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BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.


Kazakhstan Has Done Well But Trouble Is Brewing In The Region

Kazakhstan’s political and economic achievements are associated with President Nazarbayev, but what will happen to the country when he inevitably leaves the stage?

Jan 19 — “The Astana Ballet came to Lincoln Center on January 18 and gave New Yorkers a dazzling glimpse of Kazakh grace and artistry – possibly a nebulous notion for many of you, one that may not bring indelible images to mind. The world doesn't have a very strong grasp of Kazakh identity and there's nothing like a ballet to unveil its co-ordinates.” READ MORE:

Next steps for Trump's strategy in Central Asia

The Enhanced Strategic Partnership with Kazakhstan is an important step forward for the Trump administration to formulate and implement its Central Asian policy

Jan 23 — “This week’s Washington is off to a rough start with the government shutdown; however, last week the Trump administration scored a foreign policy diplomatic success with the visit of Nursultan Nazarbayev (77), the long-time leader of Kazakhstan, to the White House.” READ MORE:

Kazakhstan to attract tourists from Russia and China

Kazakhstan can attract tourists with its Great Steppe and ancient Silk Road sites

Jan 24 — “The Kazakh Tourism national company will be designing tours attractive to travellers from Russia and China. The promotion will focus on the Internet. The company recently held a press tour for journalists in the capital, where board chair Rashid Kuzembayev announced plans for 2018.” READ MORE:

Kazakhstan: Airlines Warn of Price Increases as Taxes Rise

The move does not help Kazakhstan attract tourists and become the region’s civil aviation hub

Jan 24 — “Some prominent international air carriers working in Kazakhstan last week formed a united front to voice discontent about a hike in tax rates at the country’s airports, warning that it will lead to higher ticket prices.” READ MORE:

Kazakhstan: Morality Mavens Monitoring Women

A satirical cartoon superhero patrols Kazakhstan to stop women from behaving "indecently" in a wave of moralizing vigilantism in the predominantly Muslim country

Jan 25 — “A new superhero called Uyatman appeared on the scene in Kazakhstan a couple of years back. As long as Uyatman was on patrol, the public could rest safe in the knowledge that women would not be caught out and about behaving indecently.” READ MORE:


Crime and corruption a serious concern in Kyrgyzstan

The rising crime and endemic corruption pose a serious threat to Kyrgyzstan’s national security and investment attractiveness

Jan 21 — “The current criminal situation in Kyrgyzstan is of considerable concern among the population, and the relevant state bodies should ensure the proper security of the citizens, Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov said at a government meeting on January 15. He ordered the Ministry of Internal Affairs to improve the situation by combating organized crime and strengthening preventive measures among minors.” READ MORE:

KYRGYZSTAN: Church arson follows long-standing government failures

Local Baptists say the arson attack happened because the police have done nothing to find and punish the perpetrators of a series of violations of human rights, including of freedom of belief, that have taken place before

Jan 24 — “On 2 January the Baptist Church in the north-eastern town of Kaji-Sai was burnt down. Baptists think this happened because nothing was done to punish the perpetrators of previous threats and attacks. Police claim to be trying to solve the crime, but are also investigating the victims.” READ MORE:

Kyrgyzstan: Music Teacher Suspended Over Alleged Sex Tape

The teacher says she is the victim of a disgruntled ex-boyfriend, as the general public’s views concerning the scandal have divided

Jan 24 — “Culture officials in Kyrgyzstan have suspended a respected singing teacher at the Kyrgyz National Conservatory over leaked footage purporting to show her engaged in intimate relations.” READ MORE:

Chinese dairy company interested in Kyrgyzstan’s market

A company from China, the largest infrastructure investor in Kyrgyzstan, considers investment in the country’s food and dairy industries

Jan 25 — “Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov as part of his participation in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos (Switzerland), met with Zhang Jianqiu, the Executive President of the Yili Industrial Group (China).” READ MORE:


Tajikistan: is Islamic banking the future?

In Tajikistan, the country with a troubled banking sector and four large banks failing to meet their commitments to the customers, Islamic finance may become an effective alternative to traditional banking services

Jan 25 — “Many of Tajikistan’s traditional banks are wobbling due to years of chronic mismanagement. Their troubles are creating a space for up-and-coming Islamic lenders to flourish.” READ MORE:

Belarus-Tajikistan cooperation to receive new impetus

Belarus considers Tajikistan a promising economic partner in Central Asia and a bridge for entering the Afghan market

Jan 25 — “Belarus-Tajikistan cooperation will gain momentum, Belarusian Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov noted as he met with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Tajikistan to Belarus Mahmadsharif Mahmud Haqdod, BelTA informs.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan: Exiled Opposition Politician Returns Home

In a surprise move, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon reportedly met with a prominent opposition politician who returned to Tajikistan after 16 years in exile

Jan 25 — “A prominent opposition politician from Tajikistan has returned home for a brief visit after years of exile and has met with his long-time foe, President Emomali Rahmon, independent news website Akhbor reported on January 25.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan Adopts Partial Moratorium on Business Inspections

Private business in Tajikistan faces the strong pressure of controlling authorities, who replenish the state budget (and their own pockets) by imposing fines and other forced payments

Jan 25 — “A two-year moratorium in Tajikistan on inspections of privately owned industrial production facilities looks promising only at a first glance. President Emomali Rahmon’s office said in a press release on January 23 that the decree was aimed at creating a “favorable climate for the development of productive entrepreneurship.” READ MORE:


Commentary: U.S. Push Could Revive Turkmen Gas Hopes

For Turkmenistan, diversification of gas-export routes is a vital issue as the country suffers from low natural gas prices, with China remaining the only buyer of Turkmen gas

Jan 22 — “After almost a decade of absence, U.S. diplomacy is back in the Caspian energy game. This is happening as the toughest nut that prevented Central Asian gas from reaching European markets is just in the process of being cracked. That is the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) and its transmission systems to Europe, including the White Stream pipeline under the Black Sea.” READ MORE:

Paying To Stay Disabled In Turkmenistan

People with disabilities have now felt the pinch of the economic meltdown in Turkmenistan

Jan 24 — “The Turkmen government’s quest to cut state expenditures seems to be coinciding, officially, with some miraculous recoveries by disabled citizens. Residents of Turkmenistan’s northern Dashoguz Province tell RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, that some infirm citizens are being called in for medical checkups.” READ MORE:

Hotel with a 700-meter long river and the government stand to be built in Ashgabat

Luxury hotels and business centres are being built against a backdrop of the economic downturn and reported shortages of some staple foods in Turkmenistan

Jan 25 — “On 24 January President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov familiarized himself with designs of various construction projects, which are scheduled to be built in the capital.” READ MORE:


Uzbekistan to Host Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan

Uzbekistan, which shares a common border with Afghanistan, is particularly interested in establishing peace and economic development in this country

Jan 21 — “Uzbekistan and Afghanistan have come forward with a joint initiative to hold an international ministerial conference titled "Afghanistan – path to a peaceful future" in Tashkent in late March 2018” READ MORE:

Behind Uzbekistan’s bus tragedy, a story of grinding despair

The deadly accident with a bus that carried Uzbek labor migrants to Russia through Kazakhstan was just a result of the situation in which hundreds of thousands of Uzbekistan citizens are forced to go abroad, mainly to Russia, to earn a living, because they have no jobs in their home country

Jan 22 — “A tiring, uncomfortable bus trip to Russia ended in tragedy for 52 migrants from Uzbekistan last week when the vehicle in which they were traveling burst into flames. Only five people onboard were able to jump for safety out of the vehicle, which caught fire along a highway in the Aktobe Region in northwestern Kazakhstan.” READ MORE:

Uzbek president OKs state development program until 2022

The program continues economic and political reforms the new Uzbek president has pursued since coming to power a year ago

Jan 23 — “Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has signed a decree to approve the State Program for the Implementation of the Action Strategy on five priority development directions of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021.” READ MORE:

Uzbekistan Railways to launch additional trips to Russian cities

Uzbekistan is improving rail communication with Russia, which hosts hundreds of thousands of Uzbek migrant workers. In addition, rail transport is safer than bus trips to Russia across the Kazakh steppes

Jan 25 — “Uzbekistan Railways JSC will launch additional trips to cities of Russia starting from February, the press service of the company said in a statement. The company noted that the number of the Tashkent-Moscow, Tashkent-Ufa and Andijan-Moscow trips will be increased from one to two a week.” READ MORE:


There’s no endgame in sight in Afghanistan. But maybe that’s okay

Twenty-five centuries of history suggest that Afghanistan is as close to ungovernable, untameable, as any land on Earth, a columnist says

Jan 23 — “In lower Manhattan, near the place where twin skyscrapers once towered over the scurry and noise of a great city, stands a bronze statue depicting a modern American serviceman astride a rearing stallion. It is a monument to the so-called Horse Soldiers, elite commandos who were among the first troops into battle during the long, grim war on terrorism. Through them, the statue honors all the Special Operations forces whose service — both overt and covert — has been the tip of the U.S. spear.” READ MORE:

Is America's uncertain war in Afghanistan making progress?

Analyst says there is enough media reporting to show that the new strategy President Trump announced for the Afghan conflict did reflect serious military thinking and advice and does seem to be making progress

Jan 25 — “The Trump and Obama administrations have at least one thing in common. Neither has yet provided much hard data on the course of any of America’s ongoing wars. These include their costs, the forces involved, changes in tactics, and how or when they might be terminated.” READ MORE:

Back Into the Quagmire

Fred Kaplan, the author of Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, believes that the good news is that Trump is listening to his military commanders; and the bad news is that they’re leading him into disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Syria

Jan 25 — “As the Trump administration escalates America’s military involvement in Afghanistan and Syria, one wonders what happened to the Donald Trump who decried the former war as a “total disaster” and bellowed over and over “It’s time to come home”—and who pledged to do nothing in the latter war but “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” READ MORE:

A Peaceful Afghanistan Key to Regional Connectivity in South and Central Asia

Afghanistan’s stability and development is much dependant on the country’s relations and cooperation with Central and South Asia neighbors

Jan 26 — “Landlocked countries like Afghanistan are at a great disadvantage over their littoral neighbors with access to sea for regional and global trade. Naturally, the peace, security, and prosperity of landlocked countries depend on those of their surrounding neighbors.” READ MORE:


The evolving terrorist threat to China’s Central Asia projects

China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative has the potential to transform Central Asia, but Chinese plans face rising terrorism and extremism risks in the region

Jan 22 — “Central Asia is a vital part of China’s plans for the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB). Launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the SREB is the largest component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — an ambitious program aiming to invest as much as $1 trillion in new transport and trade infrastructure across Asia and beyond.” READ MORE:

Decisive Russian action ensures defeat of ISIS in Syria; threats of terror looms large in Central Asia

Experts warn that after their defeat in Syria, ISIS terrorists are beginning to return to their original countries — Central Asia and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomus Region of China, via Afghanistan

Jan 23 — “The Russian military operation in Syria has been decisive in achieving victory against the ISIS and securing peace against the terror network. By the end of Oct 2017 the Syrian territory controlled by ISIS had shrunk to 5%, compared to over 70% before the start of the operation by the Russian Air Force.” READ MORE:

The Road to the Middle Kingdom: China’s New Silk Road

The Belt and Road Initiative is poised to become one of the most important international endeavors ever undertaken by China

Jan 25 — “Marco Polo’s visit to the court of Kublai Khan irrevocably changed the way the Venetian merchant perceived the world. While residing in the court of the Khan, Polo likely learned that the name of the Khan’s dominion, ‘Zhongguo,’ translated into ‘Middle Country.’ “I tell you,” Polo wrote, “no day in the year passes that there do not enter the city 1,000 carts of silk alone, from which are made quantities of cloth and silk and gold, and of other goods.” With riches flowing into the Khan’s empire from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Central Asia, it was not wonder some truly thought it to be the center of the world.” READ MORE:


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