One of the most important regions in the 21st century has also been the least acknowledged. Leaders converging at the United Nations General Assembly this week from across the world are finally waking up to the importance of Central Asia. From D.C. to Moscow, Beijing to Tel Aviv, New Delhi to Ankara, the heart of Eurasia is experiencing a wave of interest and engagement from those who have realized the magnitude of its potential. Central Asia has truly become Washington’s final frontier at the furthest geographic reach between major regional powers competing across the world eager to strengthen ties with a pivotal region rich in energy, central in geography, and boundless in opportunity.

Last year, the diverse nations that comprise Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan — created for the first time a joint platform in partnership with the United States to come together and work on issues of mutual concern; the C5+1. The formation of this coalition was a critical moment for a region that is far from monolithic and in which cooperation has been a challenge given regional disparities. In 2015, the region’s largest estimated GDP with purchasing power parity (Kazakhstan at $429.1 billion) was approximately 21 times larger than the smallest (Kyrgyzstan, $20.1 billion). Demographically, Central Asia is home to dozens of ethnicities and a multitude of religions. These have rarely received attention, with Central Asian countries having only emerged from the Soviet Union as independent states 25 years ago. The region is still linked to Russia through this history and, increasingly, to China through investment.

This article originally appeared in The Diplomat. To continue reading, please click here.

Kevin Kearney

Kevin Kearney serves as an associate consultant within APCO’s Global Solutions practice in Washington, D.C. Read More