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South and Central Asia Project

South and Central Asia Project

South and Central Asia Project

About the Project

Since the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the part of Asia located between the Middle East, Russia, China and India has been in flux. Five new independent states emerged on the map, facing major problems of economic, social and political development. Afghanistan, over a decade after the overthrow of the Taliban regime by the US-led coalition, is yet to reach a stage of stable recovery. Iran, a rising regional power, has become locked in a deep cold war-type antagonism with the West while facing imperatives of internal political change. Pakistan, having become a new nuclear weapons state, remains unstable and insecure. The impact of transnational forces, from economic globalization to drug trade and political extremism, has shattered societies and undermined states. Some old territorial issues in the region have lingered while new ones have emerged. Meanwhile, the region has seen an unprecedented internationalization: following the contraction of Russia’s power, which enabled the new independent states to establish relations with a wide range of other partners, the US, China, China, India, the EU, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Japan – have increased their influence, competing and colluding in various ways. Arguably, the international politics of South and Central Asia has never been as diverse, pluralistic and unpredictable as today.

Indeed, we are witnessing a new historical situation in the region. On the one hand, this is a situation of multifaceted crisis pregnant with potentials for major internal and international conflicts. Many of the policies pursued in the past two decades by the region’s governments and international powers involved in the region have failed, and there is a manifest lack of effective policy approaches. On the other hand, this situation contains important new opportunities for working out new approaches based on the recognition of the region’s unique identity.

This project is aimed at fostering such a region-oriented discourse, focused on the exploration of historical and contemporary connections between post-Soviet countries of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. These ties are both multilayer and multifaceted. Since early human history, this region served as a key way station on the main route of massive human migrations across Eurasia. For centuries, this region provided a vital trading link between Asia and Europe, enabling exchange in goods, technologies and cultures. In this region, civilizations interacted intensively, in both violent and peaceful ways. This region played a key role in the rise of Islam. The region’s historical connections are manifested in its shared geography, settlement patterns, languages, religion, historical memories, deep-seated cultural and political traditions. In the 21st century, we are witnessing rapid development of a network of new economic, social and political ties in the region: energy transportation routes, highways and railways, formation of regional organizations to address issues of security and development, etc. The new interest in regional cooperation is made all the more urgent by the forthcoming withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan.

It may be proper to characterize the region as Asia’s Central Nexus, which has experienced repeated cycles of integration and conflict, the rise and fall of great empires, devastating conquests and civil wars followed by periods of revival and prosperity. Today, we see both integrative and conflictual dynamics playing out in new forms, as the regional cooperation trends are hampered by the legacy of division, fragmentation and conflict within and between states, severe socioeconomic problems, inadequate quality of governance, and geopolitical competition.

The South and Central Asia Project explores various aspects of new regionalism in Asia’s Central Nexus, including:

  • The evolving web of regional links (cultural, economic, political).
  • Problems of socioeconomic development in the region and ways to deal with it.
  • Comparative analysis of the region’s political regimes and prospects for political change.
  • Sources of the internal and interstate conflicts in the region.
  • Comparative analysis of the policies of major powers in the region.
  • The special place of Afghanistan as the geographical link between South and Central Asia.

The project is implemented through a series of seminars.

2017 Workshops

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Can It Serve as a Key Regional Integration Framework? (January 12, 2017)
  • Saving Afghanistan: A Search for New Ideas (February 9, 2017)

2016 Workshops 

  • China’s Role in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan (October 6, 2016)
  • US Foreign Policy Goals and Role in South and Central Asia (November 10, 2016)

2015 Workshop

  • Iran and Its Eastern Neighbours (27 February 2015)

2014 Workshops

  • Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan: Issues and Prospects (13 March 2014)
  • Afghanistan after 2014: Prospects for the Country and the Region (24 October 2014)
  • The US-Iran Rapprochement and its Implications for South and Central Asia (21 November 2014)

2013 Workshops

  • South and Central Asia: Regional Legacies, Links and Issues (11 January 2013)
  • Afghan Women’s Struggle for Human Rights (1 March 2013)
  • Russia’s Interests and Policies in Central and South Asia (5 April 2013)
  • History, Myth and Memory in Central Asia (20 September 2013)
  • India and Contemporary Afghanistan: The Peace-Building Process (18 October 2013)

Project Team

Project Director
Sergei Plekhanov, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, York University; Faculty Associate, York Centre for Asian Research, York University

Project Associates
Faiz Ahmed, PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, York University
Feyzi Baban, Associate Professor, International Development Studies, Trent University, Trent, Ontario
Hussein Banai, Assistant Professor, Department of Diplomacy and World Affairs, Occidental College, Los Angeles
Assel Bitabarova, PhD Candidate, Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
Didier Chaudet, Head, Iran and South Asia Program, Institute for Prospective and Security Studies in Europe (IPSE), Paris, France; Visiting Research Fellow, Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies, Kabul
Gregory Chin, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Faculty Associate, YCAR, York University; China Research Chair and Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Waterloo, Ontario
Nicola Contessi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University, New York
Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, International Security and Political Consultant, New Delhi, India
Dalia Ezzat, MA Candidate, School of Oriental and Asian Studies, London
Humayun Hamidzada, President & CEO, Development Policy Group International; former Deputy Finance Minister of Afghanistan; former Chief Spokesman and Director of Communications, Office of the President of Afghanistan
Ali Igmen, Associate Professor, Director of Oral History Program, Department of History, California State University at Long Beach
Nivedita Das Kundu, Assistant Director (Research), Indian Council for Social Science Research, New Delhi
Marianne Kamp, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Wyoming; President, Central Eurasian Studies Society
Jacque Levesque, Professeur émérite - Département de science politique, L'Université du Québec à Montréal
Ilgar Mammadov, international affairs analyst; former Deputy Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan, United Nations
Stephanie Ordon, MA, Department of Political Science, York University
Nasruddin Shah Paikar, Representative, Aga Khan Foundation for Canada
Saeed Rahnema, Professor, Department of Political Science, Professor, Equity Studies, York University
Jeff Sahadeo, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science; Director, Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa
Sabrina Saqeb, Co-Founder, Research Institute on Women, Peace and Security, Kabul; former member of the Afghan Parliament
Ed Schatz, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto Mississauga
Michael Skinner, PhD Candidate, York University; independent international analyst
Gulmira Sultangaliyeva, Professor, Department of History, Al Farabi Kazakh National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Petr Topychkanov, Associate, Nonproliferation Program, Carnegie Moscow Center; Senior Researcher, Center for International Security, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Project Associates
Jawid Karimi, BA student, Political Science, York University
Mina Saboor, MA student, Department of Political Science, Glendon College, York University

Contact Information
For more information: Sergei Plekhanov