in Afghanistan. Previously, Bilal has worked independently throughout mainland China as a teacher and as a domestic political communications fellow with Murmuration.