Central Asia: What to Watch in 2024

Central Asia Map
The map of Central Asia (Credits: SpecialEurasia Risk & Monitoring Map)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 38 Issue 5

Our primary aim is to facilitate informed decision-making and proactively anticipate potential challenges in Central Asia. We achieve this by thoroughly assessing and closely monitoring the region’s significant geopolitical dynamics. By offering a structured framework of key areas to monitor, we equip decision-makers with a comprehensive understanding of the developing landscape. As the year unfolds, it becomes imperative to remain vigilant, anticipating shifts in political, economic, and security spheres. Through this report, we present a nuanced perspective on the factors that demand continuous scrutiny, fostering a proactive approach to navigate the complex geopolitical currents shaping Central Asia in the coming year.

Confrontation for Regional Influence

Central Asia stands at a crucial juncture, grappling with a critical challenge as global and regional actors engage in a power struggle for influence. The region’s security is paramount, necessitating a vigilant defence against threats emanating from neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly in the realms of terrorism and radicalisation.

Drawing lessons from domestic crises in 2022 in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan (Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan) and Tajikistan (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region), local governments must proactively address internal discontent to bolster stability.

Kazakhstan appears to have successfully navigated internal challenges through a series of reforms, a constitutional referendum, and recent parliamentary and presidential elections. This approach has contributed to stabilising the country’s political landscape.

In contrast, Tajikistan continues to grapple with issues stemming from the management of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), a pivotal area in regional geopolitics and economic development. Dushanbe faces the delicate task of aligning its domestic policies to prevent escalating local discontent while also addressing Western concerns regarding human rights, particularly concerning the Pamiris.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan has effectively managed the situation in Karakalpakstan following constitutional reforms. Despite this success, Uzbekistan still faces challenges in meeting significant benchmarks for democratisation and modernisation, showing ongoing efforts are needed to strengthen these aspects of governance.

Water management in Central Asia

The imminent threat of water scarcity in the region underscores a pressing regional risk that requires immediate attention to prevent potential conflicts. Despite the emphasis on regional cooperation and stability by Central Asian governments, the utilisation of water resources by Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to enhance national energy production poses a pending challenge. The repercussions of such hydropower initiatives could have severe implications for the agricultural sectors of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Prioritising non-confrontational approaches in this domain is imperative. Central Asian republics must collaboratively explore alternative solutions to meet their energy requirements, effectively manage water resources, and promote sustainable agricultural development to mitigate potential conflicts arising from resource competition.

Russia’s Influence Dynamics

Russia’s influence in Central Asia remains pronounced through economic and security alliances, notably the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, a discernible trend indicates Moscow’s diminishing impact on cultural diplomacy and economic spheres.

In this developing landscape, China has emerged as a significant investor and trade partner, introducing the potential for friction between Moscow and Beijing. The prospect of alternative alliances between Russia and China, involving countries like Iran, India, Turkey, Pakistan, and the Gulf Arab monarchies, adds a layer of complexity to the regional dynamics.

China and the Belt and Road Initiative

The critical question revolves around the efficacy of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) beyond its role as a Chinese soft power tool, creating opportunities for increased Chinese presence in the region.

While the BRI aims to connect Europe and Asia, offering potential benefits for Central Asian republics, the key concern is whether it will achieve its ultimate goal.

Recent discussions between Xi Jinping and Central Asian leaders underscore Beijing’s commitment to investing in the region and supporting local development and infrastructure projects.

However, the substantial reliance on Chinese funding by Central Asian governments poses a potential threat, prompting them to explore alternatives in Turkey, Europe, or the United States. Despite Europe and the United States not matching China’s financial capacity, they can offer diverse opportunities in terms of modernisation, access to various markets, promotion of democratic values, and support for green energy initiatives.

European Union’s Role

The European Union faces the imperative of showcasing its capability to offer viable alternatives for Central Asian republics, thereby diminishing reliance on China and Russia. The effectiveness of Brussels’ initiatives will undergo scrutiny in relation to regional objectives and dynamics.

It becomes pivotal for the European Union to present tangible and appealing alternatives that align with the strategic interests of Central Asian nations. Considering the geopolitical complexities in the region, the effectiveness of EU initiatives will be evaluated not only based on their capacity to decrease reliance but also on their alignment with the changing priorities and aspirations of Central Asian republics.

 External Events Impact

The repercussions of the Ukraine conflict, Russian presidential elections, and the uncertain U.S. presidential elections will resonate in Central Asia.

While Putin’s expected victory suggests a stable leadership in Russia, the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. elections introduces a variable that can significantly affect engagements in the region.

Vigilantly, monitoring these events is crucial for deciphering potential shifts in regional dynamics. The interconnectedness of these geopolitical developments underscores the importance of staying abreast of evolving political landscapes in adapting strategies and policies accordingly. Central Asian nations must remain attuned to these external factors, as they have the potential to influence diplomatic, economic, and security dynamics within the region.

Afghanistan’s Security and Stability

Afghanistan’s status remains pivotal for Central Asian republics, with the Taliban’s capability to control burgeoning jihadist groups and counter terrorist activities directly influencing logistics, energy, and transportation projects.

The stability of the Afghan situation is intrinsically tied to the security landscape of the entire Central Asian region. Kazakhstan’s strategic role within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) emerges as a linchpin in effectively addressing terrorism and contributing to the stabilisation of Afghanistan.

Monitoring Kazakhstan’s initiatives within the SCO is imperative, as they play a crucial role in shaping regional responses to security challenges emanating from Afghanistan and maintaining the integrity of vital projects that underpin the interconnected interests of Central Asian nations.

Turkey and pan-Turkism in Central Asia

In recent years, Turkey has sped up its efforts concerning the Organisation of Turkic Peoples, driven by the principles of pan-Turkism and the aspiration to establish an alternative bloc in Eurasia.

Ankara’s proactive approach, combined with the Central Asian republics’ desire to expand their partnerships and avoid getting involved in the tensions between the West, Russia, and China, may encourage local governments to rely more on Turkey and its institutions.

The dynamism showed by Ankara aligns with the strategic interests of Central Asian nations seeking alternative avenues for collaboration. This evolving dynamic warrants close observation, as it has the potential to reshape regional alliances and influence the geopolitical landscape in Eurasia.

Gulf Arab Monarchies’ Influence

Culture and religion wield significant influence in geopolitics. Evaluating the engagement of Gulf Arab monarchies in Central Asia, including their investments, humanitarian aid, and cultural cooperation, is imperative for understanding regional dynamics.

Local governments bear the responsibility of thwarting the infiltration of ideologies like political Islam and Salafism, as they pose the potential to foster terrorism within the region.

 Recognising the importance of these cultural and religious considerations is paramount for Central Asian nations to safeguard their societies against external influences that may disrupt regional stability and security.


The report provides a structured framework for decision-makers to grasp key areas, fostering informed decision-making.

The region’s dynamics, marked by water scarcity concerns, internal governance issues, external influences from Russia, China, and emerging actors like Turkey, underscore the need for a nuanced approach.

Central Asian governments are urged to address internal discontent, prioritise non-confrontational approaches in water management, and diversify alliances to mitigate risks associated with heavy reliance on external actors.

The waning impact of Russia’s cultural diplomacy, the implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the European Union’s role, and the potential influence of Turkey and Gulf Arab monarchies add layers of complexity to the region’s dynamics.

As we navigate the coming year, monitoring external events, Afghanistan’s security, and the influence of Gulf Arab monarchies becomes crucial for adapting strategies and policies in this dynamic landscape.

The interplay of geopolitical, economic, and security factors necessitates continuous vigilance from decision-makers. It is imperative for Central Asian nations to explore alternative solutions in energy, water management, and agricultural development, fostering regional cooperation to mitigate potential conflicts.

For those with an interest in acquiring comprehensive insights into geopolitical dynamics in Central Asia, we encourage you to reach out to our team by sending an email to info@specialeurasia.com. We are poised to facilitate an assessment of the opportunity for you to obtain a meticulously crafted and specialised report tailored to your intelligence needs.

Related Posts