THE WORLD COMMUNITY RECOGNIZED IT 9 YEARS AGO
Turkmenistan marks Day of Neutrality as a second significant national holiday after Independence Day. As is known, all 185 members of the United Nations by then unanimously adopted a special resolution, "On the permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan", at a session of the General Assembly on December 12, 1995. Thus, the neutral foreign policy, pursued, de facto, by Turkmenistan, although, de jure, it was of political-declarative nature, obtained internationally recognized legal status. A few days later, Turkmenistan, through the adoption of a Constitutional law, carried out necessary procedures to give the resolution adopted by the world community the domestic status. At the same time, by a decree of Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov, December the 12th was declared the state holiday.
Having said that, strictly speaking, it would be wrong to think that Turkmenistan's neutrality "began" on December 12, 1995. In fact, July 1992 can be called the benchmark, when at a summit of CSCE (presently OSCE) in Helsinki Saparmurat Niyazov declared for the first time a positive neutrality of Turkmenistan as a principal course of the foreign policy of the Turkmen state. He also defined its major characteristics - respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states, non-interference in their internal affairs, using no force in interstate relations, superiority of the UN in international affairs, strengthening of neighborliness and cooperation with all states. It took Turkmenistan, however, 3 years of consistent observance of the undertaken obligations before the neutral foreign policy of Turkmenistan got its first official recognition, yet at a regional level, in the final declaration of the summit of the Organization of Economic Cooperation in Islamabad in 1995. The neutrality of Turkmenistan was recognized at a global level in the UN nine months after. It is significant that such countries as the U.S, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and a number of neighbor states acted as cosponsors of the UN resolution.
Today that nine years have passed since that time we can speak about apparent positive results of the neutral status of Turkmenistan (and its use in practice) in the major spheres:
FOREIGN POLICY. At the global level Turkmenistan was able to establish equal partnership relations with great powers and major world centers of power - the U.S., Russia, EU, China. A policy stated by president Niyazov a few years ago of "equal closeness" of Turkmenistan to them (these centers), if we talk about compatibility of interests in the region on the basis of fair and robust competition, and, on the contrary, "equal distancing" from them, if we talk about the division of spheres of influence, actually became a reality.
At the regional level Turkmenistan established neighborly and equal relations with neighbor countries, large regional powers as Iran and Turkey, Pakistan and India. Despite the ambiguity in their relations, interests of these states have never conflicted at the Turkmen geopolitical "floor". On the contrary, they have been in accord with each other.
MILITARY AND SECURITY. Principle and unconditional renunciation of participation in international military and military-political groupings and blocks allowed Turkmenistan to stay away from any kind of regional rivalry as well as from temptation on the part of any state to get the Turkmen military and economic resource on their side in potential conflicts. The military strategy of Turkmenistan is exceptionally of defensive nature. It strictly banned using Turkmen Armed Forces outside Turkmenistan. It let Turkmenistan focus on strengthening its own tenability, modernization of the national army in accordance with the modern requirements, keeping financial, material and human resources for use inside the country. Today, according to both western and Russian experts, the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan are one of the best equipped and battle-seasoned in the region (which is natural, by the way, of the neutral states in other parts of the world like Switzerland and Sweden). At the same time, Turkmenistan doesn't reject the military-technical, free of political provisions, cooperation at the bilateral level. Turkmenistan successfully develops this cooperation for quite a time with such states as the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. The same can be said about international cooperation in the fight against common threats in the region - terrorism, drug trafficking, transnational crime.
ECONOMIC. The neutral status of Turkmenistan, providing for minimum foreign policy risks, together with the vast reserves potential and internal stability has predetermined a great interest that first-class foreign companies take in the country and ensured a considerable inflow of foreign investments in the national economy. Companies from the U.S., Japan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Arabian states, Malaysia, China, India, EU states are successfully operating in Turkmenistan today. A textile industry has been erected virtually from nothing with their help; oil and gas complex and agriculture have been modernized; a large-scale road and housing construction is under way; communication infrastructure has been actually re-equipped; hotel business is growing. According to data provided by the World Bank, starting 1999, Turkmenistan has taken leading positions in the post-Soviet territory by the amount of direct foreign investments per capita.
There is another aspect of the Turkmen neutrality that cannot be measured by figures. These are non-confrontational nature of a new, "post-Soviet" generation of Turkmen people, tolerant world outlook, a certain system of assessment of themselves, neighbor countries and peoples and the rest of the world that have been influenced by the neutral foreign policy. This is what President Niyazov meant, writing one of his articles on "the philosophy of neutrality that are part and parcel of flesh and blood of the Turkmen people."
One may recall lively discussions among politicians, diplomats, journalists that followed the emergence of the first neutral state of Turkmenistan on the geopolitical map of Central Asia. Although this fact was positively assessed, there were also skeptics predicting self-isolation of Turkmenistan, if not wretched existence at the outskirts of the world policy. Fortunately, skeptics were wrong. It is enough to recall what role Turkmenistan played in the settlement of the Inter-Tajik crisis in 1995-96, Ashgabat's participation in peacemaking efforts of the UN on finding a peaceful political solution to the civil war in Afghanistan in 1999 that confirmed active positive effect that Turkmenistan has on the regional affairs. One may also recall the recent initiative of Turkmenistan aimed at prevention of regional crises and joint elaboration of new, non-confrontation political methods for Central Asia. It is believed that the logic of trends in the region over the last years will sooner or later make the world community realize the importance of these proposals.
Nevertheless, the country made its sovereign choice in favor of the neutral foreign policy model. And, despite frequently changing political environment and the emergence of new regional and global configurations, Turkmenistan sticks to its choice based on the clear understanding of its role and place in the contemporary world, strict fulfillment of the undertaken foreign policy obligations. The world community recognized this choice 9 years ago, which gives the foreign policy course of the country additional strength and predictability that are so much valued in international affairs.