Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Q&A with Dilip Hiro, author of INSIDE CENTRAL ASIA, in Harper's Magazine

Dilip Hiro, author of Inside Central Asia, is interviewed by Scott Horton in Harper's Magazine:

"With unrest and another revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the Central Asian region is back in the news. I put six questions to Dilip Hiro, one of the region’s most prominent observers, on the basis of his recent book Inside Central Asia.

1. Your discussion of Central Asia includes Turkey and Iran, whose historical importance to the region can’t be questioned, and who continue to play significant roles that you describe—but you omit discussion of Afghanistan, even though its centrality to current Central Asian politics is apparent from every morning newspaper. Explain your call.

Dilip Hiro:
My answer lies in examining the list of the 68 countries attending the international conference on Afghanistan hosted by Britain in London on January 28. Of the three Central Asian republics present—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan—only Tajikistan has a common border with Afghanistan. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the remaining two immediate Central Asian neighbors of Afghanistan, were absent. Their absence was all the more striking when juxtaposed with the presence of such countries as Cyprus, Slovenia, and Switzerland: they are not members of NATO and have no or little contact with or interest in Afghanistan.

So it is hard to agree with the statement about Afghanistan’s centrality to current Central Asian politics being highlighted in the Western press. What comes through in the Western media, though, is the inextricable linkage between Afghanistan and Pakistan; and rightly so.

Nonetheless I have described at length the impact that the events in Afghanistan have had on Central Asian republics, starting with the Soviet Union’s military intervention in Afghanistan in 1979. I have also dealt in detail with the Taliban’s capture of Kabul in September 1996 and how the independent Central Asian states and Russia reacted.

Overall, the recent history of Afghanistan is incorporated into the general narrative of Central Asia, with emphasis on its impact on Afghanistan’s immediate Central Asian neighbors, particularly Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. By the way, this is also the case with Russia: its relationship with the Central Asian republics is a common thread in the chapters dealing with individual regional states."

To read the entire interview, click here.

Inside Central Asia is also reviewed in the March/April issue of International Affairs: "Few people know Central Asia better than Dilip Hiro does… Inside Central Asia is a major contribution to the study of post-Soviet Central Asia, interesting for both specialized and non-specialized readers for its solid analytical framework, the author’s engaging style and the remarkable amount of information provided in the volume.” - Luca Anceschi

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