Uzbekistan rejoins Moscow-led security bloc

President Islam Karimov on Wednesday signed a bill on formal restoration of his country's membership in the military alliance.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2006 03:30 IST

After eight years of pro-US drift, Central Asia's most-potent newly independent state of Uzbekistan on Wednesday rejoined the Moscow-led collective security bloc set up after the Soviet collapse.

President Islam Karimov on Wednesday signed a bill on formal restoration of his country's membership in the military alliance, initially known as Tashkent Pact.

Earlier both the houses of Uzbek parliament had approved the bill authorising the Central Asian state's re-entry into the Russia-led military bloc on the post-Soviet space.

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) was created in May 1992 in the Uzbek capital Tashkent to fill the security gap after the Soviet collapse fifteen years ago in 1991 and roll-back of the Russian army from the highly volatile border with Afghanistan.

In 1998 Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the post-Soviet military alliance due to what it viewed as fan excessively dominant role of Moscow and opted for military cooperation with Washington and joined pro-US GUUAM group of Ukraine-led former Soviet republics including Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova to contain Russia.

After 9/11 terror strikes, Uzbekistan joined the US in its Afghan campaign and provided former Soviet strategic airbase of Khanabad in its Karshi region to the US Centcom.

However, relations with the US and European Union deteriorated after a public revolt against the Karimov government in Andijan and some other towns of Ferghana Valley in 2004, when the army cracked down on thousands of protestors.

Irked by the western criticism Uzbekistan asked the US to pack up its base in Khanabad and moved to restore ties with Russia. CSTO members - Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - use the organisation as a platform for fighting drug trafficking, terrorism, and organised crime, and have pledged to provide immediate military assistance to each other in the event of an attack.

According to RIA Novosti the bloc has a Collective Rapid Reaction Force deployed in Central Asia and is continuing to build up its military forces including Russian air base in Kant near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

Local experts view CSTO a post-Soviet instrument for preventing NATO's further eastward expansion keeping CIS countries loyal to Moscow under Russia's nuclear umbrella.

First Published: Dec 14, 2006 03:30 IST