Diplomatic relationships and partnerships between Turkey and the countries in Central Asia started after the republics gained independence in 1991. The Central Asian republics, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, share many common trends and developments along with distinctive political, economic and social characteristics that affect the development of relationships with Turkey. While the stance of Turkey toward Central Asia is clearly positive, how do Central Asian nations perceive Turkey? Do they share the same attitude, or view Turkey with more caution? Also, how have recent events impacted the attitude of Central Asia toward Turkey?
Turkey’s image and the development of its soft power in Central Asia have been cultivated through diplomatic, business, educational and cultural channels. The establishment of diplomatic relations with Turkey enabled Central Asian states to construct business relations, strengthen cultural interactions and launch education partnerships. The cultural ties between Central Asia and Turkey, which are based on a common history, language, religious practices, culture and traditions, facilitated partnerships, not only on a bilateral basis, but also at an intraregional level.
The Central Asian republics will continue to observe Turkey’s political challenges and democratic development. Among the main factors that should be addressed in Central Asia are the development of civic national identity, the management of their Islamic identity, and strengthening of civil society. In this regard, the Turkish experience in some ways could be seen as a “How To” guide for the Central Asian republics.
The future of relationships of the Central Asian countries with Turkey will be affected by Chinese, Iranian, Russian and Western involvement in the region. For the Central Asian republics, Turkey’s presence in the region is important because it introduces economic opportunities, trade diversification and strategic flexibility. However, due to Turkey’s current political polarization, the Kurdish dilemma, the Syrian war, a huge influx of refugees and a tense relationship with the West, strengthening relationships with Central Asia is not a priority for Ankara at the moment. Nevertheless, partnerships in energy, improvements in transportation routes, business partnerships, and trade are ongoing.