Central Asia Relations: New visa program shows signs of improving ties
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are preparing a new visa program called the "Silk Visa", which would allow foreigners with a valid visa from either country to travel in both. It is expected that other Central Asian nations will also sign up for the common visa, which aims to boost economic opportunities throughout all five countries. In a region rather closed off to one another, this move towards visa-free travel is a sign of improving relations. CGTN's Natalie Carney reports from Dushanbe.
Since the break up of the former Soviet Union, apprehension has defined the way Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan deal with each other. But those tenuous relationships appear to be easing with the movement towards a European-style visa free travel zone.
This would not only pave the way for increased tourism, but also investment and trade opportunities, which, at present is about as unstable as their relationship says one analyst.
SHOKIR KHAKIMOV LEGAL EXPERT "There is a level of corruption, high rate of taxes and bank credit and an absence of security guarantees. For a trade union to work we need the political will not only for the laws but also for the mechanisms to implement laws in order to increase the level of investments."
The development of the so-called "Silk Visa" would allow foreigners with a valid visa from one central Asian country to travel to the others.
While Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are the first to introduce the common visa program, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan have all shown willingness to join such a deal.
Trade within Central Asia makes up only six percent of each country's total GDP, but with more people traveling back and forth, so too could more goods. Analysts say the program has the potential of initiating the free flow of products and services.
NATALIE CARNEY DUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN "Creating a free trade union in Central Asia is a long-term goal; the countries only recently opened its borders to each other for tourism. But the possibilities such a union could bring, have many Tajik companies willing to wait."
Najot is Tajikistan's first cosmetic product producer made with ecologically pure ingredients. While they are currently working closely with China and Uzbekistan, they are eager to expand into other Central Asian markets where they are confident their traditional products will fair well.
NOZIMOV KHAYREDDIN DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF NAJOT "If this trade union will work, it will bring stability for traders, product consumers and companies. It will contribute to the decreasing of product prices when the market is full of products and it will help with the development of our businesses."
Yet, Dr. Professor Khakimov says suspicion of another state's development looms large across the former Soviet Union countries.
SHOKIR KHAKIMOV LEGAL EXPERT "Of course a visa free zone will contribute to the economic development of the countries situations, but we need to assure our trade partners that our strive for economic development does not contradict their interests and is not directed against them. Economic development along with credit organizations will help improve the relations between central Asian countries."
While European Union countries are contemplating leaving the bloc, former Soviet states are looking to return to the relative freedom of travel and trade they had under the Soviet Union. Natalie Carney, CGTN, Dushanbe, Tajikistan.