By Maksim Yeniseyev
TASHKENT -- Officials and clerics in Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan are joining efforts to fight radicalisation and prevent the spread of extremist ideas.
Uzbekistani Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Abdusalom Azizov and Azerbaijani Defence Minister Col. Gen. Zakir Hasanov inked the Bilateral Military Co-operation Plan for 2018 on November 16 in Baku.
The new treaty is meant to strengthen peace and stability in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, according to a statement from the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry.
The two sides will co-operate in military technology, military education and related spheres, the statement said.
Azizov's visit to Baku follows last month's conference on "Islamic solidarity on the example of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan" in Tashkent, which was aimed at promoting Islamic values to counter extremism and other challenges.
Azerbaijani and Uzbekistani Muslims resolutely oppose extremism and terrorism and urge the global community to condemn radicalism and Islamophobia and to unite against these threats, according to the communiqué adopted by the conferees.
Theologians, scholars, statesmen and civic leaders who attended the conference also discussed the Uzbekistani government's planned strategy through 2021 for strengthening security, religious tolerance and inter-ethnic harmony.
"We want more and more people to study true Islam so that they can advance its values, not distort them," Abror Rajapov, a student at Tashkent Islamic University who attended the conference, told Caravanserai.
The international community has noted Uzbekistan's successes in this regard.
"The government has embarked on a programme of reintegration into the community of those citizens who were stigmatised or ostracised through alleged religious extremism," Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said in an October 12 report on his visit that month to Uzbekistan.
"Prisons seem to have adopted similar rehabilitative approach [sic] towards their inmates," he added.
"The process of liberalising religious life is continuing with other important signs of the 'Uzbekistani thaw' that started in 2017 -- social reforms, the release of jailed human rights defenders and journalists and boosting of relations with European countries and with the United States," Tashkent-based political scientist Valerii Khan told Caravanserai.