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U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan: Slow down and focus


Ambassador Pamela Spratlen with Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek, Washington, May 18, 2018

How do presidential visits happen? Why should we care about official meetings? VOA's Navbahor Imamova talks to U.S. Ambassador Pamela Spratlen to Uzbekistan about President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's recent visit to Washington, new strategic partnership, and her own legacy as America's top diplomat to a country in transition.

May 18, 2018, Voice of America, Washington, D.C.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Hello from Washington. I'm Navbahor Imamova, and I have Ambassador Spratlen here all the way from Tashkent. Thank you so much for being here.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Thank you, Navbahor, for having me. It's a delight to be here today.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Thank you so much... We know the special reason why you have been here for the past few days, and we specifically wanted to chat with you at the end of President Mirziyoyev's official visit to Washington. It just ended.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: It just ended.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: He flew out of the Andrews air base just a few hours ago. Everybody seems to be ecstatic. They're so happy. I just talked to Lisa Curtis in the White House, President Trump's Special Assistant on the region, and now I have you talking to me. What is this excitement about? It's not like Uzbekistan has not existed before.

... this is not something I ever could have dreamed of when I arrived in Uzbekistan in January of 2015.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, it is true that Uzbekistan has been around for a long time and the bilateral relationship is now about 27 years old, but the Uzbekistan that we're talking about, and have been talking about this week is something new. I think that's the reason why everybody is so excited. The word I kept hearing over, and over, and over again as we went through all the meetings and the events was historic. I would say that the visit is historic in the sense that this was president Mirziyoyev's first trip. It was his wife's first trip as far as I know, to Washington. The breadth of issues covered, the size of the deals that were signed, the number of people who came with him, the way he was received in Washington, all of this is new. That's why I think everybody's very, very excited. I know as the US ambassador, having been there for three, almost three and a half years, this is not something I ever could have dreamed of when I arrived in Uzbekistan in January of 2015. I think we really are living with something new and that's why everybody's so excited.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: And, you have been working. I always say this - you are a true Central Asia expert in the sense that you've worked on the region for a long time. I remember covering your work when you were the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Yes, that's right.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Those were the times when Ambassador Kamilov, currently the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan was in Washington. Those were the cold days. You know, there were limited communication between the two governments. So, the relationship obviously has come a long way, right?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Yes.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: So, when we talk about this new strategic partnership, it sounds great. Everybody's promising so much... Why should we be so hopeful about it? Because the strategic partnership that was born in 2002, in many ways, went nowhere eventually.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, that's a very sharp way to put things. Let me just congratulate you on being accredited because I think that is part of the reason that we're talking about things that are new and what is exciting. This is not something that's happened before, you having the opportunity to go and report for the Voice of America from Tashkent in the way that you're, and all of Uzbekistan, in the way that you are now going to be able to do. I think that's just one small sign of many that we are seeing now.

The visit wasn't something that happened and now we close the book, the visit is a whole new chapter.

We are seeing companies go and talk about new sectors like solar power that we haven't been talking about before. We are talking about broadening English language programs, and working in that sector in the university sector in a way we have not worked before. We're, of course, talking about working on the security relationship. That's always been an important part. But I think that it's exciting because concrete achievements, concrete achievements occurred over the last week. Those achievements were part of something that started in September of 2016 and has steadily, steadily, steadily been growing. And, of course with the joint statement, with all of the meetings that have been taking place with all the contacts that were made, I think people are excited about the possibilities. The visit wasn't something that happened and now we close the book, the visit is a whole new chapter. In fact, this joint statement talks about a new era in the relationship.

I would want to give more credit to the 2002 partnership because that really established the foundation of what we could dream about. It's a very comprehensive document if you actually read it. For all kinds of reasons, we weren't able to allow that document to realize its full potential. But now because we have interest on the US side, interest on the Uzbek side, a whole vast array of people who are working for the governments in both countries, who were working for the private sector, who now want to make ... put meat on the bones. They want this to be real.

I think that's why we're excited, and that's why we have the potential to help Uzbekistan realize its potential in a way we have not before. It isn't really only about the United States. I think the excitement is going to be about other countries as well, and certainly in the region as part of president Mirziyoyev's good neighbor policy.

I was just in a meeting today when people were talking about the jump in investment and trade just between countries, in country like Turkmenistan going from a tiny, tiny few million before to over $100 million now. I mean, those kinds of things are possible because people are thinking-

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: It was near zero with Afghanistan.

... we have the potential to help Uzbekistan realize its potential in a way we have not before

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: It was near zero with Afghanistan, and there's a whole new conversation taking place about that. So, we are in a new era. I'm pleased to be part of it, you're part of it. I think we have a lot to be excited about for the future.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Yeah, and it's a major test. I'm sure you agree with me when I say that for both sides, right?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Absolutely.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: To what extent this will be carried through? Very interestingly, when the officials at Pentagon mentioned the 2002 agreement, I was like, "Well, are you sure you want to go there? Why don't you just start something new?" But as you just said, the reference to 2002 is remarkable.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Yes, yes. It is a foundation. Now we can build on it finally.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Everybody remembers that.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Yes.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: That is also very interesting.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: It's interesting because I think there's always been a sense of hope about Uzbekistan. People have recognized that this country is so important to the region's future. So the question is how can we find that common ground where we can work together to build enough trust so that both sides can benefit?

It's not a transactional relationship where I try to get this and you try to get that, but we really are trying to build a partnership, and that really takes a lot of effort. The 2002 partnership was the beginning of it. Now we have so much more to work with.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Why are these visits so important?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, one of the things I always like to talk to people about when I'm talking about Uzbekistan, is the importance of the human factor. We have tea on the table. What is tea symbolize?

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Please, have some tea.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Tea symbolizes that we are talking together and that we expect to be here for a while. I love the story about how you don't fill the tea cup up all the way because you want that conversation to go, and why? Because human relationships are important. What are visits about? They're about building those relationships because it is only through those relationships that we can actually accomplish the things we want to accomplish, right?

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: You have been having so many official visits. There was a time when only people with the military uniforms would visit Uzbekistan. You don't have that anymore. I know that the Uzbek Embassy here also gets exhausted with all the visits, and delegations, and the same applies to Tashkent, to the US Embassy there. What is in all of these things for the Uzbek people? They get to watch on Uzbek television, obviously, that people are coming and going. Why do these visits matter?

What are visits about? They're about building those relationships because it is only through those relationships that we can actually accomplish the things we want to accomplish, right?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: The visits matter because we're talking about where we can build a partnership, what can we actually do together? It's important on both sides for people to understand who are we talking about. Who are Uzbek people, where is Uzbekistan? What does it really mean for the United States? I know for myself, I was recently in the Ferghana Valley. Those trips are so important because they let me see what is really happening. I can see Namangan, I can see in Margilan. That's what happens when we have people visit as well.

We recently had, for example, our Deputy Assistant Secretary Randy Barry, who covers the issue of human rights. Now for many, many years, this topic was a very sensitive one. It was difficult for us to have conversations about it, difficult for us to meet and talk eye to eye about it. Now, that's possible. His visit really changed the way he saw Uzbekistan.

He had a chance to meet all kinds of people. He had a chance to meet officials in the government. I think it's only through seeing things with your own eyes, hearing things with your own ears, having that conversation with your own voice, that's how you get to know the situation, and that builds the trust. That's what you really need for the relationship, and that's what's happening now.

What does it mean for the people? Hopefully, it will eventually mean opportunities. It will mean, I know there are many, many young people who want to work with us on learning English. We hope that, that will be expanding so that those people who want to learn English will have more opportunities to do that, not just in Tashkent, but in other places as well.

What does it mean for the people? Hopefully, it will eventually mean opportunities.

It hopefully will mean that business partnerships will be established between American companies and Uzbek companies, and that'll be good for people who want to work. That'll be good for local officials who need the tax revenue. That'll be good for the business people themselves who want to sell their goods and services.

I think there will be concrete elements of this for many, many people. I think it will also be good for understanding. In the past we've had a limited number of tourists, for example, who are from the United States who would visit Uzbekistan. It means that only a select group of people know about this wonderful country. Hopefully now that things are opening up, more people will get to know about Uzbekistan, and hopefully more people from Uzbekistan will come to know the United States as well.

So, we get to know each other so that even though we are geographically very distant from one another, we can see where that common ground is and understand each other better.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: So, Ambassador Spratlen, organizing visits obviously means a lot of work for people like you and for both sides.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: It does.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: What it is like to work with the Uzbek government now? What is the inter-governmental relationship like? There is so much talk about reforms but reforms should mean that the government changes the way it functions.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Right.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Many people want to know, Uzbeks specifically, how the government works now. What has changed about the way the Uzbek administration operates?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, the one word I would use to describe the difference is more openness. I would say, here's where I would say the United States embassy, and the Uzbek people have something in common. In the past, it was very difficult, say, for Uzbek citizens, if they had a problem, they couldn't get the pension payment, or they didn't have heat in their apartment, where could they go to take that issue? There was really no place to do that. Then the virtual cabinet opened up, and then the reception centers. So people had not only a place to go to lodge their complaints, but they had somebody there to listen.

... one word I would use to describe the difference is more openness.

I would say the same thing is happening in the diplomatic arena. In the past, anytime we wanted to talk to the government about something, we had to write something out formally, send it in a note, send it to them, wait for a response. The good thing about that is that all of our requests for contact we're on the record. Nobody could say that they hadn't heard. We knew. These notes fulfilled their purpose, but they also slowed things down, and they made it difficult for us to talk together.

What is happening now is not entirely, but it's a lot easier to pick up the phone and actually talk to people. Sometimes we can send emails.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: People don't get scared when you call them?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: No. No, they don't. In fact, people are calling me. Mr Kuchkarov was trying to reach me. I've talked to Mr Hojayev, the Minister of Foreign Trade. The level of openness, the feeling that now it's possible for us to connect with one another means that we can begin to have a more normal relationship. This is something that ambassador Wells asked for when she was in Uzbekistan earlier this year. And, we have begun to see that opening. So just as the Uzbek people are seeing the opening with their own government, we are seeing the opening with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and some of the other ministries.

What that means is the pace of activity can grow, and our understanding of what we really need from one another can grow as well because when you're only talking through documents, you're going to miss things. You need that real time connection, and so now that is beginning to happen and it's making things much easier. So I would say that that's what I'm seeing in terms of the way things are operating.

Obviously, a visit, just going back to your question about organizing it, is a phenomenal enterprise. I do want to give huge credit to Ambassador Vakhabov. He has a small embassy staff, much smaller than mine. Even with that small embassy staff with him and his DCM Kadambay Sultanov, and all of the team there, they did a fabulous job in a very, very short period of time.

I also want to commend my team because everything from making sure we understood the transportation arrangements, to issuing visas to a large number of people, it all happened, it at all came together. Every one of those individual actions was necessary to making the visit a success. So it really proved that embassies are important institutions, both the one here in Washington that represents Uzbekistan and ours in Tashkent that represents the United States.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: How long does it take to plan something like this once there is a will [or decision] to meet?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, you know-

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: At such a level, at a presidential level.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: What I would say is, here's where president Trump is a unique individual because we have only known about this visit for a couple of months. We have not known about this for a very long time. I think the seeds were planted when Lisa Curtis, with whom you met recently. She came to Uzbekistan, as you know, to the Samarkand conference last November. I think the light went off on her in her head about, we can begin to work with this country in a new way. But actually getting the senior level approval for the visit, and then starting the work on it. This is really something that has happened with unprecedented speed. Getting all of those agreements that were signed over at Blair House, getting all of the papers, all of the agreements that happened lickety-split compared to what would normally be true in a visit.

This is really something that has happened with unprecedented speed.

So, really hats off to the entire US government, and to the Uzbek government for making that all happen because I would say this all took place much more quickly than would normally be true for a visit of this level.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Wow... I have to tell you that the Minister of Justice, Ruslanbek Davletov, came to the Voice of America to give us an interview.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Excellent.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: He wanted to discuss reforms. We wanted to discuss reforms, but he also said something very interesting. He said, "Let's talk about challenges." There is so much talk about accomplishments and whatever the progress is so far, but let's also talk about challenges. We talked about the lack of expertise, lack of experience within the system, and what it will take for the entire Uzbek system to reform because you're talking about fundamental problems in every sector. So, what we saw this week in Washington was that US knows that Uzbekistan is struggling. It's a tough time for the people.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: It's a tough time.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: And, people are realizing that making any kind of a change is a really, really difficult journey. It's a process, and it needs a lot of time. It also needs a lot of labor. How can US help? Realistically speaking, based on the level of political will here now and there. Uzbeks at this point are saying that 'we're open to discuss anything,' right?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: That's right.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: If the field is wide open, what can the people of Uzbekistan expect in terms of helping reform?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, reform is a big word. It's a big word in any country that undertakes it, especially considering ...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Overused too.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: ... the breadth of the reforms that president Mirziyoyev envisions in his five year strategy that was unleashed last February. What I would say is I've actually asked one of the senior level ministers this question, I said, "What are the biggest challenges?" The two answers I got were one, that expectations are so high.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Too high...

... shape expectations because not everything can be reformed in one day.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: This is an enormous challenge to have expectations so high because we can't control the dreams of every person, right? And, everybody is hoping for so much in a very short period of time, and that's the other challenge. High expectations, not much time, and of course not enough resources of any kind, human resources just being a part of that.

So, one of the things I think that's important is some kind of strategic priorities to decide what comes first, what comes second, what comes third. I think that's important, always trying to shape expectations because not everything can be reformed in one day.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Are you saying 'focus'?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Focus. Focus, and I would say slow down. Slow down a bit because people need to breathe. Summer's coming, people need time off, time to reflect. So much has happened this week. The template is there. The senior leader engagement has occurred. Now in order for us to embark on a path that can really bring all of this to fruition, we need serious work, and serious work requires time.

Focus, and I would say slow down. Slow down a bit because people need to breathe... you have to go step by step and focus.

So, I think slowing down a little bit, thinking together, talking together about what the plan is. At the same time, we don't lose momentum. That's what we, I would say is the biggest challenge, is figuring out where to focus now, and how to maintain the momentum while we are deciding where we're really going to focus. I think for us, clearly issues concerning the security situation in Afghanistan are going to continue to be important. That's going to be a key area of focus.

I think in the private sector, they're going to be looking at this issue of focus in a different way. The individual companies that have their deals are going to be looking for their partners, and here's what can the Uzbek's ... what can Uzbeks expect? Those people who have partnerships with companies in the United States can expect that those partners are going to want to get to work, and roll up their sleeves now.

What's going to happen with the government regulations that are needed in order for business projects to move forward. What is going to be the tax regime? These are the kinds of things that people are going to need help with. So people bringing serious energy and focus is, I think, the next step because so much is now possible, but you have to go step by step and focus.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: And, is Washington focused enough on Uzbekistan? I mean, I know you're based in Tashkent, but ...

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: I would say yes. I think the thing to remember for the United States is just the United States is a global country. Our senior leadership is focused on many, many different things all at once. But clearly those questions that concern the security of Americans wherever we are, those questions that concern the security of the global hot spots, that's going to be an area of where Washington is going to be laser focused.

The President Mirziyoyev had a meeting with Secretary Mattis, and had a chance to discuss what it is that we really need in terms of security cooperation with Uzbekistan. Same thing with Secretary Pompeo. So yeah, I think Washington is appropriately focused on Uzbekistan. Of course, we have a wonderful set of people who are focused everyday on Uzbekistan, and that is those workaday desk officers in the Department of Commerce, in the Department of Energy, and of course in the Department of state who are thinking about Uzbekistan every day, working with the embassy here, and trying to move things forward. That's going to continue no matter what. And, of course, as long as I'm in Tashkent, I'm going to be very focused on making things happen as well.

Washington is appropriately focused on Uzbekistan.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: The biggest criticism in our view was that about when presidents met, there was no mention of human rights issues in public. The New York Times reported that president Trump did not mention the problem - Uzbekistan's horrible human rights record. Is that a bad move, diplomatically speaking?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, what I would say is human rights, of course, is always an important question in any relationship. And certainly that's been true, hardy perennial in our relationship with Uzbekistan. Where I would turn your attention is to the joint statement, which was the affirmation of both presidents of what they've agreed to. That was a meaty statement. I just came from a meeting in the State Department, and that was the word used by one of our senior officials concerning the economic relationships.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: There was so much in it.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: So much.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: It was hard to process, I'll tell you that.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: It's hard to process, but one of the things that's in it, Navbahor, is the issue of making progress on human rights. That's a serious commitment. I think especially following the commitment that president Mirziyoyev made at the UN General Assembly last September, the speeches he has made, including the one in which he said there would no longer be torture, and that they would no longer accept evidence from torture in Uzbekistan, and of course the joint statement itself. Plus you were at the dinner that was hosted by the government of Uzbekistan the other day. What was in the letter directly from President Trump to President Mirziyoyev? A mention of human rights.

What was in the letter directly from President Trump to President Mirziyoyev? A mention of human rights.

And, to his great credit, I would say that I was sitting in the meeting with, between President Mirziyoyev, and a few of our senior officials, and the issue of human rights did come up. What President Mirziyoyev said is he's done many things, and he's going to continue. The word I most often heard, and it was a very interesting one on the Uzbek side, in many of the meetings, the process of change and reform is irreversible. That word, irreversible, suggests a very serious commitment to all of these areas of change, including in the area of human rights. So we'll be looking closely at that. We need followup, but the commitment was made.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: There was a lot of talk about military assistance. President Trump talked about military assistance, which raised a lot of questions. I was there when he said that, and I wanted to ask 10 questions about it. As you know, human rights and military assistance, they are inseparable. I'm sure you won't be surprised to see a lot of statements calling for ... to make human rights a priority as Uzbekistan and US tries to improve its military cooperation. Isn't that a big challenge? Because US wants to provide military assistance and Uzbeks are eager to have it. What is the strategy to deal with the human rights issue?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, I would say that this question and this tension as you say yourself in your question is something that we've seen over a long period of time. There were many times where even providing the most innocent kind of equipment to the government of Uzbekistan would have been extremely difficult. What has changed? What I would say has changed is A, the situation in Afghanistan. It's a very serious situation there. But I would also say that the human rights posture of the government has changed. What have we seen over the last couple of years? We've seen a huge move to eliminate child labor systematically. We now have decrees that say that forced labor, adult forced labor, not only in the cotton harvest but in any area, is now not going to be tolerated.

NGOs, the development of civil society, this was a very important theme when Randy Barry was in Uzbekistan at the beginning of April. What has happened? A new law making it easier for both domestic and international NGOs to register. The area of religious freedom, what have we seen? In the past, a very, very stale conversation about what would it take to move from the religious harmony of which Uzbekistan is justifiably proud to permitting some religious groups that haven't had such an easy time to actually operate in the country.

NGOs, the development of civil society, this was a very important theme when Randy Barry was in Uzbekistan at the beginning of April. What has happened? A new law making it easier for both domestic and international NGOs to register.

Now there's a roadmap that opens a dialogue to that conversation that simply didn't exist before. So if you take every area of human rights, and I haven't even talked about issues like the media. Again you're an example of what is now becoming possible. We are seeing a willingness to have a dialogue, and a willingness to engage in a process of change and reform that we haven't seen before. I think that's going to have effects in lots of different places, including in our security assistance relationship.

Now where is the proof of that? I think that the members of our Congress have to be persuaded that these changes are deep, and that they are real. But I think the conversation about providing assistance of various kinds, including security assistance is now possible because of actions that the government Uzbekistan has taken on its own. The more that we hear that the people of Uzbekistan feel these changes and experience them, I think the more the trust level, and comfort level will rise, and the feeling that we really are dealing with a new era in Uzbekistan, including in human rights.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Yes, and it's going to be a lot of work.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: A lot of work. Not going to be easy.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Yeah, and your time in Tashkent is ending.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Unfortunately.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Yeah, you've been witness to history, we can see that.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: I have indeed. I've been so fortunate.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: So, when should we expect a change?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: You know, I can't really say because the issue of change is one that is driven by our White House.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: It's slow.

I will be working for the improvement of Uzbek-US relations until I step on the plane to come back to the United States.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: It's slow, and it's a process that's jealously guarded quite appropriately by the president and his team because the ambassador is the president's representative. But I think the expectation, since I have been there almost three and a half years, is that sometime in the summer or fall, there will probably be a transition. But exactly when doesn't depend on me. It depends on the members of Congress, it depends on the whole vetting process. That's not just true for our new ambassador who's going to be going out to Uzbekistan, but really for any country. I would just urge people to be patient. I know they're going to be very excited when the new person comes, and I will be working for the improvement of Uzbek-US relations until I step on the plane to come back to the United States.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Then afterwards, we definitely want to rely on your insights and expertise too.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Absolutely.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: But, you, a female diplomat, rare. African American ambassador, very rare, especially in a society like Uzbekistan, right?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Yes.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: So, I mean, it's safe to say that you'll be remembered for many, many things. How do you see your own legacy?

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Well, first of all, Navbahor, I would just like to say a word of thanks to everybody in Uzbekistan because I have been so welcomed, and so embraced really from the very first moment I got there, and shook hands with the foreign minister who received a copy of my credentials 48 hours after I arrived in country. Then I'm not 10 days later, I presented my credentials to late President Karimov. Really, ever since then, I have been warmly embraced everywhere I have gone in the country. Whether it has been the well known sites in Uzbekistan, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, or whether I was in Mingtepa, where I was recently in the Ferghana Valley, or wherever I have gone. In Termez... people have embraced me with such warmth, and I have so appreciated the way I have been received in Uzbekistan, my opportunity to serve there.

My legacy, I hope is to have brought a feeling of hope and renewal, that a different kind of relationship was possible, and now we're seeing the fruit of that. I also want to say that it's been exciting to work with young people, and to hear their dreams, and to try to help give them a sense of the future. I've been very, very proud of that.

I'm fortunate to be a diplomat in the United States, a country where a career like mine is possible. My hope is that careers like mine, and careers like yours, because you're also a person who is a leader, and a trailblazer, will become more possible. Not only for the two of us, but for many, many other people.

Then a huge vote of ... a word of thanks to all of my colleagues at the State Department, and in the inner agency at the NSC. They have believed in me. So the success of this relationship that we are now seeing is the fruit of the efforts of many people, not just myself.

I'm fortunate to be a diplomat in the United States, a country where a career like mine is possible. My hope is that careers like mine, and careers like yours, because you're also a person who is a leader, and a trailblazer, will become more possible. Not only for the two of us, but for many, many other people.

The thing I hear over, and over, and over again, not only as a woman, and an African American as a diplomat, but just as a person living in the modern world, is that role models are so important. That's why I hope my career has been, my model or my example is out there for everyone to see, and so is yours. I know that a whole generation of journalists are going to learn their craft from watching you.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: A lot of responsibility.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: So each of us has had a role to play at a historic moment in the history of this fabulous country, Uzbekistan, and the United States of course. I think the foundation has been laid, and now my successor can go and build on that, and you will have a new opportunity, and a completely different setting, and way of carrying out your role to also show what is journalism. What is reporting? What is media? That's going to make a big difference in Uzbekistan. So I think we've each had a role to play, and I'm very grateful for that.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: A lot of challenges in front of us.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Many challenges.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Exciting challenges, yes.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: But you know challenges are a part of life every day. It's raining outside today. So that's a challenge for some people. The traffic is bad, and that's a challenge. You know, there's not ever going to be enough money and resources to do all the things we want to do... But the key is, can we keep ourselves focused? Can we keep ourselves optimistic enough to pursue the opportunities? We want to keep ourselves focused on what's possible.

We can now always focus on what's not possible, and all the ways that we can be stuck, that people can get in our way. But what we want to do is stay patient, and we want to stay determined that we're going to find that opportunity, and we're going to pursue it because it's possible. Something new is possible.

I think again, Uzbekistan's president is seeing the world in a way that whoever would have imagined in 2016 that we would be seeing the world the way we're seeing it now from Tashkent, from Khiva, from all the different cities in Uzbekistan... Because the president of Uzbekistan, helped by many, many people, including Foreign Minister Kamilov, a long term optimist about this relationship who worked in the darkest days of the relationship with a longterm vision of what was possible. Senator Safoyev, the same way. Akmal Saidov, the same way. So many different people. Ms Ortikova, also a role model and a trailblazer in Uzbekistan. So many different people have believed in this relationship through thick and thin, and now we are seeing something different.

Uzbekistan's president is seeing the world in a way that whoever would have imagined in 2016 that we would be seeing the world the way we're seeing it now from Tashkent, from Khiva, from all the different cities in Uzbekistan.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: You have a new generation also coming in.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Yes.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: You have new faces, new players.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: We do.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Yes.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: I wish them every success. It's wonderful to see all the new energy. It also takes that older generation having faith that they can let go, and there's, in spite of all the challenges of resources, including human resources, people can help each other. I saw this in the delegation in Uzbekistan, some people who were very experienced and other people who were very new, working together and helping each other. That's what it's going to take for Uzbekistan to realize this incredible vision of President Mirziyoyev, and our president for the relationship.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Thank you so much.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: You are welcome.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Really enjoyed that conversation.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: And, the best to you, Navbahor. You are tremendous. Just such great energy.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Thank you so much.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: What you have been doing to explain Uzbekistan to us, to explain the United States Uzbekistan, we're very grateful for that. I'm delighted that you're going to have some new opportunities. My hope is that you're the trailblazer, and we're going to see your team expand over time, and we're going to see other journalists come as well. Not only from other parts of this structure, but from the private media sector, from the independent media sector. That's going to do so much to change perceptions, to help people learn how to digest media in a new way, and to help build a new kind of Uzbekistan, which is I think, the hope of the joint statement signed by both or that affirmed by both President Trump and President Mirziyoyev. So,thank you.

My hope is that you're the trailblazer, and we're going to see your team expand over time, and we're going to see other journalists come as well. Not only from other parts of this structure, but from the private media sector, from the independent media sector.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Yeah, we'll be closely watching, and that'll be a real opening actually.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Yes, it will. Yes, it will. I'm determined. I'm hopeful that I will be able to come back in, say five years and really see things take off.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: And say, "See what happened?"

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: From this wonderful week, and see what happened. We were there at the beginning.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: We watched it. Thank you.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: You're welcome.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: So we talked to ambassador Pamela Spratlen who came here all the way from Tashkent. She just said she'll be there through the Summer at least.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: Yes, yes. I can't say specifically how long I'll be there because as I said, it doesn't depend on me. But as long as I am there, everybody can know that I'm going to be working very hard to build that relationship, and leave a great legacy for my successor.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Thank you so much.

Ambassador Pamela Spratlen: You're welcome.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: Thank you so much, I'm Navbahor Imamova from Washington, thank you for watching us.

  • 16x9 Image

    Navbahor Imamova

    Navbahor Imamova "Amerika Manzaralari" turkumidagi ilk teledasturlar muallifi. TV, radio va onlayn diktor, prodyuser, muxbir va muharrir. "Amerika Ovozi"da 2002-yildan beri ishlaydi. Jurnalistik faoliyatini 1996-yilda O'zbekiston radiosining "Xalqaro hayot" redaksiyasida boshlagan. Jahon Tillar Universiteti Xalqaro jurnalistika fakultetida dars bergan. Ommaviy axborot vositalari bo'yicha bakalavrlikni Hindistonning Maysur Universitetidan (University of Mysore), magistrlikni esa AQShning Bol Davlat Universitetidan (Ball State University) olgan. Shuningdek, Garvard Universitetidan (Harvard University) davlat boshqaruvi va liderlik bo'yicha magistrlik diplomiga ega. Toshkent viloyati Bo'stonliq tumani Qo'shqo'rg'on qishlog'ida ziyoli oilasida ulg'aygan.

    Navbahor Imamova is a prominent Uzbek journalist at the Voice of America and a leading Washington-based authority on geopolitics and national development in Central Asia. As anchor, reporter, multimedia editor and producer, she has covered Central Asia and the U.S. for over 15 years on TV, radio and online. During 2016-2017, she was a prestigious Edward S. Mason Fellow in public policy and management, while earning her Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Imamova played a pivotal role in the launch of Uzbek television programming at VOA in 2003, and has since presented nearly 800 editions of the flagship weekly show, “Amerika Manzaralari,” which covers American foreign policy focusing on Washington’s relations with Central Asia, as well as life and politics in the U.S. She is frequently asked to speak on regional issues in Central Asia, as well as Uzbek politics and society, for policy, academic, and popular audiences, including the U.S. Foreign Service Institute, Princeton University, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin, Northeastern University, and her alma mater Harvard University. Her essays on the region have been published in journals and edited volumes, including Central Eurasian Studies Review and Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization.

    She began her career at the Uzbek state broadcaster. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communication from Maharaja’s College at the University of Mysore, India and a Master of Arts in journalism from Ball State University.

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