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Multi-vectored foreign policy of Central Asia

Central Asian foreign policy multi-vectorism pays off

This article explores the origins, benefits, and challenges of Central Asia’s multi-vectored foreign policy.

What is the context?

China and five Central Asian countries met in Xi’an in ‘C+C5 summit‘ to discuss ways to improve their relationship. The leaders signed a declaration that sets out their goals for the future. They want to increase trade, investment, and cooperation on security.

What is Central Asia’s multi-vectored foreign policy?

Central Asia’s multi-vectored foreign policy is a strategic approach.  It aims at balancing relationships with major external powers, such as Russia, China, the United States, and the European Union. This policy is based on non-alignment. It seeks to prevent overdependence on any single power.

Origins of Central Asia’s Multi-Vectored Foreign Policy:
  • Emergence in the early 1990s following the region’s independence from the Soviet Union.
  • Motivated by a desire to establish new international relationships and avoid entanglement in regional rivalries.
Benefits of Central Asia’s Multi-Vectored Foreign Policy:

A. Avoidance of Overdependence:

  • Prevents the region from becoming overly reliant on any one power.
  • Preserves the ability to pursue independent policy decisions.

B. Promotion of Economic Development and Regional Cooperation:

  • Facilitates the development of economic partnerships and trade relations with multiple external powers.
  • Encourages regional cooperation and integration, fostering economic growth and stability.

C. Maintenance of Good Relations:

  • Allows Central Asia to maintain positive relationships with all major external powers.
  • Minimizes the risk of conflicts and promotes diplomatic dialogue.
Challenges of Central Asia’s Multi-Vectored Foreign Policy:

A. Strategic Importance and Competing Interests:

  • Central Asia’s geographic location makes it strategically significant, leading to competing interests from major external powers.
  • Balancing these interests while safeguarding national sovereignty requires careful navigation.

B. Weaknesses and External Pressure:

  • Central Asian states are relatively weak and underdeveloped compared to major powers.
  • Maintaining independence and sovereignty in the face of external pressures poses challenges.
India’s Perspective on Central Asian Foreign Policy

India, as an observer of Central Asian affairs, recognizes the successful implementation of multi-vectored foreign policy by the region’s countries. This approach goes beyond the Russia-China axis, allowing Central Asian nations to strengthen ties with other global players.

China-Central Asia Summit and Regional Dynamics

The recent “C+C5 summit” hosted by China in Xi’an marked an important milestone. The joint signing of the ‘Xi’an Declaration’ emphasized future China-Central Asia relations, including Belt and Road cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, cultural programs, and addressing regional security challenges.

The establishment of the China-Central Asia Summit mechanism further solidifies cooperation and sets the stage for biennial summits. While some perceive this as expanding Chinese influence challenging Russia’s ambitions, it only partially reflects the complex regional dynamics.

What is C+C5 summit?

The C+C5 summit is a high-level meeting between China and the five Central Asian republics (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan). The first C+C5 summit was held in January 2023, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Central Asia. The summit was chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Maintaining Balanced Engagements

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s numerous meetings with Central Asian leaders demonstrate their intent to maintain balanced regional and international engagements. The participation of Central Asian Presidents in Moscow’s Victory Day parade exemplifies their commitment to a diverse set of partnerships.

Lessons for the Post-Soviet Space

Central Asia’s multi-vector foreign policy offers valuable lessons for other post-Soviet countries like Georgia and Moldova. Aspirations for EU/NATO membership should not come at the expense of workable relations with Russia. Unconventional warfare poses security challenges, making a multi-vectored approach essential for lasting peace.

Moldova’s recent pro-Western rally and its aim to join the EU by 2030 reflect their aspirations for peace and prosperity. However, it’s important to acknowledge Russia’s geographic presence and build a foreign policy that considers all stakeholders. Trust-building measures and engagement with multiple actors are crucial for stability in the region.

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