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

Kazakhstan: Journalist Stabbed En Route to Brief Diplomats

Observers say the attack on the journalist who was a Kazakh government critic could be politically motivated

May 15 — “A prominent Kazakh journalist and activist was violently attacked in the early morning hours of May 14, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The Kazakh authorities should ensure that the attack is investigated promptly, thoroughly, and impartially and that the attackers are identified and brought to justice.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/15/kazakhstan-journalist-stabbed-en-route-brief-diplomats

Who owns media in Kazakhstan?

Experts say that almost all influential mass media in Kazakhstan are controlled by people from the Kazakh president’s entourage

May 16 — “In Kazakhstan, most of the media owners are hiding behind their formal founders. But, as they say, if the secret is known to three – then everyone knows this. Having talked with experts Fergana News Agency made its own list of the true owners of the Kazakh media.” READ MORE: http://enews.fergananews.com/articles/3015

Kazakhstan opens nuclear security training centre

Being the world’s leading uranium producer, Kazakhstan has taken one more step to strengthen its position on the international nuclear energy market

May 16 — “Kazakhstan has opened a new facility to provide security training to its nuclear facility personnel. The Nuclear Security Training Centre (NSTC) has been developed with the support of the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).” READ MORE: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Kazakhstan-opens-nuclear-security-training-centre-1605177.html

Kazakhstan: Trade Union Leader Jailed

Human Rights Watch says Yeleusinov’s conviction is the latest development in an ongoing crackdown on independent labor movement in Kazakhstan

May 16 — “A Kazakh court on May 16, 2017, sentenced a trade union leader to two years in prison on politically motivated embezzlement charges, Human Rights Watch said today. In addition, the trade unionist, Amin Yeleusinov, 55, is banned from engaging in any trade union activities for five years, will have any “illegally obtained property” confiscated, and must pay US$26,300 in damages.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/16/kazakhstan-trade-union-leader-jailed

Kazakhstan: Pension Funds Lost in Azerbaijan Venture

The Single Accumulated Savings Fund of Kazakhsan has lost $224 million put into the International Bank of Azerbaijan which has filed for bankruptcy

May 16 — “Kazakhstan’s beleaguered state pensions fund has found itself the target of a fresh bout of public indignation after losing hundreds of millions in a doomed Azerbaijani investment.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83606

Aiming To Lift Production, Kazakhs May Not Play Along With OPEC Cuts

Kazakhstan now has no alternative to increasing oil production at its giant fields, especially Kashagan, to repay its huge development cost

May 18 — “While many oil producers part of the OPEC/non-OPEC agreement to curb production have already stated their support to the deal extension for another nine months, Kazakhstan is going into next week’s meeting with little enthusiasm for rolling over its production cuts, as it plans to raise output from its major oil fields.” READ MORE: http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Aiming-To-Lift-Production-Kazakhs-May-Not-Play-Along-With-OPEC-Cuts.html

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan attracts tourists by celestial mountains and nomadic culture

Kyrgyz authorities are taking measures to attract foreign investment in tourism and to ensure the safety of tourists in the country

May 14 — “Travel agencies, tourist companies, resorts and hotels of Kyrgyzstan and foreign countries presented their products and services at the Issyk-Kul International Tourism Exhibition 2017.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18022-kyrgyzstan-attracts-tourists-by-celestial-mountains-and-nomadic-culture

Will a new National Holding improve management of Kyrgyzstan’s state-owned enterprises?

The Kyrgyz government has stepped up with a new initiative aimed at making state-owned enterprises cost-effective if not profit-making

May 16 — “The State Property Management Fund under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic (SPMF) intends to reduce part of the non-operating enterprises with the state share by uniting them into a National Holding open joint-stock company.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18035-will-a-new-national-holding-improve-management-of-state-owned-enterprises-in-kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan: Hapless Authorities Defeated by Lawless Traffic

Reckless driving is an endemic problem in Kyrgyzstan, threatening the lives of local people and scaring off visitors to the country

May 16 — “Erbol and Alimbek, a pair of third-graders and lifelong friends, were on their way home from school when a speeding BMW plowed into them. The impact was so strong the car’s front license plate flew off. Without hanging around to inspect his handiwork, the driver sped away. Images of the gravely wounded children lying on the ground in their red school uniforms quickly did the rounds on Kyrgyzstan’s social media, sparking outrage among a public otherwise inured to stories of shocking traffic accidents.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83601

China, Kyrgyzstan leaders pledge more bilateral cooperation

President Atambayev says Kyrgyzstan is willing to strengthen cooperation with China in the economy and trade, and advance the construction of key infrastructure projects

May 16 — “President Xi Jinping met with his Kyrgyz counterpart Almazbek Atambayev in Beijing on Tuesday, vowing to push forward the two countries’ strategic partnership. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Kyrgyzstan 25 years ago, both sides have advanced bilateral ties while upholding the principle of mutual respect and win-win cooperation, said Xi.” READ MORE: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-05/16/c_136288494.htm

Is Kyrgyzstan Ready for the Next Natural Disaster?

Experts believe deadly disasters are being caused by the changing climate and seismic activity in the Fergana Valley, while the Kyrgyz government doesn’t have a long-term strategy concerning disaster risk reduction

May 16 — “The increasing dangers of natural disasters in the Tian Shan region raise questions regarding the Kyrgyz government’s ability to manage these hazardous events. The latest deadly landslides in Osh and Jalalabad provinces claimed 26 lives this spring alone.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/05/is-kyrgyzstan-ready-for-the-next-natural-disaster/

TAJIKISTAN

Four Russian bombers redeployed to Tajikistan

Russian Su-24M bombers will take part in the Dushanbe-Anti-Terror-2017 exercises, the first exercises conducted by the CIS Anti-Terrorism Center involving the armed forces of the CIS member countries

May 17 — “Russia’s Sukhoi Su-24M bombers have been redeployed to Tajikistan to take part in the Dushanbe-Anti-Terror-2017 exercises, Colonel Yaroslav Roshchupkin, an aide to the Russian Central Military District commander, said on Wednesday.” READ MORE: http://tass.com/defense/946213

Improving Access to Cancer Treatment in Tajikistan

More than 3,000 cancer patients in Tajikistan require some form of radiotherapy every year, with the aid coming from the International Atomic Energy Agency

May 17 — “Tajikistan, a country with a population of 8 million people, faces an increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, accounting for 59% of all deaths. Cancer is responsible for the second highest number of NCD deaths, second only to cardiovascular diseases.” READ MORE: https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/improving-access-to-cancer-treatment-in-tajikistan

Tajikistan interested in assembling Belarusian MTZ cotton farming tractors

Tajikistan may start assembling Belarusian tractors for domestic use and export to neighboring Central Asian countries

May 18 — “Tajikistan is interested in assembling cotton farming tractors made by the Belarusian company MTZ, representatives of the company told BelTA after a delegation of the Tajikistan government visited the enterprise.” READ MORE: http://eng.belta.by/economics/view/tajikistan-interested-in-assembling-belarusian-mtz-cotton-farming-tractors-101418-2017/

TURKMENISTAN

Are Trade Fairs in Turkmenistan Pointless?

Analyst says trade fairs do provide insight into the psychology of dictatorship in Turkmenistan

May 13 — “On May 2, during an international trade fair held in Ashgabat, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stood up and declared that expanding the private sector was a major priority for his government. It’s an understandable aim, given that Turkmenistan’s economy has been badly affected by the global slump in natural gas prices.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/05/are-trade-fairs-in-turkmenistan-pointless/

Turkmenistan Gets Low Scores For Olympic-Sized Sports-Infrastructure Investment

As Turkmenistan will this September host the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, the cost of its organization and holding has led to questions of whether it is worth the effort

May 15 — “Turkmenistan has spared no expense in its bid to host international sporting events — spending the equivalent of what it would cost to host the Olympic Games. But for its multibillion-dollar investment, Ashgabat is not getting the Olympics.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-aimag-infrastructure-investment-sports-white-elephant/28489622.html

Turkmenistan: Is Corruption Probe Sign of Government Panic?

The first-ever large-scale, and open to the public, anti-corruption campaign is unfolding in Turkmenistan amid economic woes experienced by the country

May 18 — “A very public campaign against corruption in Turkmenistan is picking up steam with the issue receiving a most unusual airing in the country’s rubberstamp parliament.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83656

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan: President’s China Trip Yields Giant Rewards

The Uzbek president is doing his best to attract much-needed foreign investment into Uzbekistan, with China eager to expand its economic presence in the Central Asian country

May 16 — “Uzbekistan’s president went to China last week with great hope of landing major deals, and it would seem he was not disappointed. As Uzbek media have reported, Shavkat Mirziyoyev came away from his May 11-15 trip with dozens of agreements under his belt worth a total of $23 billion.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83611

UZBEKISTAN: Deportation, fines, Bible and Koran seizures

Activists record new cases of people in Uzbekistan being persecuted for their religious convictions

May 17 — “A Russian was deported with no court decision and home-owner fined after police raided a Tashkent Christian meeting. Officials told a Muslim seeking back her seized Koran manuscript that police cannot be prosecuted. Tashkent Airport customs seized pilgrims’ Korans. A court ordered New Testament texts destroyed.” READ MORE: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2280

Uzbekistan plans to realize oil & gas projects worth over $30B

As Uzbekistan reportedly experiences a deficit of natural gas and oil for domestic use, the country plans to increase hydrocarbon production, also meant for export

May 18 — “Uzbekistan plans to implement a number of oil and gas projects with a total cost of $30.4 billion by 2021, according to the data from the National Holding Company Uzbekneftegaz. Uzbekneftegaz started implementation of the program for 2016-2020 to increase production of ready export-oriented products, the company said.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/113331.html

Uzbekistan: A place where religious tolerance prevails

Some travel tips for western tourists willing to ‘discover’ Uzbekistan

May 18 — “Our media are inundated with stories of strife, especially from the arch of instability which reaches from the Atlas Mountains to Afghanistan. However, there are some areas where one can experience moderate and tolerant Islam, which lived for centuries in peace with Christians and Jews.” READ MORE: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/may/18/travel-uzbekistan-where-religious-tolerance-prevai/

AFGHANISTAN

Regional Countries Funding The Taliban: Kandahar Police Chief

Afghan general says the Taliban is getting money and equipment from Russia, Pakistan and Iran — the allegation strongly denied by Moscow

May 18 — “Kandahar police chief general Abdul Raziq has said that certain countries in the region are trying to keep the Taliban’s war machine operational as they believe that conflict in Afghanistan protects their interests.” READ MORE: http://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/regional-countries-funding-taliban-kandahar-police-chief

What’s Behind the Taliban’s Major Gains in Northern Afghanistan?

Analysts explain why the Taliban have been able to make inroads in northern Afghanistan in recent weeks

May 18 — “Over the past few weeks, the northern Afghan province of Kunduz — until recent years a region relatively unaffected by the Taliban insurgency — has been the site of heavy clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/05/whats-behind-the-talibans-major-gains-in-northern-afghanistan/

The US Plan to Give Afghanistan a Fleet of Black Hawks Is Deeply Flawed

While the Afghan Air Force desperately needs more helicopters, the UH-60s could turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth

May 18 — “The United States is moving ahead with a plan, known as the Afghan Aviation Transition Plan (AATP), to help replace the bulk of the Afghan Air Force’s helicopters with the UH-60 Black Hawk. Unfortunately, while Afghanistan’s military is in dire need of additional choppers, it’s not clear whether provide them with the American-made aircraft is a good choice.” READ MORE: http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/10413/the-us-plan-to-give-afghanistan-a-fleet-of-black-hawks-is-deeply-flawed

We should not commit combat troops to the Afghanistan conflict – here’s why

Not all of the US allies may be willing to support Washington’s plan to send more US and NATO troops to Afghanistan’s never-ending war

May 19 — “Let’s start with numbers. Since the United States, backed by its allies including Australia, removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001 in retaliation for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, 40 Australians have been killed in that country and 262 wounded.” READ MORE: http://theconversation.com/we-should-not-commit-combat-troops-to-the-afghanistan-conflict-heres-why-78027

WORLD

China paves the way for a new Silk Road

As the summit to showcase China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative finished in Beijing with China’s new commitment to inject tens of billions of dollars in Eurasian transport and transit projects, Stratfor analyzes the challenges facing China’s initiative

May 15 — “The Silk Road has become the stuff of legend. For centuries, the web of trade routes, which expanded to traverse Central Asia and the Mediterranean Sea, connected China to the European Continent, facilitating commerce and cultural exchange. But beyond the economic opportunity that the Silk Road afforded China, it also served a strategic purpose.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18029-china-paves-the-way-for-a-new-silk-road

Russia and China Poised to Start ‘Transport Revolution’ in Eurasia

At the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on May 14-15, Putin said Russia wants to see China as a partner in establishing a greater Eurasian partnership to build a bridge between Asia and Europe

May 16 — “Russia is foursquare behind China’s One Belt, One Road project and will actively participate in its implementation, President Vladimir Putin said during a roundtable meeting in Beijing.” READ MORE: https://sputniknews.com/asia/201705161053651310-china-russis-transport/

Opinion: The US will come to regret its petulant snub of China’s belt and road

Researcher believes the US’ failure to recognise the strategic importance of Beijing’s trade development plan will harm its companies and diplomatic standing

May 19 — “It is fashionable to blame all the world’s ills and idiocies on the erstwhile American Apprentice host, and some of that blame is well targeted. But Donald Trump has no monopoly on idiocy, and in one area in particular the comfortingly statesmanlike Barack Obama must take the blame: that is the US’ failure to recognise the economic and strategic importance of Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, and in parallel its refusal to sign up to the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).” READ MORE: http://www.scmp.com/business/global-economy/article/2094920/opinion-us-will-come-regret-its-petulant-snub-chinas-belt

Sergey Kwan

TCA