Cross-border exchanges

Eurasian perspectives on logistics and diplomacy

by Pierre Chabal (Volume editor) Jildiz Nicharapova (Volume editor) Kuralay Baizakova (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 386 Pages


The main purpose of the book is to examine from numerous and distinct, albeit complementary perspectives how logistics feeds into region-building. The angle of approach is to reach resolutely beyond logistical and material aspects of border-crossing in order to tackle cultural, symbolic, identity-based as well as institutional, legal and political dimensions of the contemporary ‘pooling’ of sovereignties in today’s Eurasia. Thus, constitutive chapters of the book draw from analyses as remote as historical, environmental, diplomatic and cybernetic, to mention but a few. Its main conclusions are that region-building consists largely in concrete changes that affect material aspects of country-to-country dynamics, not just in material-political decisions even if these remain necessary to launch a novel process and to secure it into confidence-building. This blend of logics also involves a multi-scale evolution whereby both local (infra-regional) and regional (supra-national) levels, taken together, make sense. Hence, to probe into one dimension only – the changing nature of borders, both in Europe and Asia, from lines of sovereign divisions to passage-points for exchanges –, induces the bilateral and multi-lateral capacity to ‘innovate’ within long-term historical givens and to turn nationalistic hostility into dynamics of multiplication of shared exchanges and profits. From a methodological requirement, comparing what seems at first, very different – a fully integrating Europe and a newly co-operative Asia – makes it possible, on the face of it, to uncover and decipher dynamics that are similar in their essence (regional, post-war) even if they differ in details (institutional idiosyncrasies, hurdles).

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Welcoming address
  • Introduction
  • I- Diplomacy, borders and logistics: terrestrial and maritime issues
  • Frontiers as a tool for understanding geographical, economic and social space in contemporary Central Asia
  • Activities of international organisations on security issues in Central Asia
  • Christianity across Central Asian borders
  • Confines, crossroad, centrality: Romania’s place and territorial identity over the long-term
  • What does ‘inter-regional’ mean in the Eurasian case?
  • One Belt, One Road: what does it entail for Central Asia?
  • The impact of the ‘Arab Spring’ on EU immigration policy
  • II- Commerce, trade, investments and regional organisations
  • Kyrgyz exports to the Eurasian Economic Union
  • Sixty years of free movements in the EU: lessons for the Eurasian Economic Union?
  • The ‘fair-trade strategy’ of the new US administration in relation to China
  • Agreements between the European Union and the Kyrgyz Republic1
  • Cross-border energy investments in the Eurasian region
  • Breakthroughs in bilateral relations with Central Asian states as a basis for better regional cooperation: views from Uzbekistan
  • E-commerce in Central Asia as an aspect of cross-border exchanges and future development
  • III- Building regional identities and values in multi-national contexts
  • Cross-border cooperation in Northeast Asia for protection of the environment
  • Involvement of women in politics:
  • New attraction-centres of educational migration in Eurasia
  • Cross-border exchange of knowledge: Erasmus Plus and the potential of building sustainable Higher-Education capacity in Central Asia
  • Development of tourism in the Eurasian Economic Union and in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
  • Building regional identities and values: is Turkey effective in linking domestic politics and international realities?
  • Franchir, an attempt at a historical approach of ‘limits’
  • IV- Tensions and security over border issues
  • Main trends in countering trans-national extremism and terrorism of regional and non-regional actors in Central Asia
  • Individual and Mutual cyber-threat perceptions in Europe and Asia
  • The New Silk Road: imperialistic or humanistic?1
  • Central Asia’s contribution to regional cross-border security
  • Un-manned Combat Aerial Vehicles and Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems in light of International Law
  • Terrorism as a cross-border or trans-national phenomenon?
  • Understanding land-degradation in Kyrgyzstan:
  • Displacing and replacing criminal law within the European Space1
  • Conclusion
  • Postface
  • List of authors



American University of Central Asia

We express our praise to all who made this conference their success. The American University of Central Asia offered financial and organisational backing; without this support, this conference would not have proven possible; special thanks go to the AUCA Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Dr Chyngyz SHAMSHIEV, who at every step comforted the organisers in holding fast to the task despite inevitable hurdles and doubts. Generous support, material and moral, was granted by the French Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic and over fifteen universities in Eurasia from which participants were granted leave and travelling grants. Indeed, success is always a collective achievement.

Several AUCA staff deserve special recognition for the rise of the conference, notably Anna KIM, coordinator of the Grant Office for her support; Zulaika UBYSHEVA, assistant in the Research Office for her organisation of the conference from beginning to end. Without her assistance, this conference would not have unfolded smoothly as she helped solve many issues efficiently, thus contributing essentially to its standing. Special thanks to Tamo CHATTOPADHAY, Kanat SULTANALIEV and Rahat SABYRBEKOV for serving as chairs of sessions. With such colleagues, everything is possible.

The American University of Central Asia expresses special thanks to Pierre Chabal (LexFEIM, Le Havre University) for his ideas and pioneer involvement in long bringing together colleagues from numerous Eurasian countries.

The organisers acknowledge His Excellency Michael ROUX, Ambassador of the French Republic in the Kyrgyz Republic, and Madame Catherine POUJOL, director of the French Institute for Research on Central Asia, and all colleagues from various parts of Asia and Europe for coming to the Kyrgyz Republic and participating in the conference.

The editors of this book are grateful to staff members and research students in Bishkek. And, outside Bishkek, to Aigul KAZHENOVA, International Studies PhD candidate at Corvinus University, Budapest, for helping in the editing of the first manuscript. The final professionalism is due to Peter Lang Publishing Group in Brussels, Belgium.


Chingiz SHAMSHIEV, Vice-President

American University of Central Asia

To participants in the conference held at the American University of Central Asia and to chapter-authors of this book, I wish to reiterate that it has been a professional stimulus for the AUCA to co-organise and host the international conference entitled “Cross-border exchanges – Eurasian perspectives on logistics and diplomacy” in June 2018 in Bishkek.

Eurasia, as the largest continent of the planet, had for a long time its western extremity connected by the Great Silk Road to its eastern extremity. This major communication artery played for centuries a tremendous role in transporting goods and people but also ideas, technologies, cultures and policies. Great explorers, Marco Polo and many others, used it for diplomatic purposes. The Road then faded, as it was dominated by maritime communications. Today it is recovering its importance due to the rapid technical progress and economic development of the countries situated in the heart of Eurasia.

Regional integration projects involving countries situated along the historical Great Silk Road are strongly related to modern transport infrastructure schemes, which will substantially increase the circulation of goods, people, capital and information along the new Road. In this context, Eurasian studies rightly focus on the analyses of Eurasian integration and transport infrastructure projects in connection with the cross-border exchanges within the continent.

This book aims to bring together social scientists from a wide range of academic traditions in order to blend in a multidisciplinary discussion of complex integration trends in Eurasia. In particular, attention is paid to the discussion of projects such as the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Belt-and-Road Initiative.

As the AUCA aims to become a permanent platform for research and discussion of Eurasian integration, it invites all authors to cooperate further and expresses its gratitude to our partners: the LexFEIM research centre of University of Le Havre Normandy, the French Institute for Central Asian Studies and the Sefacil Foundation for having made this conference possible.

It is a pleasure for the AUCA to patron this book and for me personally to preface it and to look forward to further collaboration.

Welcoming address

Michael ROUX

French Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic

Stemming from a conference dedicated to Eurasian perspectives on logistics and diplomacy, this book comes as a timely international publication. Exchanges of goods and services and the required logistics thus feed into the analyses of various security issues, political, economic, social, environmental. Indeed, such an approach is part and parcel of an intellectual trend in Eurasia today.

As was recalled by AUCA Vice-President Ch. SHAMSHIEV, Central Asia was once already at the centre of the world, in the ancient times of the Silk Roads, connecting great civilisations, notably the Mediterranean world and China. Maritime trade thus proved a fundamental upheaval, reducing the importance of this heart of Eurasia, turning great steppes into margins of the Russian empire, then into those of the Soviet Union.

The present conjuncture is one of further upheavals such as globalisation and the digital revolution: no country is closed to or even far from others. The demise of the USSR revived sovereign nations with borders not designed for such a destiny. The shift of the centre of gravity of the world economy towards Asia, notably the Chinese and Indian economies as part of the BRICS challenge the G7. The latter accounted in 1975 for 75 % of global GDP, now only 50 %. Regionalisation has also set in: the western tip of Eurasia has unified into the European Union, bringing unprecedented peace and growth for the last 70 years, now facing the dual challenge of the Brexit hypothesis and of an initiative for Europe.

Between i/ this reinvigorated, value-laden European Union, having recently finalised its new “Strategy for Central Asia” [editors’ note: 2017], ii/ China, once again one of the first world powers, deploying ambitious plans for New silk roads, iii/ Russia, that has regained power and confidence, and iv/ a vast Muslim world, confronted with great challenges of identity and security, Central Asia is once more in the centre of the game.

The region has recently undergone major internal changes with the opening of Uzbekistan and the election of a new President in Kazakhstan, a new desire for regional integration, which the Heads of State affirmed on 14 March 2018 in Astana [editors’ note: and on 10-11 November 2017 in Samarkand] – a regional integration that could well strengthen their prosperity and their sovereignty.

In this context, this book contributes to the better understanding of these processes linked to “history in the making” (R. Aron). As such, it commands respects and I express my acknowledgement of its importance to the University of Le Havre (LexFEIM research centre), the Sefacil Foundation in France, the IFEAC and the AUCA in Bishkek for their initiative.


Central Asia as a new crossroad? Developing routes for trade, culture, and politics in the 21st century

Sebastien PEYROUSE

George Washington University

The collapse of the Soviet bloc and the emergence of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as five new independent States in the international arena revised the destiny and political and economic orientations of Central Asia as a region linking Russian, Chinese, South-Asian and Middle-Eastern cultures. Regions of Central Eurasia have been centres of civilisation in short periods of their history, but only in ancient and medieval times. In modern times, they were the peripheries of the Russian, Ottoman, Persian, British, and Chinese empires, sparsely populated compared to large concentrations of people nearby – the Mediterranean Basin, India, and China – without political unity. The region had a role as a transit space for people, goods, and ideas to the north during the successive “Empires of the steppes” that invaded Europe from the Altaic homeland, and to the south during the Silk Road trade epics linking China to the Mediterranean Sea. These east-west movements lost their raison d’être with the great maritime discoveries of the 15th century and changes in the local context, such as Iran’s passing under Safavid domination and the uprising of the Sikhs in Punjab in the 18th century. Russian commercial domination, then the Soviet regime, subsequently almost entirely reoriented trade flows toward the north and made of Central Asia a cul-de-sac of the Soviet Union, shut off to trade with neighbouring southern states. Emerging from a political and economic system that was closed until the end of the 20th century, Central Asia is a “textbook case” for globalisation: it has to adapt a legacy of historic preconditions in a highly competitive world where criteria for success are changing rapidly.

Since 1991, Central Asian states share numerous common patterns: i/ a same cultural and political legacy, ii/ replacement of economic interlinkages between Soviet republics, iii/ a logic of “transition” from a planned economy to the free market, iv/ being landlocked with limited connectivity to world markets, v/ weak governance. They are located at the crossroad of the world’s fastest-growing economies but are landlocked or (Uzbekistan) double-landlocked. They possess large reserves of oil (Kazakhstan), gas (Turkmenistan, to a lesser extent Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan), water as potential hydropower (Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan), uranium, precious minerals and rare earths metals (mainly Kazakhstan), gold (mainly Uzbekistan), they produce cotton (Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, to a lesser extent Kazakhstan and Tajikistan). In addition, unlike many developing countries, they benefited from the Soviet regime: literacy rates of almost 100 % and universal health systems but these are in decline due to lack of investments in human capital and citizen well-being.

Despite their common historical and political legacy, CA states “dis-association” has been progressing over the past 20 years. Each has elaborated its own exit from the Soviet system as to its political regime, economic changes, opening to the world, cultural and social evolutions, and references for nationhood. Key stakes relate to demography (generation changes; developmental prospects for societies with large youth – Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), economic development capacities (subsoil resources, transit and trade opportunities, workforce migrations); and regional environment (proximity pf three BRICS, drug-traffic routes, and Islamic insurgencies from Afghanistan). Each has its specific problems to solve: energy/water and food crises (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan); fear of political Islam (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan); potential inter-ethnic tensions (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan); rising unemployment among younger generations (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan); and massive work migrations (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan).

Their degree of integration in the world differs. Turkmenistan, one of the most closed countries after North Korea, kept both political and economic isolation. Kyrgyzstan sought to be the most politically, socially, and economically open country and was the first CIS state to join the WTO in 1998 (Kazakhstan joined only in 2015). Also, although CA is a persistent periphery, poorly connected to the rest of the world based on trade statistics, communication and transport networks, and studies of business environment, the situation is changing.

With independence the narrative about Central Asia as a crossroad returned, promoted as much by the local governments as by international donors and external actors.

in terms of exports, Kazakhstan, the 1st uranium producer in the world and 2nd exporter of flour, will be one of the ten largest exporters of oil petroleum in the 2020s. Turkmenistan has the 4th or 5th largest reserves of gas in the world. Uzbekistan is the 2nd largest exporter of cotton and is well placed in exports of gold and uranium.

as to integration into the world economy, alternative criteria suggest the following. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan rank above Central America as to dependence on remittances. Illegal networks related to drug-trafficking and prostitution create new flows from Central Asia to Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Gulf states. Central Asian groups of young men in search of Islamic knowledge travel from Malaysia to Mecca in a globalised Islamic world, the Umma. Finally, embezzlement practiced by ruling elites divert US $ millions in offshore havens (Cyprus, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands) or real estate (Switzerland, French Riviera) for comfortable retirement or sudden exile. Thus, CA states are strengthening their statehood in symbolic, political, and territorial terms, while their economies and societies follow globalising (“de-nationalising”?) trends.

regarding recent regime change, in Uzbekistan in 2016 and Kazakhstan in 2019, after nearly thirty years of single Presidents, could lead to a reconfiguration of regional exchanges. Relations among ex-Soviet states largely broke down as the former unitary framework was undermined; neighbourly relations often turned bad; underlying territorial or ethno-political conflicts came forth; growing competition emerged for foreign attention and investments, along with divergent strategies of assertion on the international arena.

In the 2000s, cross-border trade was increasingly hampered by protectionist measures, notably imposed by Uzbekistan. The absence of a regional market strongly impeded the economic capabilities of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and weighed on Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan in critical areas: food security, energy security and water management.

Yet, chilly inter-state relations overlook realities on the ground. Modest official trade figures between CA countries do not take into account a large underground market for goods and labour. Cross-border trade supports much of the Central Asian population and offers significant additional revenues. The 2017 Uzbek decision to reopen the country’s borders, improve relations with neighbouring states, and (2019) to cancel exit visas for Uzbekistani citizens, might significantly and unexpectedly impact the geo-economic context.

Central Asia is also at the crossroad of the evolving influence of many external actors and trade flows and its governments have been able to take advantage of this.

Contemporary Central Asia is to be understood by looking at Russia’s place as a former coloniser whose cultural values and language still circulate broadly. Since the early 2000s, flows of migrant labour from Central Asia have reshaped cultural relations between the two spaces. Moscow is still a strategic partner for soft and hard security issues. It provides political support to the CA regimes as an important economic player, more so now with the Eurasian Economic Union (into force since January 2015). Seen from Moscow, CA constitutes a central element of Russian energy policies. Strategically and politically, it feeds into the image of a great power fostered by Moscow. After decreasing political and economic relations in the 1990S, Russia is again a respected power in CA, where its economic and geopolitical revival is admired despite increasing competition from other players, particularly China, which in less than two decades has largely changed the configuration of the region.

After 1991, China had few assets in Central Asia following long decades of poor Sino-Soviet relations that impeded direct relations: Central Asia was a space “reserved” for Moscow; Yet, Chinese interests in Central Asia quickly increased. In the first half of the 1990s, Beijing’s concern was to sign demarcation treaties, demilitarise the borders, and prevent the strengthening of Uyghur separatism. In the first half of the 2000s, China moved to establish herself vigorously on the Central Asian market, mainly in hydrocarbons, extractive industries, infrastructures, and communications. In the second half of the 1990s and early 2000s, Beijing aimed to create a platform for discussion and mutual discovery and build a collective security framework through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to secure the sustainability of its economic investments.1 Finally, since 2005, Beijing has been promoting its language and culture aiming to train Central Asian elites according to the Chinese model. Despite an initially negative image in Central Asia, China has succeeded in improving its reputation with soft-power diplomacy, and drastically changed the economic and strategic given on the Central Asian arena. China is positioned as the second most influential external actor in the region, surpassing Russia in economic terms, but not in strategic or cultural ones.

In the coming decades, China’s trade domination over Central Asia is likely to be confirmed. Beijing has become a key positive element of the transition to the service economy and to that of new technologies. Its proximity has proven a guarantee of development and insertion into world markets. In 2013, China’s President Xi Jinping announced the opening of the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI), confirming China’s long-term strategic, security and economic objectives in Central Asia.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (December)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 386 pp., 14 fig. b/w, 8 tables.

Biographical notes

Pierre Chabal (Volume editor) Jildiz Nicharapova (Volume editor) Kuralay Baizakova (Volume editor)

Pierre CHABAL, alumnus of IEP-Grenoble (PhD, Pol. Sc.) & EUI-Florence, Dr. Habil. (HDR) in IR (Paris IEP), teaches at Le Havre University and Europe-Asia campus of Paris IEP. He published with Peter Lang L’Organisation de coopération de Shanghai et la construction de la "nouvelle Asie" (2016) and Concurrences Interrégionales Europe-Asie au 21ème siècle (2015). Jildiz NICHARAPOVA, Dr. PhD in Political Science of the IEP in Aix-en-Pce, France, and professor at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek, where she heads the research department. She co-edited with S. Peyrouse Integration processes and State interests in Eurasia (AUCA & US AID, 2018). Kuralay BAIZAKOVA, Sc. Dr. in History of IR, Prof. and former Dean of Dpt of IR of al-Farabi KazNU; Dir. of Institute for Security and Cooperation Studies (Almaty). She authored The conceptual foundations of the multi-vector foreign policy of Kazakhstan (2017) and The cooperation with NATO in the multi-vector foreign policy of Kazakhstan (2017).


Title: Cross-border exchanges