“Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Transcapia, Persia - to many these words breathe only a sense of remoteness, or a memory of strange vicissitudes and of moribund romance. To me, I confess they are pieces of a chessboard on which is being played out a game for the domination of the world”
- Lord Curzon
Pre Islamic Period
1.Central Asian Republic has been an area of vast wilderness and nomadic lifestyle. Historical records relating to the period before the Islamic Conquest in the eighth century is very scanty however it is believed that early settlers in the region were of the Iranian origin, & mainly settled down in the region between the Rivers Amu Darya & the Syr Darya.Â The nomad empire of the Turks held sway during the sixth century.Â Politically the region was divided into a number of small states, the most powerful being the State of Samarkand.Â The prevailing religions were Zorastrianism, Buddhism & Manichaeism (a religion taught by the Persian Prophet Manes).The Karakhanids, a Turkish race of people established themselves in Samarkand in 999 AD & virtually controlled the whole Transoxiana until the 12th century.Â This year is a historical landmark in Central Asian history because, from then, till the annexation by Russia in the 18th century, it remained under Turkish Muslims.
Annexation by Russia
2.Centuries of foreign invasion & domination had prevented the natural process of nation forming in Central Asia.Â From the middle of the 18th century, Central Asia enjoyed a period of immunity from invasions, which lasted over a century till the Russians arrived. Frontiers/inter- state boundaries - an entirely new phenomenon- were established by the Russians & these were not based on national considerations, but on imperial & military considerations. The Russian advance severed contact between Central Asia & the Ottoman Turks initially, but the total segregation of Central Asia from the Muslim Middle East & South AsiaÂ took place only after Soviet consolidation by 1927.
The Russian Conquest
3.The regional balance underwent a dramatic change with the advent of Russia in the geo-political canvas of the region in the early 19th century. The other concerned states like China, Afghanistan & Persia were not in a position to take any effective action against Russia, & two of them, Persia & Afghanistan, were actually pleased at the appearance of a rival to the British power in the region. Russia improved her strategic, political & economic position enormously.Â Russian control was fully established in Central Asia by the middle of the 19th century.
4.Exact annexation of Kazakhstan by the Russians is uncertain howeverÂ Russians first appeared on the Kazakh Steppes in the 17th century & by the 1800 was under the Tsar rule.
The Russian Period & Thereafter
5.Consolidation of Russian power in Central Asia began with the setting up of the ‘Turkestan Commission' in TashkentÂ in 1919. By 1927 Soviet physical control of the five CAR states was complete.
6.The Russians proved detrimental to the cultural & social unity ofÂ Central Asia & shattered hopes of a Pan-Islamic or Pan-Turkish movements.Â Islam was forcibly uprooted with widespread destruction of Mosques & Madrasas, the teaching of Arabic as a link language was stopped & the region was cut off from the Muslim world of the Middle East.Â Of the 26,000 Mosques in 1917, only 1312 remained in 1940 & only 400 in 1985. Islamic weddings & funerals were banned & wearing of the veil by women was officially terminated in 1959.Â Anti-Islam propaganda increased dramatically as the Communist leadership took measures to create a new `Soviet Man'. This, however, was only an excuse for greater Russification of Central Asia.
7.Russian educational & judicial systems were thrust onto the CARs without any consideration to local needs & traditions, & Russian was introduced as the medium of instruction in all schools.Â Though this created a lot of resentment amongst the locals, slowly the benefits of Russian reforms began to appear.Â The region which was essentially backward, became productive.Â The standard of living, education, communications, public health & industrialisation rose rapidly & in 1971 President Leonid Brezhnev said `... fifty yrs of Soviet rule had produced a historical community of people - the Soviet People had emerged.'
8.Â The new leadership in these Republics did not constitute the local leaders but ethnic Russians brought in by Moscow.Â Though the enlightened new leadership implemented Gorbachev's new policies of Glasnost & Perestroika effectively, they were not accepted by the people of the region & caused considerable resentment just when national sensibilities were on the rise.
The Collapse and End of Russian Era
9.The first signs of unrest appeared in Alma Ata, capital of Kazakhstan in December 1986 when riots broke out on the replacement of their leader by a Russian puppet, Gennady Kolbin.Â Riots rapidly spread to 12 cities and martial law had to be imposed .Â May 1988 saw riots in Ashkabad, the capital of Turkmenistan over the high degree of unemployment and in June 1990 gun battles took place between Uzbek and Kirgiz over land disputes.Â Every minor ethnic explosion set the stage for larger ones and all the five Communist parties tried to suppress their populace largely because of their fear of Moscow's reprisals in case ethnic Russians were harmed in any way.
10.InterestinglyÂ Gorbachev's decision to pullout 120,000 troops from Afghanistan was a big blow to the region because in the 10 years of Russian presence in Afghanistan, the CARs had benefited economically.Â They felt betrayed and this was a big reason towards their negative attitude towards him during the August 1991 coup.
11.A massive Islamic revival took place in the period 1985-90 with Saudi Arabia sending one million Korans to Central Asia.Â The first signs of the independent spirit in Islamic revival showed up with the building of new Mosques, and by October 1991, a new Mosque was being opened daily.Â This marked the end of Russian influence in Central Asia.
12.Independence Thrust Upon Them. With the disintegration of the USSR in December 1991, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was formed on 22 December 91 through the ‘Alma-Ata Declaration' signed by eleven former Soviet republics, including the Central Asian Republics.Â The Central Asian Republics were not only most reluctant but also least prepared for independent statehood, which was suddenly thrust upon them.Â Their independence was not the outcome of any national liberation movement.Â Democracy was thin on the ground then and each Republic had its own set of problems.Â Political parties barely existed and those in power were unwilling to open up the political system. They lacked economic base, military might and trained cadre.Â There was a great shortage of experienced diplomats to take up diplomatic assignments on behalf of these countries.Â All their transport and communication links were routed via Moscow.Â They inherited economies that had undergone socialist integration for the past 70 years, in which one large specialized plant was designed to serve the requirement of the entire Union.Â The bulk of their trade was restricted to Russia.Â To add to their problems, the Western world was unwilling to help.Â This was partly because of the grave security implications that the sudden creation of another nuclear weapon state, Kazakhstan, posed since it was an Islamic state.Â This non-availability of aid, slowly led the CARs into an economic crisis soon after their independence.Â It is no wonder that the Central Asian leaders thus favoured a close economic integration with Russia.
13.Central Asia lies in the heart of Eurasian continent and is landlocked.Â It borders Iran and Afghanistan to the south, China to the east and Russia to the North and West, the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges in the south and Tien Shan mountains in the east.This region is also unique in that it is enclosed by more frontiers than any other region in the world - the frontiers of Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan meet in Central Asia.Â Central Asia may, therefore, more appropriately be called as a zone of convergence of the major geo-cultural regions of Eurasia, with its secular interactions spanning both these continents.
14.Another factor in the importance of this region is its location next to what may be termed as a geo-strategic melting pot, West Asia.Â The cross currents of Arab-Israeli rivalry, intra-Arab hostility and the conflict between Iran and Iraq, have all combined to keep this oil rich region in a state of continuous turmoil and instability, leading to periodic wars.Â In the changed geo-political environment, it is not entirely unlikely that the CAR may now be dragged into these conflicts, with some scholars already talking in terms of a greater Middle East.
15. In the light of the aforesaid it becomes imperative for us to reassess and analyse our posture and policy in dealing with the redefined role of Central Asian Region. The policy makers would analyse the whole prism with Energy Security and military significance forming major denominator of the whole calculus.
Statement of the Problem
16. This paper seeks to analyse the importance of oil reserve in the Central Asian Region in view of India's concerns of Energy Security in the backdrop of the political situation in Afghanistan.
Justification of the Study
17.The enormous hydrocarbon resources supposed to be buried under the sands & shores of the Caspian Sea basin are a source of attraction to the world at large. This region has one of the largest unexploited sources of oil in the world. Oil was first recorded here in the 13th century. It carried enormous strategic weight in both the world wars. The estimates are to the tune of 200 billion barrels (at par with Iraq). The estimate of natural gasoline is approximately 7.89 trillion cu meters that is at par with the resources of USA & Mexico combined.
18.The margin between the world oil production capacity & demand will narrow down in the next decade. This may lead to greater dependence on Gulf oil. CAR oil can act as a suitable alternative & provide the opportunity for true independence in seventy yrs. India on the other hand will be looking to diversify its energy imports thereby reducing its dependency on the gulf. The exploitation of CAR resources can lead to satiating India's energy requirements in the future. For this to materialize, we must analyze possible hurdles that might hinder the desired outcome. The political instability in Afghanistan is one of the crucial factors that may impede the process. This study has attempted to analyze the above issues in a sequential manner.
19.This study has limited its scope to the aspects concerning CAR states & has excluded the adjacent but equally important region of CIS. However, for understanding the regions potential as a whole, relevant players like Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, USA, China & Turkey have been included.
Methods of Data Collection
20.The basic means of data collection were research in the books, periodicals, journals, newspaper editorials & related Internet sites as quoted subsequently in the paper.