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Uzbekistan stares at political uncertainty after President Karimov’s death

Dr Raj Kumar Sharma writes: Whoever comes to power, it is unlikely that the new President will make drastic changes in domestic and foreign policy followed by Karimov.

Death of Uzbek President Islam Karimov could lead to succession race in the strategically located Central Asian Republic. Uzbekistan shares borders with other four Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) and also with Afghanistan. This not only means that developments in Uzbekistan can spread to other countries but vice versa as well. Karimov was a product of Soviet system and ruled Uzbekistan with no tolerance for opposition. Since he had not appointed a successor, the race for the top spot cannot be ruled out. There is competition between the National Security Service and Interior Ministry which could be made worse by the realities of clan politics in Uzbekistan.[1] Karimov’s elder daughter, Gulnara Karimova was once considered a possible successor but was put under house arrest in 2014. This suggests that Karimov’s hold on power was not absolute in recent years. Gulnara had blamed Rustam Inoyatov, the head of National Security Service of turning her father against her.[2] Media reports suggest that the current Prime Minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev is the frontrunner for being the next President, as he has good relations with Inoyatov. Rustom Azimov, is the other contender who was advisor to Karimov on economic and international policy. Azimov belongs to Tashkent clan while Mirziyoyev belongs to the Samarkand clan.[3]

Whoever comes to power, it is unlikely that the new President will make drastic changes in domestic and foreign policy followed by Karimov. In fact, if threats from Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and internal dissent strengthen, the new entrant could further use repressive policies. In foreign policy, Uzbekistan would continue to balance between the US, Russia, China, India, Turkey and other relevant players. It would be in Indian security interests that the power transition is smooth and timely in Uzbekistan. The radical forces should not be allowed to take advantage of the political uncertainty in the country, as it will have regional security implications.

Endnotes

[1] Hybrid Wars and “Color Revolutions” in the Central Asian Heartland: Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, http://www.globalresearch.ca/hybrid-wars-and-color-revolutions-in-the-central-asian-heartland-turkmenistan-kazakhstan-uzbekistan/5519423

[2] Uzbekistan’s feuding first family and the mystery of the president’s missing daughter, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/16/uzbekistan-feuding-first-family-mystery-president-missing-gulnara-karimova

[3] Succession looms in Uzbekistan amid uncertainty over leader’s condition, http://www.the-journal.com/article/20160830/AP/308309806/SuccessionloomsinUzbekistanamiduncertaintyoverleader

 

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