Weekly Digest of Central Asia

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’s new AIX exchange outflanked by resurgent rival

An agreement between the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange and the Moscow Exchange has led to renewed questions over the viability of the new Astana International Financial Centre

Feb 12 — “Six months on from the launch of the Astana International Financial Centre, Kazakhstan’s attempts to open up its capital markets appear to be foundering, with just one listing to date and a resurgence of the existing bourse. Moreover, doubts over transparency in the country, which the new center was supposed to alleviate, persist as a barrier to foreign investment.” READ MORE: https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Markets/Kazakhstan-s-new-AIX-exchange-outflanked-by-resurgent-rival

Israel and Kazakhstan have close ties in education, medicine, agriculture and technology, says envoy

Kazakhstan and Israel cooperate in different areas and on different stages including government, ministry, spiritual organisations, educational institutions and the business community

Feb 12 — “Israel and Kazakhstan have been developing close ties in different spheres and on various levels, exchanging experience and knowledge in education, medicine, agriculture and technology, said Israeli Ambassador Liat Wexelman in an interview with The Astana Times. “We have very close relations between Israel and Kazakhstan. It can be seen from the active work of embassies in both Kazakhstan and Israel that indicate the importance of the relations between the countries,” Wexelman, who arrived to Astana last autumn, noted.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2019/02/israel-and-kazakhstan-have-close-ties-in-education-medicine-agriculture-and-technology-says-envoy/

Kazakhstan: Investor accuses telecoms giant of breaking buyback rules

A business dispute should alarm minority investors in state-controlled companies of Kazakhstan

Feb 12 — “A small-time brokerage with a stake in a state-controlled telecommunications company in Kazakhstan is embroiled in a dispute that it says should serve as a warning to aspiring investors. In one corner is Falconry Capital, an Almaty-based investment fund that has been around since 2003. Facing off is Kazakhtelecom — by far the largest player in the country’s telecommunications sector.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-investor-accuses-telecoms-giant-of-breaking-buyback-rules

Kazakh activists keep battling as Xinjiang crackdown evolves

Kazakhs in Kazakhstan say their relatives in China’s Xinjiang have been freed from reeducation camps, in some cases, only to be recaptured

Feb 13 — ““They’ve taken him again,” said Munai Taskairat kyzy, sobbing over the phone. Last year had closed on such a hopeful note. It looked as though Chinese authorities might be gently easing their campaign of systematic repression of Muslim communities in their western Xinjiang region.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakh-activists-keep-battling-as-xinjiang-crackdown-evolves


Kyrgyzstan: Government proposes to corporatize the state railways enterprise

Kyrgyzstan’s underdeveloped railways transport system needs reorganization, investment, and modernization

Feb 10 — “The Kyrgyz Government proposed to corporatize the Kyrgyz Temir Jolu State Enterprise (Kyrgyz Railways). The issue was discussed on February 5 at a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Communications, Architecture and Construction. “At the initial stage, we propose to create a joint venture with a potential investor in freight forwarding. We believe that this will allow us to attract additional financial resources for the development of the railway industry.” READ MORE: https://www.timesca2stg.wpenginepowered.com/index.php/news/20820-kyrgyzstan-government-proposes-to-corporatize-the-state-railways-enterprise

Young disabled people in Kyrgyzstan find new goals and opportunities

More than 5,000 people with vision impairment live in Kyrgyzstan, and they face plenty of hindrances to be treated as equal citizens

Feb 12 — “I first met Matluba Hakimova checking in for a flight at Manas Airport in Bishkek. Though blind, she proceeded to register for and board her flight effortlessly, without any assistance. Matluba is originally from Isfana, in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region that borders Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. That day, she was flying home.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ainaz-sulaimanova/young-disabled-people-in-kyrgyzstan-find-new-goals-and-opportunities

January results. Kyrgyzstan’s economy on a golden horse

Kyrgyzstan’s economy and state-budget revenues still remain dependent on gold production at the Kumtor mine

Feb 13 — “Due to an increase in gold production at Kumtor, the Kyrgyz economy showed a significant growth in the first month of 2019. At the same time, prices grew quite insignificantly, although cigarettes and fresh vegetables’ prices increased for 30 days.” READ MORE: https://24.kg/english/109106__January_results_Kyrgyzstans_economy_on_a_golden_horse/

Russia lifts restrictions on meat imports from Kyrgyzstan

The removal of temporary restrictions will allow the export of Kyrgyz meat products and raw meat from enterprises included in the Eurasian Economic Union register

Feb 15 — “Kyrgyzstan is a strategic partner and ally of Russia in Central Asia. Kyrgyz-Russian cooperation is multidimensional in nature, characterized by the proximity of approaches to international and regional affairs, focusing on the development of Eurasian integration processes. The Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance of Russia lifted restrictions on the meat import from Kyrgyzstan, introduced in 2007, the press service of the Kyrgyz State Inspectorate for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/145736.html


Report: Workers building Tajikistan’s mega-dam not getting paid

Roghun is a mammoth project that is said to employ around 20,000 workers, and Tajikistan needs $4 billion or so to finish the project

Feb 11 — “Construction laborers on Tajikistan’s giant Roghun hydroelectric dam project have reportedly complained that they have not been paid their salaries for several months. Moscow-based news website Ferghana reported on February 11 that a group of workers have submitted a petition to local prosecutors to resolve the situation.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/report-workers-building-tajikistans-mega-dam-not-getting-paid

Tajikistan plans to increase electricity exports to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan

After the long years of electricity shortages and power blackouts, Tajikistan has now turned into an electricity exporter

Feb 14 — “Tajikistan plans to increase electricity exports to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan in 2019, said Chairman of the state energy holding ‘‘Barki Tochik’’ Mirzo Ismoilzoda at a meeting with journalists in Dushanbe on February 13. He added that negotiations were underway with the Afghan and Uzbek energy sector on the volumes and prices of supplies.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/145655.html

After Tajikistan terror attack, is cycling the Pamir Highway safe?

Tajikistan is generally safe for Westerners, who are attracted by the country’s stunning beauty

Feb 15 — “On July 29, five terrorists in Tajikistan rammed a car into a group of seven Western cyclists, then set upon them with knives. Four of the cyclists were killed: two from the United States, one from Switzerland and one from the Netherlands. The Islamic State asserted responsibility for the attack, although Tajik authorities are pointing the finger at a banned political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan. Whoever is responsible, the attack was the first terrorist assault against Western tourists in Tajikistan.” READ MORE: https://glenwoodguardian.com/after-tajikistan-terror-attack-is-cycling-the-pamir-highway-safe/17275/


German Tech Firm’s Turkmen Ties Trigger Surveillance Concerns

Rohde & Schwarz, a major global player in surveillance technology, has declined to disclose details about its dealings with the Turkmen government

Feb 8 — “One year ago this month, Turkmenistan’s state news agency reported on a meeting between the country’s authoritarian president and a visiting executive from a German electronics firm that supplies surveillance and encryption technology to governments and militaries. Hartmut Jaeschke of the Munich-based Rohde & Schwarz, according to the report, told President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov during the talks that the company sought “to gain a stronger foothold” in Turkmenistan, whose government is consistently ranked among the world’s most repressive.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/german-tech-firm-s-turkmen-ties-trigger-surveillance-concerns/29759911.html

Turkmenistan: Sour cream of the crop

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

Feb 12 — “How much agricultural product does Turkmenistan actually generate? The working assumption has long been that official data are drastically inflated, but Vienna-based news outlet Chronicles of Turkmenistan claimed this week to have got its hands on information showing the scale of the fakery.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-sour-cream-of-the-crop

As traders tussle over tankers, Turkmenistan slashes oil exports

The slowness of crude exports has forced Turkmen producers to stockpile oil throughout January and February

Feb 14 — “A clash between trading house Vitol and Azerbaijan’s SOCAR over Caspian Sea oil shipments is forcing Turkmenistan to slash exports of crude due to a lack of tankers. Turkmenistan typically exports about 200,000 tonnes of oil per year via the Caspian to world markets, mainly from fields operated by the UAE’s ENOC and Italy’s Eni, but flows have halved in recent weeks, six traders involved in operations said.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/oil-caspian/as-traders-tussle-over-tankers-turkmenistan-slashes-oil-exports-idUSL5N2095ZD


Uzbekistan: Head of security services gets chop amid talk of surveillance

The Uzbek president continues to purge the country’s security service of disloyal officials

Feb 12 — “The head of Uzbekistan’s revamped security services has been removed from his post — on health grounds, according to official sources. But RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, Ozodlik, has reported that Ikhtiyor Abdullayev, 53, was actually fired and has now been made object of a criminal investigation. The broadcaster has cited three anonymous sources close to the government as saying a dozen people working under Abdullayev have been arrested.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-head-of-security-services-gets-chop-amid-talk-of-surveillance

Uzbek Foreign Minister on Reforms: ‘There Is No Way Back‘

After the years of stagnation, Uzbekistan has no other choice but political reform and economic modernization

Feb 13 — “The foreign minister was clear that Uzbekistan’s ongoing reforms are irreversible.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2019/02/uzbek-foreign-minister-on-reforms-there-is-no-way-back/

Moody’s assigns its first Uzbekistan long-term issuer rating at ‘B1’

Uzbekistan gets its first ever credit rating and launches its international borrowing programme

Feb 14 — “Moody’s Investors Service assigned its first ever long-term issuer rating to the Uzbek government at B1 with a stable outlook on February 13 ahead of the Uzbek Eurobond debut on the same day. The agency also assigned a provisional rating of (P) B1 to the Uzbek government’s forthcoming medium-term note programme and a B1 rating to the planned drawdown from the programme.” READ MORE: http://www.intellinews.com/moody-s-assigns-its-first-uzbekistan-long-term-issuer-rating-at-b1-156406/

Uzbekistan’s eurobond debut proves smash hit

The debut had generated an air of optimism among investors who attended Uzbekistan’s New York, Boston and London roadshows. The issuance is set to pave way for regular debt sales

Feb 14 — “Uzbekistan’s $1bn sovereign bond debut has proved a smash hit with some initial reports indicating the demand was there for as much as $8.5bn, making the issue 8.5-times oversubscribed. The launch was made with yields of 4.75% on the 5-year note and 5.375% on the 10-year note, an anonymous source told Bloomberg on February 13.” READ MORE: http://www.intellinews.com/uzbekistan-s-eurobond-debut-proves-smash-hit-156401/


How a Forever War Ends

Trump might well wrap up the war in Afghanistan, but only by giving up on America’s original goals, the Deputy Director-General of the International Institute for Strategic Studies says

Feb 11 — “President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address that “great nations do not fight endless wars.” It was a clear signal that his administration has scaled back its objectives for Afghanistan and is headed for the exit. The only question now is whether the Taliban and their Pakistani sponsors will settle for a partial victory by participating in an Afghan government they do not wholly control, or whether they will bide their time until the occupation ends, then turn on those Afghans who have been fighting alongside U.S. forces and triumphantly return to power, governing as they did before the war.” READ MORE: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/how-end-war-afghanistan/582310/

The Soviet army was driven from Afghanistan 30 years ago. Putin’s Russia is repackaging that defeat as a patriotic victory

The Kremlin in 1989 called the Afghan war “a political mistake.” Now Russian lawmakers, urged on by President Vladimir Putin, are trying to make a 180-degree turn on that assessment

Feb 14 — “The Red Army veterans took to the stage and belted out songs from the Afghan battlefield: clashes with the enemy and a wartime thirst for Russian vodka. A crowd of the war elite finger-tapped along to the familiar beat. The rock concert was something like theme music for the Kremlin’s attempt at rewriting history, turning the defeat in Afghanistan into a patriotic victory for Mother Russia.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/the-soviet-army-was-driven-from-afghanistan-30-years-ago-putins-russia-is-repackaging-it-as-a-patriotic-victory/2019/02/13/3ff61302-1e6f-11e9-a759-2b8541bbbe20_story.html?utm_term=.02822d22376f

Peace prospects in Afghanistan: potentials for BRI and CPEC

For China, to successfully implement the BRI without security threats and with the possible CPEC extension to Afghanistan would further open the doors of prosperity to the region and beyond, analyst says

Feb 15 — “With the advent of multipolarity, states relations are perpetually evolving, and hence adding new connotations to its theories and application. The contemporary world order, though, renews our shades of analysis, especially when the states sharply shuffle priorities pertaining to their actions and aims.” READ MORE: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1910665/6-peace-prospects-afghanistan-potentials-bri-cpec/

Russian warnings of Afghan threats bring decreasing dividends in Central Asia

Russia has for years been exaggerating the threat coming from Afghanistan to Central Asia in an effort to maintain, and increase, its influence on countries of this region

Feb 15 — “Over the last month, Russian officials have suggested that militant groups in Afghanistan so threaten the countries of Central Asia that the latter should cooperate more closely with Russia in order to defend themselves. But in contrast to such campaigns in the past, Moscow is facing difficulties in convincing anyone. Russian commentators are questioning whether Russia’s new military efforts in Central Asia will be worth the cost—be it a new base in Kyrgyzstan, the expansion of Russia’s military presence in Tajikistan, or a new level of cooperation with Turkmenistan.” READ MORE: https://www.timesca2stg.wpenginepowered.com/index.php/news/20840-russian-warnings-of-afghan-threats-bring-decreasing-dividends-in-central-asia


Harsh Turkish condemnation of Xinjiang cracks Muslim wall of silence

Turkey has called on Beijing to respect the rights of Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic minority living in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and to close the so-called re-education camps where up to a million Uyghurs are reportedly held

Feb 11 — “In perhaps the most significant condemnation to date of China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims in its north-western province of Xinjiang, Turkey’s foreign ministry demanded this weekend that Chinese authorities respect human rights of the Uighurs and close what it termed “concentration camps” in which up to one million people are believed to be imprisoned. Calling the crackdown an “embarrassment to humanity,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the death of detained Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit had prompted the ministry to issue its statement.” READ MORE: https://www.timesca2stg.wpenginepowered.com/index.php/news/20823-harsh-turkish-condemnation-of-xinjiang-cracks-muslim-wall-of-silence

Will China Replace The U.S. As The Middle East Hegemon?

If the U.S. is slowly disengaging from the Middle East, China is likely to fill the void

Feb 14 — “The U.S. is assembling its allies in Warsaw this week to coordinate Middle East policy– but with limited success. EU policy chief Federica Mogherini, joined by China, Russia, France, Germany, Turkey, and Qatar are boycottingthe gathering, opting to adopt a more diplomatic, business-focused, and ‘less confrontational’ track with the Islamic Republic.” READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/arielcohen/2019/02/14/will-china-replace-the-u-s-as-the-middle-east-hegemon/#c4d5e8d25cd1

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.

View more articles fromTCA