TEHRAN(Basirat)- Another important point is economic potential of the private sector in the region through which a common language with a focus on popular and civil society is expected to come out.
Another important point is economic potential of the private sector in the region through which a common language with a focus on popular and civil society is expected to come out.Dr. Motahareh HosseiniAssistant Professor of Political Science and senior Central Asia Expert in Basirat center for Political studies.
Iran’s cultural policy towards Central Asia is based on the concept of the "great Iran” or "cultural Iran” more than anything else. Accordingly, Central Asia is considered one of the zones of influence of Iran’s culture. Moreover, large parts of Central Asia were once part of Iran’s "great Khorasan” region and this doubles Iran and Central Asia historical-cultural integration.
With the recent developments in the region, namely the establishment of territorial states and dominance of a realist international policy based on hegemony and balance of power, which regionalism has now given them a different color, we can no longer follow the course of history of the cultural Iran and the great Khorasan. At present, there are new requirements for defining the foreign policy of Iran in the region. Central Asia today consists of five independent republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. There has always been intense rivalry between these states in the region, which all follow secularism.
For pushing ahead with their ethnic-tribal governments and for fear of spread of political Islam, Central Asian governments have limited many types of native traditional Islam and are trying hard to distance their societies from native and Islamic culture toward modernism through influence and nepotism. Meanwhile, some weak states such as Kyrgyzstan and some countries which lack adequatefacilities and sufficient income such as Tajikistan, are deprived of a powerful central government, and practically do not possess the administrative power of other states such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Here, Turkmenistan has formed its own political-administrative system and has isolated itself from the world by exercising an absolute traditional system based on old customs and traditions of Turkmens. In fact, Ashgabat is just endeavoring to import manifestations of modernity to the country, which will naturally run counter to development contradictions.
Central Asia is facing two superpowers, namely Russia and China, an immigrant hegemonic power the US, and EU’s military arm NATO as well as regional powers such as Iran, Pakistan, India and Turkey. They all play a part in determining the fate of Central Asia. Even Afghanistan can be influential in contributing togovernmental, regional and global policies as it has control over the Fergana Valley (including the provinces of Osh, Batken and Jalalabad in Kyrgyzstan, the Sughd Province in Tajikistan and the province of Andijan in Uzbekistan).
Therefore, the cultural policy in Central Asia arises from interaction between a set of complex situations; including role of superpowers in this region, the game that Iran’s government plays with them and also the ongoing rivalry between regional powers and the five Central Asian states. Although the cultural Iran(A Wide region from Caucasus and Central Asia to North Africa) and the great Khorasan(Including Iran’s Khorasan province, Afghanistan and large part of the central Asia) provide ample breeding ground for the people of Central Asia to get interested in Iran, but has also created an illusion of fear for the regional states over Iran’s cultural infiltration. In this context, the method which Turkey has adopted to increase its influence in Central Asia is a successful one, which we need to take lesson from. Ankara does this by relying on power of large and small private firms.
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s cultural policy toward Central Asia is a function of its foreign policy’s priorities in which principles such as realism, expediency, regional balance of power, defensive deterrence, Shiite Islam, opposition to Salafi and Wahhabi ideologies, and certain economic benefits do exist. Therefore, given the region’s current critical circumstances and importance of domestic issues,Iran’s foreign policy towards Central Asia which includes a set of security, reputational, administrative, political and economic interests,is being pursued in the region.
An important issue here is that Iran’s foreign ministry has adopted a more moderate approach towards Central Asian countries due to its control over the region as well as the existing mutual interests between Tehran and governments of these states. In fact, Iran is not looking for demands that place it in front of the governments in Central Asia. Moreover, Iran has always respected secularism which is among one of the major principles of these countries.
All in all, there are proper ground for positive interaction and promotion of Iran’s cultural policy in the region. But a more important issue here is about the Central Asian countries’ reaction to the Iranian policy as people in these countries do not enjoy freedom and are cynical about the issue of strategic depth in their neighboring countries.
These countries have adopted a very restrictive policy on issues related to economy, politics, culture and civil society. Their security perspective is more cautious and introvert than that of Iran’s, which has made development of communication virtually impossible. Thus, there is a serious obstacle in the way of the definition of appropriate cultural policy in the region.
Also, sort of the interaction between regional powers and superpowers has made Central Asia’s security dilemma more complex. Russia’s rivalry which has now taken a military form, China’s economic presence (which has military-security presence in its strategic depth) in the region and the ongoing global rivalries, with a focus on the EU and US as China’s main economic rivals, have made the Central Asian countries more conservative. Therefore, these states seriously follow China’s "New Silk Road” initiative, given its access to extensive delivery routes connecting to the Middle East and Eurasia. They are however, at the same time, worried about unwanted repercussions of this development. Islamic fundamentalist wave, which includes migration of fundamentalist forces, has also created concerns for them.
It seems that, under such an atmosphere, those countries which have a constructive interaction with the regional and immigrantpowers in this region and do not waste their strength by confronting them will be able to emerge victorious. Only under such conditions one can make use of potential support capacities in these countries and overcome the Central Asian policy makers’ cautious, conservative, introvertpolicies. At the same time, attaching importance to the issue of these secular governments’ priorities in the region as well as the movement of fluid power in these countries is essential. Another important point which is not less important that the above-mentioned is economic potential of the private sector in the region through which a common language with a focus on popular and civil society is expected to come out.