Weekly Digest of Central Asia

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Central Asia is an important geopolitical area between Europe, Russia and China. It is in Central Asia that world powers have confronted each other for centuries; it is here that China needs to succeed with its new Silk Road Belt for direct access to the Western markets; and it is here that a large wealth of raw materials has its origin. Every week thousands of news appears all over the world in printed and online media and it is quite understandable that 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 the region, and for this reason we are presenting this Weekly Digest of Central Asia which compiles what other media have reported during the past week.


Kazakhstan: Rights Groups Harassed

Human Rights Watch says that Kazakhstan’s authorities should not use bogus tax audits to prevent rights groups from operating normally in the country

Feb 21 — “Kazakhstan’s authorities have been abusing tax issues to harass human rights groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Two prominent human rights organizations, the International Legal Initiative Foundation and Liberty, have had tax audits, and the tax authorities appear to be targeting both because of their work protecting human rights. A tax audit of another organization, Kadyr Kasiyet, was suspended but is set to resume.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/21/kazakhstan-rights-groups-harassed

Kazakhstan: Authorities Resurrect Costly Mausoleum Project

The expensive ‘national pantheon’ project seems to have been revived at a time when Kazakhstan is experiencing an economic stagnation and cannot afford such projects

Feb 22 — “In the teeth of opposition from the public, the government in Kazakhstan has revived costly plans to build what it is billing as a “national pantheon” — a mausoleum to house the remains of the country’s great and good and dead.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82531

Eurasia’s stability depends on Kazakhstan’s political transition

Analyst ponders on state power transition in Kazakhstan, after President Nazarbayev has announced a constitutional reform aimed at power redistribution in the country

Feb 23 — “On 25 January 2017, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev made a landmark televised address to the nation announcing a constitutional reform process that would devolve several powers of the presidency onto the country’s parliament. The 76 year old president has served for over a quarter of a century as the first and only head of state of Central Asia’s largest nation.” READ MORE: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/02/23/eurasias-stability-depends-on-kazakhstans-political-transition/

Kazakhstan launches first ODA project in Afghanistan, with support from UNDP and Japan

Kazakhstan will help Afghanistan to strengthen the economic independence of Afghan women by providing education from Kazakhstan’s top educational institutions in public administration and healthcare

Feb 23 — “A Kazakh delegation presented the country’s first official development assistance (ODA) project to the Afghan government Feb.12-17 in Kabul.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/02/kazakhstan-launches-first-oda-project-in-afghanistan-with-support-from-undp-and-japan/

Sumatec to expand oil and gas facilities in Kazakhstan

As Kazakhstan has increased its oil production forecast up to 81 million tons for this year, foreign companies operating in the country’s oil sector also target at crude output increase

Feb 24 — “MALAYSIA’S SUMATEC Resources is ready to embark on a three-year development plan to ramp up the production of its Rakushechnoye oil and gas field in Kazakhstan towards optimal production of about 2,000 barrels of crude oil a day.” READ MORE: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/business/aec/30307049


Kyrgyzstan: President’s Remarks Ruffle Feathers in Kazakhstan

A new twist in the ‘war of words’ between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan shows that not everything is smooth in the relations between the two neighbors

Feb 21 — “Unguarded comments made by Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev in remarks to Euronews while on a visit to Brussels have been greeted with dismay in neighboring Kazakhstan. The flare-up has once again illustrated the persisting underlying tensions within the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union trade bloc, which has to date fallen far short of the hopes of its backers.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82496

Russian Diplomat Involved In Fatal Traffic Incident Leaves Kyrgyzstan

A fatal traffic incident in Bishkek that involved a Russian diplomat would not be a good background music for Russian President Putin’s upcoming visit to Kyrgyzstan late in February

Feb 23 — “The first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Bishkek, who was involved in a fatal traffic crash in Bishkek, has left Kyrgyzstan for Russia. Russian Embassy spokeswoman Darya Pakhomova said on February 22 that Viktor Pukhov had been sent to Russia, but did not say when.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-bishkek-traffice-accident-russian-diplomat-leaves/28326626.html

Kyrgyzstan halts meat imports from China ‘over geopolitics’

Chinese expert says Kyrgyzstan’s move to suspend Chinese meat imports shows that there are obstacles to further strengthening China’s ties in the Central Asia region where Russia wants to keep its influence

Feb 23 — “Kyrgyzstan, a small country in Central Asia, has suspended meat imports from China, in what a Chinese expert described as an apparent move to appeal to Russia and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).” READ MORE: http://www.ecns.cn/business/2017/02-23/246512.shtml


Tajikistan’s hydel power production – a model to follow

The CASA 1000 project is to open the energy market of Pakistan through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan

Feb 20 — “Pakistan is currently working on the Central Asia-South Asia (Casa) 1,000 electricity import project. Under this arrangement, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will export 1,300 megawatts to Pakistan and Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1332527/tajikistans-hydel-power-production-model-follow/

Tajikistan and Turkey plan to increase trade turnover up to $1 billion

In 2016 trade between Tajikistan and Turkey fell to $350 million compared to more than $650 million in 2015. Dushanbe hosted a Tajik-Turkish business forum to boost economic cooperation

Feb 20 — “Tajikistan and Turkey may increase the volume of trade turnover up to $1 billion in the years to come as there is a huge potential in cooperation between the two countries.” READ MORE: http://www.azernews.az/region/109192.html

Tajikistan, Uzbekistan Flights Row Ends in Unlikely Bonhomie

The long-expected and much-trumpeted return of Dushanbe-Tashkent flight did not take place this week, pointing to the fact that there are groups not interested in its resumption

Feb 22 — “When Uzbekistan suddenly decided this week to deny permission for an airline from Tajikistan to land in its capital, it might have safe to expect an outcry. Privately owned Somoni Air was due to carry a couple dozen paying passengers for the February 20 flight to Tashkent — the first along this route in 25 years — when it learned permission had been revoked.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82516

How Rosneft’s Privatization Deal Affects Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union Plans for Tajikistan

Moscow may use relations with Qatar and Glencore to help make Tajikistan join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union

Feb 23 — “On December 10, the commodities producer and trader Glencore and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) closed a deal to acquire a 10.2 billion euro stake in Russia’s oil giant Rosneft, roughly 19.5 percent of the company’s shares.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/02/how-rosnefts-privatization-deal-affects-russias-eurasian-economic-union-plans-for-tajikistan/


Turkmenistan ranks very low in the unpopular tourist destinations rating

While Turkmenistan is trying to turn its Caspian Avaza resort into a premium tourist destination, Ashgabat can not boast many foreign tourists have visited the country

Feb 16 — “The analytical centre “Alfa Insurance” made a rating of countries, which Russians very seldom choose as tourist destinations. The Republic of Kiribati is the least popular destination (0,05%). It features coral reefs, which as time goes by will disappear under water. The Republic is primarily visited by those who love beach tourism and diving. The second place is occupied by a tiny state of Lichtenstein visited by 0,25% of tourists, whereas Turkmenistan ranks third (0,3%).” READ MORE: http://en.chrono-tm.org/2017/02/turkmenistan-ranks-very-low-in-the-unpopular-tourist-destinations-rating/

Report: Turkmenistan is Turkey’s Biggest Weapons Buyer

Despite its neutrality status, Turkmenistan has bought significant amounts of weapons including ships, armored vehicles, air defense systems, and armed drones

Feb 20 — “Turkmenistan was Turkey’s single largest weapons buyer over the past five years, while the arms industries of Belarus and Israel are increasingly dependent on Azerbaijan’s business, a new report has shown.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82476

A Closer Look at Turkmenistan’s Election Numbers

Turkmen President Berdymukhammedov earlier this month easily won a new presidential term with 98% of the vote in a tightly-controlled election that could hardly be considered free and fair

Feb 22 — “The only numbers soaring in Turkmenistan are at the polls; meanwhile the economy deteriorates.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/02/a-closer-look-at-turkmenistans-election-numbers/


Pavilion of Uzbekistan opens in Russian largest agro cluster

Uzbekistan continues its policy of increasing fruit and vegetable exports to foreign markets, with a special focus on the huge market of Russia

Feb 21 — “Permanent pavilion “Uzbekistan” has officially opened in the largest wholesale and retail food center “Food City” in the Russian Federation. The pavilion is intended for centralized supply of fresh and processed fruit and vegetables as well as products manufactured in Uzbekistan to the Russian market and their subsequent distribution.” READ MORE: http://news.uzreport.uz/news_4_e_148426.html

Prominent Uzbek Journalist Bekjon Released After Almost 18 Years In Prison

The new Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyaev has released a political prisoner, which could be seen as part of a policy of gradually reducing authoritarian control in the country

Feb 22 — “An Uzbek journalist widely seen as a political prisoner has walked free after nearly 18 years behind bars. Journalist Muhammad Bekjon, 63, told RFE/RL by telephone that he had been released on February 22 upon completion of his sentence.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/uzbek-journalist-bekjon-released-17-years/28324698.html

Uzbek judiciary to undergo improvement

President Mirziyoyev has issued a decree to modernize Uzbekistan’s judiciary system so that it could meet international standards

Feb 22 — “President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed on February 21 the Decree ‘On Measures for Fundamental Structure Development and Efficiency Increase of the Judicial System of the Republic of Uzbekistan.’” READ MORE: http://news.uzreport.uz/news_2_e_148478.html

Official Says Six Dead In Uzbek Chemical Plant Blast

A deadly blast was reported at a chemical plant in Uzbekistan, a fact that would usually be hushed up in the tightly-controlled country

Feb 24 — “An official in Uzbekistan says that an explosion at a chemical plant in the city of Ferghana killed six people. Uzbek authorities reported the blast on February 23 and said that there were fatalities, but did not say how many.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-chemical-plant-explosion/28329085.html


Four million people could flee to Europe if Britain pulls out of Afghanistan, warns defence minister

Afghan migrants could flood Europe if British and Nato troops leave Afghanistan

Feb 20 — “As many as four million men from Afghanistan could travel to Britain and other European nations along migrant routes if the West abandons the war-ravaged country, the Defence Secretary has warned.” READ MORE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4240580/4m-flee-Afghanistan-Britain-pulls-country.html

Taliban’s strange new friends

Analyst says that the recent efforts of Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan to support the Taliban do not augur well for India’s interests in Afghanistan

Feb 23 — “India has an important stake in the future of Afghanistan, its natural ally and close friend for long. India, under successive governments, has been a major aid donor to Afghanistan.” READ MORE: http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-taliban-s-strange-new-friends-2331829

Border Row Harming Afghanistan, Pakistan Business Sectors

Border tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan undermine the economic interaction between the two countries

Feb 23 — “A number of businessmen said on Thursday the prices of vegetables and fruits coming to Afghanistan from Pakistan have increased by 30 percent over the past week since Pakistan announced fresh border restrictions along the border with Afghanistan.” READ MORE: http://www.tolonews.com/business/border-row-harming-afghanistan-pakistan-business-sectors

Mattis: Assessment on Afghanistan coming soon

President Trump is waiting for the assessment from the Pentagon and the US intelligence community on Afghanistan before deciding on the US troop levels in the war-torn country

Feb 24 — “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he will soon have an assessment to give President Donald J. Trump about the way ahead in Afghanistan.” READ MORE: http://fortcampbellcourier.com/news/article_d1364de2-fa12-11e6-991b-d7f98c7ee1a2.html


Chinese Security Forces Rally in Xinjiang in a Show of Power

With its Uyghur separatism and terrorism problem, China’s westernmost Xinjiang province remains a headache for the government in Beijing

Feb 20 — “Chinese officials in the western region of Xinjiang, an area troubled by occasional acts of ethnic violence and domestic terrorism, ordered paramilitary units and police officers to attend large rallies in the past week as a show of force.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/20/world/asia/xinjiang-china-police-rallies.html?_r=0

Does the China-Pakistan economic corridor worry India?

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project that connects Xinjiang in China and Gwadar in Pakistan has caused concerns in India

Feb 23 — “The multibillion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is being called a “game-changer” in Pakistan, has raised apprehensions in neighbouring India. In June 2015, barely two months after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to invest $46bn to develop infrastructure and energy projects in Pakistan as part of the economic corridor, or CPEC, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told China that it was “unacceptable”.” READ MORE: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/02/china-pakistan-economic-corridor-worry-india-170208063418124.html

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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