HE Otabek Akbarov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the United Kingdom, delivered a lecture titled ”Achievements and Prospects of Political and Economic Modernization in Uzbekistan” at the University of Cambridge on 30 January 2015
By invitation of the Cambridge Central Asia Forum (CCAF) and the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), University of Cambridge, on 30 January 2015 HE Otabek Akbarov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the United Kingdom, delivered a lecture titled “Achievements and Prospects of Political and Economic Modernization in Uzbekistan” to students and teaching staff of the University of Cambridge.
The event, which was attended by 50 participants, was organized as part of the research program titled “Social and Political Development in Central Asia” aimed at informing a wide range of scholars and students in the United Kingdom and beyond about the historical and cultural heritage and current development of the peoples of this region.
In his opening speech, the Chairman of CCAF Professor Siddharth Saxena informed the participants about appointment of Ambassador Akbarov as a Senior Diplomatic Partner of the Forum and noted that this lecture is the first in series of such events planned for this year. Referring to earlier presentations and meetings organized at the University of Cambridge by CCAF jointly with the Embassies of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries, he stressed their importance in improving first-hand and direct knowledge and better understanding of the processes occurring in the region among students and teachers of the University, what also contributes to the development of bilateral relations in the sphere of education and science.
Dr Saxena highlighted the relevance of the lecture topic in view of important political events taking place in Uzbekistan. He briefly informed about his recent trip to Uzbekistan as an international observer from the United Kingdom to the Parliamentary Elections, noting that they were organized at a high level and became an important stage of political reforms in the country.
Ambassador Akbarov’s lecture consisted of five parts: 1 - the principles of the Uzbek Model of Development and the main milestones of state construction after obtaining the Independence; 2 - the key areas of the Concept of further deepening democratic reforms and formation of civil society in the country, put forward by President Islam Karimov in November 2010; 3 – significance of the Elections held in December 2014 to the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) and local councils in Uzbekistan after the amendments introduced to the Constitution, as well as their results; 4 - the priorities of the renewed composition of two Chambers of the Oliy Majlis; 5 – importance of upcoming Elections of the President of Uzbekistan in March 2015 for sustainable and consistent development of the country, the course of the election campaign, including the process of nomination and approval of four candidates from political parties, the creation of electoral districts and areas, ensuring public awareness and etc (abstract of the lecture are here).
More than 10 questions were asked during the discussion session, in particular with regards to the relations between Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries, the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international forces, threats to the region posed by radical Islamic groups, cooperation with the United Kingdom in the military-technical sphere, the human rights situation, as well as assessments of cooperation within the framework of SCO and the effectiveness of the EU Strategy for Central Asia.
Several participants asked about strategic sectors of the economy of Uzbekistan, the prospects for diversification of export and import routes by developing alternative transport corridors, state policy in the field of ecology, in particular in resolution of the Aral Sea problem, as well as situation in the field of rational use of water resources in the region.
Also, there were questions regarding the Government’s measures on creation of new jobs and support of talented youth by organising vocational trainings, as well as the prospects of increasing the trade relations of Uzbekistan with Russia, especially in the field of export of agricultural products.
Along with this, Professor Saxena mentioned about growing concerns over the fact of participation of ethnic Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kazakhs in the radical Islamic armed groups, as well as their provocative statements towards the Central Asia.
He also commented about the change of approaches in Uzbekistan with regards to the promotion of young people’s international education, when after the completion of activities of the ”Umid (Hope) Foundation” which was created by the initiative of the President Karimov and aimed to support the education of talented youth abroad, the emphasis was made on creation of a number of branches of leading foreign universities in Tashkent, as well as modernization of national universities. In particular, Professor said that this practice is applied in a number of other countries and becoming a global trend.
In his commentary, Director of the Centre of Development Studies Professor Peter Nolan, the leading British expert on China and global political economy, referred to the thesis made by the Ambassador on preference for Uzbekistan to develop cooperation with foreign countries on a bilateral basis. He drew a parallel with a similar policy implemented by China, especially in the process of resolving the complex of problem issues, including historically established ones, with its neighbouring states. Noting the ongoing debate in the world about the optimal form of behaviour in international relations, Professor asked the motives of the Uzbek side for taking such a position.
Ambassador Akbarov provided detailed answers to all these questions.
Ambassador Akbarov addressed the audience
Professor Saxena greets the participants
Professor Peter Nolan, Head of the Centre for Development Studies, and students