Weekly Digest of Central Asia

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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

CGN deepens ties with Kazakhstan

China expands nuclear cooperation with Kazakhstan, the world’s largest uranium producer, as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative

May 10 — “The uranium subsidiary of China General Nuclear Power Corp, the country’s largest nuclear operator, is looking to expand nuclear fuel supply deals with Kazakhstan, including uranium exploration, trade, nuclear fuel pellets and component processing.” READ MORE: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-05/10/content_29281561.htm

Kazakhstan parades newly acquired UAVs

Kazakhstan used the most recent military parade to showcase its new military equipment and demonstrate its military strength

May 10 — “Kazakhstan displayed several newly acquired foreign-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a parade to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Kazakh armed forces on 7 May: an indication of the Central Asian country’s growing capabilities in this sector.” READ MORE: http://www.janes.com/article/70202/kazakhstan-parades-newly-acquired-uavs

Radar station production plant starts operation in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is gradually turning from a military equipment importer into producer, with the possibility to become an exporter in the future

May 11 — “The Granit-Thales Electronics plant, a joint Kazakh-French venture, has started production of the new generation Ground Master 400 radar equipment in Kazakhstan. The project is being implemented for the first time in the Central Asian region and will meet all state requirements.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/05/radar-station-production-plant-starts-operation-in-kazakhstan/

Kazakh officials promote nation’s business opportunities in Latin America

Kazakhstan and Latin American countries have a big untapped potential of economic cooperation

May 11 — “Senior Kazakh officials last week toured Latin American countries to promote Kazakhstan’s business opportunities while Mexican business representatives visited Kazakhstan to explore investment opportunities.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/05/kazakh-officials-promote-nations-business-opportunities-in-latin-america/

14 Croatian Smart Benches Placed in Kazakhstan Capital

The smart benches installed in Astana have a wireless charger for mobile devices, USB ports, and a Wi-Fi access point

May 11 — “The Croatian company behind the ‘world’s best smart street bench’ has installed its first smart bench in the capital of Kazakhstan. Recently four Steora smart benches were placed in Astana, Kazakhstan, with another 10 benches placed this week. With 14 smart benches, the Kazakhstan capital is the city with the second most Croatian smart benches in the world.” READ MORE: http://www.croatiaweek.com/14-croatian-smart-benches-placed-in-kazakhstan-capital/

Sany Group explores Kazakhstan potential

As the Kazakh economy is going ‘green’, the Chinese company and the Kazakh energy ministry are considering sites for new wind farms in Kazakhstan

May 11 — “Chinese group Sany plans to invest in the development of wind energy in Kazakhstan, according to recent statements by the company’s vice president.” READ MORE: http://www.windpowermonthly.com/article/1433254/sany-group-explores-kazakhstan-potential

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan to introduce open skies policy, attract investors into civil aviation

Kyrgyzstan is modernizing airports and opens new air routes to foreign countries, taking efforts to be removed from the EU blacklist

May 7 — “There is no national plan for the civil aviation development in Kyrgyzstan, and the Civil Aviation Agency arbitrarily grants licenses and patronizes selected companies, Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Muhammadkaly Abulgaziev said.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/17995-kyrgyzstan-to-introduce-open-skies-policy-attract-investors-into-civil-aviation

Kyrgyzstan to repair Prosecutor General’s Office building burned in April 2010

Looted and burned down in April 2010, the Prosecutor General’s Office building in Bishkek is waiting for reconstruction

May 8 — “The Bishkek municipality has decided to repair the building of Kyrgyzstan’s Prosecutor General’s Office that was burned down during the violent change of power in April 2010. The total area of the building located in downtown Bishkek, near the Central Square, is 4,650 square meters.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18000-kyrgyzstan-to-repair-prosecutor-general-s-office-building-burned-in-april-2010

Kyrgyzstan filming incentive may broaden appeal

Kyrgyzstan is seeking to attract filmmakers and shoots from around the world to promote the country and its attractions

May 10 — “Kyrgyzstan intends to boost its international production profile from its position in landlocked Central Asia. The country borders Tajikistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kazakhstan to the north and China to the east, and secured independence from Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed.” READ MORE: http://www.kftv.com/news/2017/05/10/kyrgyzstan-filming-incentive-may-broaden-appeal

Uzbekistan building school in southern Kyrgyzstan

The project could be considered a goodwill gesture by Uzbekistan as relations between the two neighboring countries have shown signs of improvement

May 11 — “In Osh city in southern Kyrgyzstan, a new modern school for 630 pupils will be built with Uzbekistan funding. As the head of the Osh city department of education Avazbek Asanov has informed Fergana, at present the parties are preparing documents for the construction of the Osh school.” READ MORE: http://enews.fergananews.com/news.php?id=3335&mode=snews

Kyrgyz President Asks Prosecutors To Drop Lawsuits Against RFE/RL

President Atambayev has apparently decided to drop the lawsuits after the recent meeting with RFE/RL President Thomas Kent and criticism from international rights groups

May 12 — “Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has asked the Prosecutor-General’s Office to drop the lawsuits it had filed on his behalf against RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk (Liberty).” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-president-atambaev-drops-lawsuits-against-rferl/28482331.html

TAJIKISTAN

Taking Down A Powerful Ally Of Convenience In Tajikistan

In a move to consolidate his grip on power, Tajik President Rahmon is getting rid of an old ally

May 8 — “The current chairman of Tajikistan’s Majlisi Milli, the upper house of parliament, is slowly being stripped of all of his once-formidable powers. For most of Tajikistan’s 25 years of independence, Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev has been one of the most influential people in Tajikistan and was possibly the most powerful person in the country for a brief time.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-ubaidulloev-powerful-ally-rahmon-fall-favor/28474462.html

Fighting Along the Afghanistan-Tajikistan Borderlands: Cause for Concern in Central Asia?

The Afghan war is approaching the Tajik border, potentially threatening Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries to Afghanistan’s north

May 8 — “How concerned should Tajikistan — and by extension Central Asia — be about renewed fighting in the Afghan borderlands?” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/05/fighting-along-the-afghanistan-tajikistan-borderlands-cause-for-concern-in-central-asia/

Tajikistan under attack from Taliban and Daesh forces

Afghan government forces seem to be unable to protect new territories from being taken by Taliban militants, and apparently need more foreign military assistance

May 9 — “Terrorist forces are now on the threshold of Tajikistan, threatening the country’s vital infrastructure and territorial control. In Afghanistan, where fighting now takes place on three fronts: the south, the central-east and the north, doubts persist whether a few thousand more US military could make a difference for the embattled Afghan government.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18005-tajikistan-under-attack-from-taliban-and-daesh-forces

Tajikistan to issue law limiting use of Sims

In an apparent move to combat extremism and terrorism, Tajik authorities plan to toughen regulations on the use of Sim cards

May 10 — “The Tajikistan Ministry of Internal Affairs has prepared the draft legal amendment which to modify the regulation on the use of Sims, reports Profit.kz. The draft legal document has already been presented to the government.” READ MORE: https://www.telecompaper.com/news/tajikistan-to-issue-law-limiting-use-of-sims–1195449

TURKMENISTAN

Erasing Images Of The Dead In Southwestern Turkmenistan

The practice of having the portraits of the deceased etched on tombstones is widespread in Central Asia, but it is losing popularity and is generally frowned upon by Islamic clerics

May 10 — “If you walk through a cemetery in former Soviet Central Asia and take a look around, you’re likely to find someone looking back. Several people, actually. They’re the portraits etched on some of the tombstones, copied from photographs provided by family or friends.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-tombstone-portraits-erased-imam-tradition-cemetery/28478309.html

Stalled pipeline now a matter of urgency for Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan’s economic future is much dependent on making 22-year-old multi-billion dollar project of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline a success

May 11 — “Turkmenistan is in a hurry to power through with a multi-billion dollar pipeline project to bring new markets for its surplus gas after losing key buyers. First envisaged in 1995, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project has become something of a saga. Several times it has looked to be for the scrapheap, only to be revived.” READ MORE: http://www.atimes.com/article/stalled-pipeline-now-matter-urgency-turkmenistan/

Turkmenistan reports gas find in Balkan Province

As Turkmenistan continues discovering new gas fields, the country faces problems with its gas export – with China being the only buyer of Turkmen gas today

May 11 — “Turkmenistan has reported the discovery of natural gas reserves at Uzun-Ada, an onshore field located in the country’s western Balkan Province. According to the state-run press agency TDH, Turkmen geologists found gas in an ultra-deep test well drilled at Uzun-Ada, which lies near the shore of the Caspian Sea.” READ MORE: http://www.yourindustrynews.com/turkmenistan+reports+gas+find+in+balkan+province_141826.html

UZBEKISTAN

In nod to Russia, new Uzbek leader revives V-day celebrations

Mirziyoyev’s symbolic gesture will certainly be noticed by Moscow, which regards Central Asia as a strategically important region now heavily influenced by China

May 9 — “Uzbekistan resurrected its V-day celebrations on Tuesday in a move signaling warmer ties with Russia, as the Central Asian nation marked the anniversary of the Allied victory for the first time since the death of veteran leader Islam Karimov.” READ MORE: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-wwii-anniversary-uzbekistan-idUSKBN18524O

Uzbekistan: Top UN Human Rights Official on Landmark Visit

With its appalling rights record so far, Uzbekistan now has a chance to change the situation under the new leadership in the country

May 10 — “The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, arrived in Uzbekistan on May 10 for a rare visit that advocacy groups hope could signal a break from a legacy of repression.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83521

Made in Uzbekistan Brand Wows Tajikistan

As Tashkent mends ties with neighboring Tajikistan, Uzbek and Tajik businesses explore new areas of trade and economic cooperation

May 11 — “When a delegation of traders from Uzbekistan recently came to show off their wares in Tajikistan, it caused a minor sensation. The fair held in Dushanbe was the first of its kind since independence — a fresh signal of a potential thaw between the neighboring nations.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83551

AFGHANISTAN

Welcome to the Forever War, Mr. President

Analyst believes President Trump could easily get the US sucked into Afghanistan again, and shares his opinion on how the President could avoid his predecessors’ mistakes

May 11 — “According to legend, Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky famously said that “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” So it is with Afghanistan and the Trump administration, which is reportedly considering a recommitment to the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, as well as the deployment of 3,500 more U.S. troops.” READ MORE: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/05/trump_s_afghanistan_strategy_could_get_us_sucked_back_into_the_forever_war.html

Merkel – Germany not ‘first in line’ to boost troops in Afghanistan

Merkel says Germany does not plan to expand its role in the global fight against Islamic State, even if NATO agrees to US requests for the alliance to take on a formal role in the coalition

May 11 — “Germany will continue to lead NATO’s military training mission in northern Afghanistan, but is not looking to increase its presence there or to expand its role in the fight against Islamic State, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.” READ MORE: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/merkel—germany-not–first-in-line–to-boost-troops-in-afghanistan/43173766

U.S. Intelligence Official Says Afghan Security Likely To ‘Deteriorate’

As the Taliban is taking control of more portions of the country, Afghanistan’s insecurity and instability is likely to continue in the months to come

May 12 — “The U.S. national intelligence director says the security situation in Afghanistan will “almost certainly” continue to “deteriorate” over the next 18 months. Dan Coats’ comments on May 11 to the Senate Intelligence Committee come as the U.S. military has announced plans to send 3,000 additional troops to bolster the fight against the Taliban and other Islamist militants in Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/us-intelligence-official-says-afghan-security-likely-deteriorate-coats/28481583.html

Is there still hope for China, Afghanistan’s long-stalled US$3 billion copper mining deal?

The Chinese large-scale project to develop a copper mine in Afghanistan has been stalled for a decade, largely due to security concerns

May 12 — “Efforts are being made to resolve a stalled copper mining deal between China and Afghanistan, a decade after the US$3 billion contract was signed, according to Afghanistan’s top envoy to China.” READ MORE: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2093852/talks-aim-jump-start-china-miners-stalled-afghanistan

WORLD

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Program Achieves Unexpected Progress

More Chinese enterprises are taking root in Pakistan as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, with four key areas of cooperation — energy, transport infrastructure, industrial cooperation and Gwadar Port — making significant progress as part of the project

May 11 — “The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will play a leading role in the Belt and Road initiative. Recently, the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China launched an intensive research program to look at the progress and problems of the CPEC construction in Pakistan.” READ MORE: https://sputniknews.com/business/201705111053500835-china-pakistan-economic-corridor-progress/

As U.S. retreats in Asia Pacific, China fills the void with an ambitious global plan

This weekend in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping will project himself as the leader of a new economic order and present an ambitious global trade and infrastructure plan — the Belt and Road Initiative

May 12 — “When President Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in January, critics said he was leaving a vacuum at the heart of the Asia Pacific, ceding the United States’ role as regional economic leader. On Sunday, China plans to show how it is filling that vacuum.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/as-us-retreats-in-the-asia-pacific-china-fills-the-void-with-an-ambitious-global-plan/2017/05/11/54771c0c-3593-11e7-ab03-aa29f656f13e_story.html

World’s biggest building project aims to make China great again

China’s Belt and Road initiative could see hundreds of billions spent from Mongolia to Malaysia to Turkmenistan to Indonesia and Iran

May 12 — “When the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, unveiled what some call the most ambitious development plan in history, Zhou Jun decided almost immediately he should head for the hills. The 45-year-old entrepreneur packed his bags and set off for one of his country’s most staggeringly beautiful corners: a sleepy, high-altitude border outpost called Tashkurgan that – at almost 5,000km (3,100 miles) from Beijing – is the most westerly settlement in China.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/12/chinese-president-belt-and-road-initiative

Sergey Kwan

TCA