Reviews

This special file of the “Notebook of Studies on the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkic-Iranian World” is devoted to a reappraisal of the question of land-lockedness in Central Asia since the end of the Soviet period, through the respective positions of different local and foreign protagonists.  The series of paper is opened with a study on the recent bibliography on the political geography and economics of landlocked countries, applied to the case of Central Asia.  The author sheds light on the deficit of growth and trade of landlocked countries when compared with coastal ones, because of extra-transportation expenditures.  As to Central Asia, this region’s hemmed-in position is even more felt nowadays since during the Soviet period the whole region had benefited from subventions to transportation.  Two kinds of answer have been proposed to this state of things, both difficult to implement: (1) an economic solution through a general improving of transportation infrastructures and economic regional integration; and (2) a juridical solution through an overall willingness of recognising transit rights (see: Raballand Gaël, “L’enclavement: coûts et parades (une application à l’Asie Centrale) [Landlockedness: Costs and Answers (A Central Asian Application)],” 15-29).  This question of the transit rights has been complicated since the proclamations of independence in 1991 by the change of the status of boundaries, materialised in the Fergana Valley by the existence of some fifteen hardly surmountable enclaves.  A specific study is devoted to the reinforcement of the hemmed-in position, and the mutual differentiation of several districts of this region of Central Asia, in particular in southern Kyrgyzstan and in northern Tajikistan: Shahimardan, Sokh and Vorukh districts (Thorez Julien, “Enclaves et enclavement dans le Ferghana post-soviétique [Enclaves and Landlockedness in the Post-Soviet Fergana],” 29-41).  As an illustration of the impact of enclosing upon under-development, the following paper traces Nepal’s efforts since 1950 to negotiate more favourable treaties governing the transit over India and her imports and exports to and from the sea.  A participant in the negotiations of the late 1970s and late 1980s, the author suggests how a political geographer can help resolve difficult real-world problems.  He also illustrates how landlockedness is inherently a political rather than a geographical problem (Glassner Martin Ira, “Negotiating Nepal’s Access to the Sea,” 41-61).  A landlocked country par excellence, Uzbekistan has been developing a positive perception of its geographical position, through an over-valuation of its centrality in Central Asia:  This aspect is studied in the present volume through the official discourse of the Tashkent administration since independence (Poujol Catherine, “L’Ouzbékistan ou la stratégie du ‘surenclavement’ [Uzbekistan or the Strategy of ‘Over-Landlockedness’],” 61-71).  A further illustration of the essentially political character of landlockedness is provided by the case of Afghanistan, a former crossroads of caravan routes on the Eurasian continent, limited since the nineteenth century to the role of a buffer-state between the Russian/Soviet and British/US empires, and confined to a geographical and political “angle”.  This context and the further isolation brought about by the Soviet occupation and the ensuing civil wars are taken as explanations to the expansion of opium culture and heroine production (Chouvy Pierre-Arnaud, “La production illicite d’opium en Afghanistan dans le contexte de l’enclavement, de l’isolement et de l’isolationnisme [The Illicit Opium Production in Afghanistan in the Context of Enclosing, Isolation and Isolationism],” 71-83).  The notion of landlockedness is further relativised through a reflection on the current geopolitical perceptions of Central Asia in, respectively, India and Pakistan—each of these countries looking at oneself as . . . an enclosed country, and promoting diametrically different visions of Central Asia and its future (Zins Max-Jean, “De la relativité de l’enclavement: les perceptions indienne et pakistanaise de l’Asie Centrale [Of the Relativity of Enclosing: The Indian and Pakistanese Perceptions of Central Asia],” 83-109).  As to Iran, the hopes raised up after 1991 by the abolution of the USSR proved over-estimated, confirming the impact of political considerations on Central Asia’s present-day landlockedness.  In spite of initial diplomatic successes, like the setting-up of a ‘Tehran-Yerevan-Athens axis’, Iran’s economic and political achievements in Central Asia have proved limited:  The region’s opening up through Iran is still to be awaited, whilst the gradual dividing up of the Caspian Sea’s underground resources is implemented against Tehran’s positions—an explanation to both failure being made of Iran’s atrocious relations with the USA (Djalili Mohammad-Reza, “Une porte à peine entrouverte: l’Iran et l’Asie Centrale (1991-2002) [A Less than Half-Open Door: Iran and Central Asia (1991-2002)],” 109-23).  The thematic file’s last contribution is a hydrological and historical perspective on the geopolitics of water in Central Asia.  In this region of the world, contrary to the Near-East, potential conflicts are not caused by the exhaustion of water resources, but by the new territorial division after 1991 (Allouche Jeremy, “Geopolitique de l’Iran en Asie Centrale: de la colonisation russe à la conference internationale d’aide à l’Afghanistan (1865-2002) [Geopolitics of Iran in Central Asia: From Russian Colonisation to the International Conference on Aid to Afghanistan (1865-2002)],” 123-55).  The editors must be congratulated for the gathering of such an exceptionally coherent set of papers, and for the rich perspectives that have been traced by most authors, all preoccupied with the formulation of lucid solutions to the multiple geo-political problems met by Central Asia since the disappearance of the USSR.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-2.4-152