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.


On His Watch: The Dark Events Of Nazarbaev’s Long Reign

Nazarbaev’s presidency was marked by numerous suspicious deaths — many of them unsolved — of journalists, activists, protesters, businessmen, and politicians

March 26 — “The major economic strides made by energy-rich Kazakhstan during President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s nearly 30-year reign often overshadow reports chronicling an undemocratic, repressive tenure punctuated by jailings and the suspicious deaths of opposition leaders, activists, and journalists.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/on-his-watch-the-dark-events-of-nazarbaev-s-long-reign/29843509.html


The coming weeks and months will test the robustness of Nazarbayev’s opaque, but no doubt meticulous, succession plan

March 26 — “Last week, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, resigned after 30 years in power. At 78 years old, Nazarbayev’s resignation had become all but inevitable, but the events of Mar. 19 still contained an element of surprise. Even so, Nazarbayev’s strongman tendencies are not going anywhere: By manipulating the constitution over the years, he has created a powerful post-presidential role for himself.” READ MORE: https://warontherocks.com/2019/03/kazakhstan-after-nazarbayev-the-first-priority-is-continuity/

What’s Behind Nazarbayev’s Surprise Resignation ‘Ruse’ in Kazakhstan?

Nazarbayev likely found that ruling Kazakhstan has become more difficult than it was just a few years ago

March 28 — “Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, resigned from office March 20, stunning the nation and the region. For many Kazakhstanis, Nazarbayev is the only leader they remember. At age 78, he had ruled for three decades and was the last remaining Soviet-era leader still at the helm of a former Soviet country.” READ MORE: https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27711/what-s-behind-nazarbayev-s-surprise-resignation-ruse-in-kazakhstan

Kazakhstan Looks Beyond Central Asia for New Trade Opportunities

As Kazakhstan aims to become one of the top 30 developed economies by 2050, it has to continue to appear as an attractive trade partner and a destination for extra-regional investors

March 28 — “Trade between Kazakhstan and India in 2018 reached USD$1.2 billion, according to the Kazakhstani authorities. While this amount is not particularly large when compared to Kazakhstan’s trade with China or Russia, it is nevertheless an important milestone as it demonstrates Astana’s (now known as Nur-Sultan) success when it comes to expanding its pool of trade partners and investors well past its Central Asian neighborhood.” READ MORE: https://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/kazakhstan-looks-beyond-central-asia-for-new-trade-opportunities/


Kyrgyzstan: Filling the Kumtor hole

Kyrgyzstan needs to launch production at new gold mines, in order to reduce its dependence on Kumtor mine

March 27 — “The start of production is beckoning at Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest goldmine, the owner of the concession has announced. News that Jerooy could start turning out gold by the year’s end could not have come at a more auspicious time. Last week, the International Monetary Fund sounded the alarmabout the country’s most important goldmine, Kumtor, warning that output there is set to collapse within the coming few years.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-filling-the-kumtor-hole

8 wild and beautiful places in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s rugged landscapes and unique heritage make it a can’t-miss destination

March 27 — “The cities of Kyrgyzstan are filled with Soviet-style buildings, sprawling markets, and ornate mosques. However, outside of the bustling, metropolitan streets of Bishkek and Osh, wonder awaits: A journey deeper into the wilder parts of Kyrgyzstan treats the senses with turquoise alpine lakes, towering snowcapped peaks, and sweeping walnut forests.” READ MORE: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/asia/kyrgyzstan/wild-and-beautiful-places-adventure-hiking-trekking/

Kyrgyzstan and climate change: Kol Suu, the Naryn and the Fergana Valley

An account of freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker Katie Arnold’s journey across Kyrgyzstan

March 27 — “In the saddle with Katie Arnold as she rides, drives and hitch-hikes across Kyrgyzstan, a country on the frontline of climate change where melting glaciers, drought and erratic rainfall threaten both lives and livelihoods.” READ MORE: http://geographical.co.uk/people/explorers/item/3087-explore-river-in-crisis

Putin in Kyrgyzstan: A Tiny Base Expansion and a Hydropower Agreement

A minute expansion of Kant air base and an agreement on hydropower cooperation were some of the outcomes of Putin’s visit to Kyrgyzstan

March 29 — “On Thursday, March 28 Russian President Vladimir Putin made a state visit to Kyrgyzstan. Before Putin landed in Bishkek, the Russian government announced a $30 million grant to help Kyrgyzstan balance its budget. The visit included the usual bevy of agreements — according to Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Jenish Razakov, 65 bilateral agreements worth $12 billion were expected to be inked. Eurasianet reported 30 signed during the visit and another dozen between private sector entities in advance of the visit. And, of course, there was effusive talk of a strong bilateral relationship.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2019/03/putin-in-kyrgyzstan-a-tiny-base-expansion-and-a-hydropower-agreement/


US-funded broadcaster under scrutiny for enabling Tajikistan’s strongman rule

RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, is facing Washington’s scrutiny, as critics say it is ineffective in performing its watchdog responsibilities in Tajikistan and overly accommodating to the country’s strongman president

March 27 — “Since its founding at the outset of the Cold War, U.S.-funded news broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has sought to promote press freedoms and advance an American vision of democracy in some of the world’s most hardened dictatorships. RFE/RL’s mission – to “provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate” – often puts its reporters in the way of harassment from undemocratic governments. As modern authoritarian regimes become more adept at muddying the waters with false narratives, that goal has never felt more urgent.” READ MORE: https://www.timesca2stg.wpenginepowered.com/index.php/news/20988-us-funded-broadcaster-under-scrutiny-for-enabling-tajikistan-s-strongman-rule

Tajikistan: Security chief’s son-in-law killed in road race crash

The monied children of Tajikistan’s political and business elite — known informally as the “golden youth” — routinely organize high-risk road race contests

March 27 — “Images of a horrendous car crash last week in the heart of Tajikistan’s capital have been circulating widely on social media and among messaging app users. Multiple sources have now confirmed to Eurasianet that fatalities in the accident, which occurred on the night of March 23, included the son-in-law of Saimumin Yatimov, the head of the country’s feared security services.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-security-chiefs-son-in-law-killed-in-road-race-crash

Tajikistan to supply electricity to China

To establish power supplies to China, it is planned to build a 500 kV power line of 550 kilometers in length to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

March 28 — “Relations between Tajikistan and China are a streamlined and dynamic mechanism for comprehensive cooperation and strategic partnership. Tajikistan is considering the possibility of exporting surplus electricity produced in the country to China. Along with the sale of electricity to the Central Asian republics, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tajikistan also intends to supply it to China.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/147905.html


Turkmenistan: The Trump card

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

March 26 — “President Donald Trump has been in the news this week. In Turkmenistan. According to Turkmen state media, the U.S. president wrote to his counterpart in Ashgabat to wish him happy Nowruz holidays and offer a note of encouragement in building the still-notional Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, or TCP.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-the-trump-card

Turkey’s police officers detain Turkmen females

The women said that without any legitimate cause they were accused of engaging in prostitution and had been detained on the streets or in their own houses rather than in restaurants or in brothels

March 28 — “Since early March Istanbul’s police officers have been detaining females who hold Turkmen citizenship and are legally employed in Turkey. Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report that the women are informed that they have been detained on charges of prostitution.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2019/03/turkeys-police-officers-detain-turkmen-females/

Gazprom CEO visits Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan seems to be closer to resuming its gas supplies to Russia’s Gazprom

March 28 — “On 27 March representatives of the Russian gas giant “Gazprom” headed by Chairperson of the Board of Directors Aleksey Miller paid a working visit to Turkmenistan. “Gazprom” press center reports that Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov met with Mr. Miller in Ashgabat. According to the press-release issued by the Russian gas company, in the course of negotiations the sides discussed the issues related to energy cooperation.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2019/03/gazprom-ceo-visits-turkmenistan/


Uzbekistan: President comes away from UAE visit with multibillion dollar promises

President Mirziyoyev managed during his visit to the United Arab Emirates to come away with more than $10 billion worth of deals in areas including finance, alternative energy, infrastructure and agriculture

March 27 — “In honor of the official visit to the United Arab Emirates by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Dubai’s soaring Burj Khalifa skyscraper was lit in the white, green and blue of the Uzbek flag. That was just the cherry on the cake, however.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-president-comes-away-from-uae-visit-with-multibillion-dollar-promises

GM, S. Korea suppliers, UzAuto ink partnership deal

Uzbekistan is a leading automobile manufacturer and exporter in Central Asia

March 29 — “GM Korea Co. said Friday that South Korean car parts suppliers will benefit from a deal signed between GM International Global Purchasing & Supply Chain (GMI GPSC) and Uzbek carmaker UzAuto. On Wednesday, GMI GPSC, UzAuto and the GM Korea Supplier Association signed a memorandum of understanding on the development of Uzbekistan’s auto industry and Korean firms’ exports of auto parts to the central Asian country, the carmaker said in a statement.” READ MORE: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20190329006300320?section=economy/economy

Uzbekistan’s First Competitively Tendered Solar Project Receives Global Interest

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is advising the government of Uzbekistan on a landmark PPP transaction that will lead to the creation of a 100 MW solar plant in Navoi region

March 29 — “This project will be the first phase of a larger government initiative to generate up to 1 GW of new solar energy, helping the country reduce dependence on gas and increase its share of renewable energy in the energy mix. Uzbekenergo, a state-owned national power utility, issued the request for qualifications for the project on February 1, 2019, and received submissions from 23 companies from around the world, including from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.” READ MORE: https://www.saurenergy.com/solar-energy-news/uzbekistan-competitively-tendered-solar-project-global-interest


End the Afghan War—Don’t Prolong It

What is needed right now is bold leadership by President Trump to take the firm, necessary steps of ordering a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan for the benefit of the United States

March 25 — “Senators Rand Paul and Tom Udall have recently introduced legislation that would effectively end the war in Afghanistan within twelve months. Whether this effort gets any traction remains to be seen, but the substance and intent of the bill is sound: For the security and benefit of the country, it is time to end the war and redeploy American troops back to their home bases.” READ MORE: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/end-afghan-war—don’t-prolong-it-49017

Who’s interested in Afghanistan’s lithium?

What connects mobile phones, the Taliban, India and China? A metal called lithium

March 27 — “In the last few years, one bright spot in the Indian economy has been the soaring growth of the mobile phone manufacturing industry. India is now the world’s second largest manufacturer of mobile phones; it is also the second largest user of mobile phones. The mushrooming of this industry is one of the success stories of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India campaign.” READ MORE: https://www.fortuneindia.com/polemicist/whos-interested-in-afghanistans-lithium/103069

Fate of Afghanistan Hinges on Donor Funds, Watchdog Warns

In fiscal 2019, donor countries are expected to provide about 51 percent of the Afghan government’s $5.6 billion budget, with about 15 percent going to reconstruction

March 28 — “If and when negotiators reach an accord with the Taliban to pacify Afghanistan, the United States and international donors should be ready to plan for years of continued funding of a government in Kabul still shaky after 18 years of the U.S.-led coalition’s war. So warned John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, to mark the release on Thursday of his third “High-Risk List” outlining eight key challenges to the continuing U.S. presence in the war zone that has cost Americans 2,400 service members’ lives and $780 billion.” READ MORE: https://www.govexec.com/defense/2019/03/fate-afghanistan-hinges-donor-funds-watchdog-warns/155909/

Escalating the US Air War in Afghanistan Isn’t Working

The dramatic increase in U.S. airstrikes that began last year has brought Afghanistan no closer to peace. In fact, Afghan soldiers, police, and civilians are dying at record rates

March 28 — “A U.S. airstrike in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan on Saturday killed 13 civilians, the United Nations reported Monday. Ten of them were children, all from the same extended family. One day earlier, on Friday, two American soldiers were killed, also in Kunduz, both felled by small-arms fire. The Pentagon released their identities Sunday: Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, from Colorado, and Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, from Ohio.” READ MORE: https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2019/03/escalating-air-war-afghanistan-isnt-working/155900/


The U.S. Central Asia power plan intersects with BRI

Central Asia may become a model area for Sino-U.S. cooperation in international development

March 25 — “According to local media, Tajikistan launched a U.S.-led power network project – the Central Asia-South Asia power (CASA 1000) project. Its first phase aims to achieve the interconnection of the power grids among the four countries in Central Asia. The long-term goal is to open up the connection between Central Asia and South Asia and significantly solve the power shortage in the region.” READ MORE: https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d674d32416a4e33457a6333566d54/index.html

Bruce Pannier on Change in Central Asia

In 1990, journalist Bruce Pannier first went to Central Asia — what was it like and what’s changed since then?

March 26 — “Bruce Pannier is one of the most experienced journalists working on Central Asia. Having first traveled to the region in 1990, Pannier now works at RFE/RL authoring the Qishloq Ovozi blog. In this interview, Pannier shares some of his earliest experiences as a student and his perspective on journalism in the region. Of course, we also discussed some of the latest developments in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2019/03/bruce-pannier-on-change-in-central-asia/

The Trojan Horse Of Chinese Investment

China has been using BRI to establish soft power through methods that would qualify as bribery and helps promote corruption and financial impropriety

March 28 — “China is a highly ambitious nation. Beijing unabashedly harbors dreams of world domination, first in the technology arena before eventually become a leading military power. The poster child of President Xi Jinping’s grandest ambitions, Made in China 2025 and the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aka the Silk Road project, have faced a considerable political and geopolitical backlash in the past chiefly due to Beijing’s maverick and highly controversial style of doing business.” READ MORE: https://safehaven.com/markets/economy/The-Trojan-Horse-Of-Chinese-Investment.html


Times of Central Asia