The Tashkent memorandum and the revival of historical Silk Road - SELÇUK TÜRKYILMAZ

The Tashkent memorandum and the revival of historical Silk Road

Türkiye, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan’s foreign affairs, trade, and transportation ministers gathered in the Uzbek capital Tashkent for a trilateral meeting. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister Adil Karaismailoglu, and Mehmet Mus attended the meeting from Türkiye. It is clear that the general focus of the meetings, which concluded on Aug. 2 with the signing of the Tashkent Memorandum, was the historical Silk Road’s revival. It was stated that Uzbekistan supports the Kyrgyzstan-China and the Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway line project within this frame. Similarly, it is reported that the Caspian Sea passage and the Zangezur corridor are emphasized with the increased significance of the Middle Zone. After the signing of the Tashkent Memorandum, speakers announced that a new era would be ushered in in relations between the countries at the Organization of Turkic States summit, which will be held in November in Samarkand. 


We have to confess that efforts are being made within to suffocate Türkiye with a shallow agenda. Unfortunately, this is nothing other than a systematic intervention. World politics almost 150 years ago had two important concepts that reflected how others viewed our region: Big Game, and the Eastern Question. The Eastern Question defined the Ottoman Empire’s collapse, and the Big Game defined the fight for sovereignty over Turkestan. It should be noted that studies on this period generally fail to question the idea of a collapsing Turkish Islamic geography. It seems impossible to comprehend present-day developments through the concepts and perspectives that emerged from this idea. The resemblance between these and the concepts and perspectives that emerged as part of efforts to suffocate Türkiye in a shallow agenda is quite remarkable. As a result of this, the major developments in our region fail to draw enough attention and are thus not identified with concepts specific to us. Great developments are sacrificed for Eurocentric perspectives. 


The ministers who attended the meetings in Tashkent stated the desire to revive the historical Silk Road, and that this will contribute greatly to the welfare of people in the region. Türkiye increasingly made major breakthroughs locally in recent years in regards to highways and railways. Thanks to these breakthroughs, cities, and regions are reconnecting to one another like a network. I won’t be questioning the logic behind the roads that were built in the past based on a single center, but we need to establish that the present perspective determines the region’s means and needs. This will change the way we evaluate the past, and thus put an end to judgments made based on borrowed concepts and perspectives. There is no harm in imagining an Asia that is centered around Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. A railway from Termez to Peshawar signifies the elimination of the single central idea across our region. It is clear that the local breakthroughs are in coherence with regional developments as well. Hence, the historical Silk Road emphasis is not meaningless. 


In his travel book titled “Turkestan,” Eugene Schuyler mentions a railway project that reaches Peshawar through Turkestan. This project was discussed in the 1870s. Back then, emphasis was on the Termez, Kabul, and Peshawar line. However, these plans were made in accordance with Russian and British needs. Yet the lines discussed today are centered around the Turkic region. It can be said that this will give rise to concepts and perspectives that belong to us. It is no coincidence that today the Eastern Question and the Big Game concepts are not in the foreground. We are no longer discussing the 19th century’s sick man or the Turkestan region on which big games were planned. We are living through a period that even conservatives like Niall Ferguson mulled over as “the end of Western ascendancy of five centuries.” The Silk Road is at the start and the end of the five-century bracket. 


One of the most important developments after Karabakh War II was the fact that the U.S. had to leave Afghanistan. Relations between Türkiye, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Azerbaijan developed to a great extent during this period. Uzbekistan developed relations with Afghanistan after the U.S. exit. Afghanistan showed during the war that it supported Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, the rivalry between the U.S. and China shifted to Taiwan. This paved the to the establishment of the Organization of Turkic States, and the restrictive elements over its operations weakened. A continuous route from the Chinese border to the Balkans is not a dream. This cannot be considered an ordinary development. The mention of new concepts and perspectives is not in vain. 


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