Uzbekistan: ‘From West to China’

“The EU has to understand that the age of ‘teacher and pupil’ has gone now,” First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov said Tashkent was tired of being lectured to by the European Union although it was prepared to work with individual states who showed respect.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov visited China on April 19-20, 2011. During his visit, Krimov opened up Uzbekistan’s economy and vast mineral resources to China rather than Europe after feeling let down by Western pressure over its human rights record.

Uzbekistan and China inked deals, including $5 billion worth of investment projects, on trade in strategic materials during President’s visit to Beijing. The deals also envisage the construction of a third line on the existing gas pipeline stretching from Turkmenistan to China through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan will sell uranium, non-ferrous metals, cotton and gas to China in exchange for Chinese high-technology to modernise its ageing energy infrastructure and to build new machinery and chemical plants which the country has been denied by the EU countries under sanctions against Uzbekistan.

Karimov, who closed down the US Air base at Karshi Khanabad in 2005, returned to the Pentagon in 2009 in return for Washington’s support for his dictorial rule. The base has a great strategic importance in NATO’s operation in Afghanistan, a Muslim-majority country occupied for West’s greed for oil and heroin.

Uzbekistan, with its ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, is heir to Muslims’ glorious past. Bukhara was hometown of philosopher and physician Ibn Sina (b. 980) and Imam Bukhari. Samarkand was centre of learningand history. Tashkent was hometown of Musa Khwarezmi, the 9th centry mathematician; Abu Reikhan al-Biruni, the 10th century polymath and philosopher; Ulugh Beg, the 15th century astrnomer, who built an observatory at Samarkand, and late 15th century poet Ali Shir Navai.

Uzbekistan is home to 30,000-strong Jewish community. Israel and Uzbekistan established diplomatic relations in 1992 and have since signed several cooperation agreements. Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Karimov in Tashkent in May 1998, and the Uzbek president visited Israel four months later. In September 2000, Karimov appealed to Israel for aid in combating the rise of Islamic violence in the region.

Eager to forge ties with a Muslim country perceived as friendly to Israel, American Jewish communal leaders have maintained good relations with Karimov’s regime. Another factor in the relationship has been Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, the Uzbek-born head of the Islamic Supreme Council of America whose moderate views have endeared him to Jewish communal leaders. Kabbani, a Sufi, has condemned radical Islam and terrorism repeatedly and has praised the Karimov regime regularly.

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