We have decided to publish the next issue of our TV digest before the end of this month, due to the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit held in Tashkent. This organization was claimed to be “the world’s most powerful organization” by Russia’s Deputy Minister of Culture. The summit was extensively covered by Uzbekistan’s TV channels.
It kicked off with the arrival of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Strict security measures were adopted in Uzbekistan’s capital city Tashkent. President Islam Karimov and Jinping first held a one-to-one meeting and later continued a more extensive conversation. These meetings were not any different the previous ones and no new issues were raised at them.
“Game of boot-licking”
A news conference held by the two leaders looked like a predictable “game of boot-licking”.
As the host, Islam Karimov said that “China is the most developed country in the world.” Although there are quite a lot more developed countries than China, the rules of the “game” require these kind of statements. The Chinese leader continued the “game” and said: “You are a wise politician and an old friend for us and you are a popular politician in the world.” Jinping also stressed: “I believe that Uzbekistan will further develop under your leadership.”
One could clearly see that Karimov was particularly pleased to hear these words. He also praised the Chinese leader as a reformist and did not forget to mention reforms that he is carrying out himself.
“It is not easy to carry out reforms. I have taken on this burden and will implement it till the end,” Karimov said.
Here, one thing is clear: Karimov has assumed a very heavy burden. At the same time, the Uzbek people are also under this burden. The president is strong and able to carry any burden. However, there are concerns that the people might break under this burden.
Chinese help in linking Tashkent with Fergana Valley
It is believed that the building of a tunnel through the Qamchiq mountain pass was an event of great importance for Uzbekistan. This has become possible with the help of Chinese builders, whom Karimov thought it necessary to thank. “China has helped us in the most difficult period. The prosperity of China means Uzbekistan’s prosperity is China’s prosperity,” he stressed.
Karimov has made statements like this in the past as well, but that was about Russia, not China. “Whoever raises their hands against us, would mean that they are raising their hands against Russia.” Do you see the similarity?
Another traditional issue, the problem of Afghanistan, was also raised at the summit. As stated in past meetings, they repeated that “there is no military solution to the Afghan issue” and that “the unstable situation in that country will affect the entire region as well”.
The Uzbek TV channels have reported that Xi Jinping’s visit to Tashkent was an important event which would raise bilateral relations to a new level. Both Karimov and Jinping are from the same party of communists. Karimov has officially quit this party, but gained all his experience within the ranks of communists, whereas Jinping is still gaining strength with the ideology of communists.
“The club of dictators”
The free media often describe the SCO as “a club of dictators”. It is up to our readers to decide whether or not this statement is true. However, it is true that none of the members of this organization can boast of their democratic systems.
The most significant document signed at this summit was a memorandum on responsibilities of India and Pakistan before they become members of the SCO.
Pakistan might fit “the club of dictators” as an unstable country with its specific democracy, whereas India has the status of “the world’s biggest democracy”. Will its membership bring democracy to the SCO, or will these “six pirates” make it follow their suit? We will have to wait to see what happens.
No significant documents were signed or sensational statements made at the summit. The presidents might have adopted some important decisions at private meetings without journalists, but there are no reports of them so far.
Thaw in Uzbek-Tajik relations?
Of late, relations between the two Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been strained. However, TV reports on one-to-one meetings between the leaders of these two neighbouring countries during the summit gave the impression that there is a thaw in relations between them. Both presidents seemed sincere with each other and appeared very cheerful.
Pleased Kyrgyz leader
You may remember that the president of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev threatened that he would not attend the summit due to border disputes. His Uzbek counterpart seems to have found a way of pleasing him, too. Everyone could see Atambayev making a bow to Karimov as soon as Kyrgyz music started playing at the concert.
Prior to the summit, the Uzbek TV channels had been describing the meeting of SCO member countries as the world’s most important political event. However, there was no live coverage or special reports on the summit. This could be interpreted as “political vigilance” ordered by the Uzbek authorities. Although during the days of the summit, Uzbek media said that “Tashkent has become the political capital of Asia”, other foreign media sources, including Russia, did not give it prominent attention, giving only basic, factual reports.