The Economic Plans of the Great Powers in Central Asia: Implications for Iran

Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
26(2) 159 –185, 2022
© 2022 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/09735984221133588
The Economic
Plans of the
Great Powers
in Central Asia:
Implications for
Ghodratollah Behboudi Nejad1
This article charts Iran’s relations with Central Asia following the break-
up of the Soviet Union. This event gave Iran a new set of neighbors to
the north, and this came at a time when Iran was undergoing changes
in the direction of its foreign policy from radical idealistic goals, such as
the export of the Islamic Revolution, to more pragmatic aims, including
giving priority to its national interests and pursuing good neighborly
relations. Since 1991, Iran has attempted to develop relations with the
Central Asian states, both bilateral and through various regional fora.
This article examines the economic plans of the great powers in Central
Asia and its threats and opportunities for Iran and designs a favorable
model for dealing with threats.
Great powers, Central Asia, economic plans, opportunities and challenges,
1 Islamic Azad University of Rafsanjan Branch, Kerman, Iran
Corresponding author:
Ghodratollah Behboudi Nejad, Islamic Azad University of Rafsanjan Branch, Kerman
9WHJ+GR9, Iran.
160 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 26(2)
The ancient history of Central Asia has enabled the region to create a
variety of notions that have often been developed and addressed not only
by nations and states based in it but also by regional and trans-regional
actors in order to increase their presence in the Central Asian republics.
The lands of Central Asia have long held an important place in the
Iranian geopolitical imagination. This is borne of a deep historical
connection, dating back not only to historical control over the region
through successive empires based in the lands of today’s modern state of
Iran but also the notion of Central Asia being the common home of the
Aryan peoples from where the name ‘Iran’ is said to have originated.
This historical connection provided the basis for the renewed interest in
the region from Iran following the collapse of the Soviet Union. For the
past thirty years, Iran has sought to build its relations with Central Asia
and has often cited its historical connection as a basis for developing
relations. Perhaps, more pressing for the Islamic Republic has been the
desire to capitalize on relationships that do not have the historical
baggage that has traditionally hampered relations with Western powers,
namely the United States. In doing so, Iran has sought to demonstrate its
capability as a rational and reliable international partner for states in the
region and, certainly, until very recently, challenge US-led efforts at
containing Iran’s influence. To this end, Iran has historically sought to
promote a strongly regionalist agenda in Central Asia, which has met
with limited success thus far. If the Middle East is seen (by those in the
Western media at least) as the place of Iranian misadventure, then Central
Asia is the place where the Islamic Republic shows its pragmatic streak.
Iran is a vital part of the geostrategic puzzle that has long identified
external interests in the region. Iran sees enormous opportunities in the
region, not only in the traditional realm of supplying Central Asian
natural resources to the world market but also in building closer
relationships based on common cultural and security interests. Iran’s
desire for more economic, security, and cultural ties with the region has
traditionally been diminished by two issues. First, the newly independent
nature of these countries meant that they were reluctant to incorporate
any of their newly found Sovereignty into regional initiatives, especially
those led by Iran, for fear of propagating Shiism. Second, Iran thwarted
a US-led containment strategy that sought to control its interests in its
neighborhood. In successive rounds of economic sanctions-imposed,
some of the most damaging of which was related to the disputed nuclear
program. Now, with the possible implementation of the Joint

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