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

Malaysia-Kazakhstan bilateral trade continues to grow

Malaysian ambassador to Kazakhstan says trade volume between Malaysia and Kazakhstan is relatively small but has been increasing every year

June 5 — “MALAYSIA looks forward to increase increasing trade with Kazakhstan, its second-largest trading partner in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). region, the Republic of Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: https://www.nst.com.my/business/2017/06/246059/malaysia-kazakhstan-bilateral-trade-continues-grow

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan cross-border train service launched

The new train route starts from the Uzbek city of Samarkand and runs through Tashkent, Saryagash, Shymkent, Taraz, Shu, Saryshagan, Karaganda to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan

June 6 — “Cross-border passenger train services have commenced operations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, connecting the cities of Samarkand and Astana. The new service has been launched as part of an agreement between the two countries to strengthen bilateral cooperation.” READ MORE: http://www.railway-technology.com/news/newskazakhstan-and-uzbekistan-cross-border-train-service-launched-5834540

Lianyungang Port links Kazakhstan with Pacific

Kazakhstan is transforming from a land-locked to land-linked country to become a land bridge between Asia and Europe with the help of China’s Lianyungang Port, which handles 60 percent of the cargo business for Central Asian countries

June 6 — “The Port of Lianyungang in East China’s Jiangsu Province, a veteran in Eurasian land-sea links, is playing an even more important role in boosting bilateral trade between China and Kazakhstan under the China-proposed Belt and Road (B&R) initiative and Kazakhstan’s Path to the Future policy, experts said on Tuesday.” READ MORE: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1050325.shtml

Kazakhstan: a showcase for shrinking civic space

A Kazakh human rights defender says the Nazarbayev regime is using informal and formal methods to squeeze out NGOs, independent media and trade unions

June 7 — “Little noticed by the international community, Kazakhstan has become a model case for the global double trend of rising authoritarianism and shrinking civic space. While state pressure has grown continuously since the mid-1990s, the crackdown on civil society has intensified over the last year amid mounting economic hardship.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aina-shormanbayeva/kazakhstan-showcase-for-shrinking-civic-space

Kazakhstan to export up to 5 Bcm/year of natural gas to China as of 2017

Kazakhstan, which used to transit Turkmen and Uzbek gas to China, will now export its own gas to the neighboring country

June 7 — “Kazakhstan is to debut gas exports to China under a memorandum of understanding signed Wednesday between KazMunaiGaz and CNPC, with up to 5 Bcm/year set to be moved to China from Kazakhstan in 2017-2018, national gas transportation operator KazTransGaz said in a statement.” READ MORE: https://www.platts.com/latest-news/natural-gas/moscow/kazakhstan-to-export-up-to-5-bcmyear-of-natural-26749259

Rising Kashagan output weighs on Kazakhstan’s CPC oil price

Kazakhstan has to meet its oil production cut commitments and at the same time increase crude output at its giant Kashagan oilfield to ensure return of investment

June 8 — “One of the world’s fastest growing crude streams, Kazakhstan’s CPC, is battling to find new buyers in a market saturated with light grades and with core European customers reluctant to buy more of the pungent oil blend even as its value has plunged.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kazakhstan-oil-cpc-analysis-idUSKBN18Z2C0

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan business ready to support State project but investors need stability guarantees

If the process is transparent and investors are provided with guarantees that they could work without hindrance in the country, they will come to Kyrgyzstan

June 4 — “Investors, both internal and external, can support the Kyrgyz State’s Taza Koom (Clean Society) project, but their investments will depend on conditions and guarantees provided by the State, the International Business Council based in Bishkek says.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18131-kyrgyzstan-business-ready-to-support-state-project-but-investors-need-stability-guarantees

End Of UN Contraceptive Program In Kyrgyzstan A Bitter Pill For Many

The UNFPA has spent $3 million to provide free contraceptives in Kyrgyzstan over the past five years, but now the Kyrgyz government has to fund the program

June 4 — “After giving birth to her fourth child at the age of 29, Maral settled on a family plan: she wouldn’t have any more kids, at least for now. That was nearly seven years ago, and there have been no surprises. After making her decision, Maral consulted with a gynecologist who told her that she was eligible to receive birth control pills at her clinic in Kyrgyzstan’s northwestern Talas Province.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-contraceptive-pill-un-program/28527777.html

Kyrgyzstan interested in assembly plants for Belarusian farm equipment

Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, both being member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, may jointly assemble agricultural machinery from Belarus, a leading agro machinery producer since Soviet times

June 5 — “Kyrgyzstan is interested in setting up assembly plants for Belarusian farm equipment, Nurbek Murashev, minister of agriculture, food industry, and amelioration of Kyrgyzstan, chairman of the Belarus- Kyrgyzstan intergovernmental commission for trade and economic cooperation on Kyrgyzstan’s behalf, told reporters during the session of the intergovernmental commission on 5 June” READ MORE: http://eng.belta.by/economics/view/kyrgyzstan-interested-in-assembly-plants-for-belarusian-farm-equipment-102005-2017/

Kyrgyzstan: Tree-Chopping Divides Greens and Urban Planners

As the number of cars in Bishkek steadily grows, authorities are forced to adopt radical road-building programs, some of which require the removal of trees

June 6 — “Without warning, city workers descended on a leafy street recently in Kyrgyzstan’s capital to begin chopping down trees. The scene that unfolded on Toktonaliev Street on June 2 was the culmination of a mounting confrontation between authorities determined to make Bishkek more convenient for motorists, and residents appalled at the gradual, but steady ravaging of their once-verdant city.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83886

TAJIKISTAN

WFP Tajikistan school meals recipe book named best in the world

International donors continue providing assistance to Tajikistan’s population and the country’s education and healthcare spheres, with a special focus of children

June 3 — “The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Tajikistan School Meals Recipe Book was named “Best in the World” at the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, held in Yantai, China, this week, the WFP said on June 2.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18127-wfp-tajikistan-school-meals-recipe-book-named-best-in-the-world

Tajikistan Wages War on Dual-Citizenship Holders

According to estimates, between 300,000 and 500,000 Tajiks have received Russian citizenship over the past two decades, as even more Tajik citizens have been migrant workers in Russia

June 7 — “Tajikistan’s National Bank has fired 30 employees for possessing dual citizenship. Faraj news website cited unnamed sources as saying the National Bank had previously set out requirements to staff with second passports to either give up their other citizenship or quit. Russia is the only country with which Tajikistan has a dual citizenship treaty.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83891

CIS Anti-Terrorism Center Holds First Military Exercises in Tajikistan

Russia is stepping up its military assistance and cooperation with Tajikistan as the security situation has deteriorated in neighboring Afghanistan

June 7 — “On May 30, troops from Russia and Tajikistan launched Dushanbe-Anti-Terror-2017—the final stage of a six-part exercise held in six different countries, including Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus, which began on May 23 (Avesta, May 24).” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/cis-anti-terrorism-center-holds-first-military-exercises-tajikistan/

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan receives new combine harvesters from Germany

The Turkmen government pursues the goal of fully meeting the country’s needs for grain, and increasing the yields of cotton, a major hard-currency earner for the country along with natural gas

June 6 — “On the eve of the grain-harvesting campaign, Turkmenistan has received the first batch of TUCANO 430 combine harvesters of the German company CLAAS. A ceremony of receiving the new agricultural machinery was held in Ak Bugday etrap of Akhal velayat (province), the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported on June 5.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18141-turkmenistan-receives-new-combine-harvesters-from-germany

Turkmenistan leader wants to end free power, gas, and water

The ongoing economic crisis forces Turkmen authorities to abandon the longtime practice of providing free electricity and natural gas to the population

June 7 — “The president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, slammed his country’s policy of giving away energy and water to citizens as “ineffective.” The subsidies were introduced by his predecessor 24 years ago.” READ MORE: http://www.dw.com/en/turkmenistan-leader-wants-to-end-free-power-gas-and-water/a-39152012

Turkmenistan: Hosting Asian Games Amid Widespread Repression

Turkmenistan’s 100-day countdown to hosting of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games puts spotlight on the country’s rights abuses

June 7 — “Turkmenistan’s atrocious human rights record risks completely overshadowing its hosting of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games unless the leadership of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) urge the Turkmen government to address human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) said” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/07/turkmenistan-hosting-asian-games-amid-widespread-repression

Turkmenistan: Playing Games as the Economy Sinks

The Turkmen government continues spending billions on large-scale projects aimed to raise the country’s image (as the upcoming Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games), as the economy is going down

June 8 — “Turkmenistan is a study in contrasts. The opulent marbled capital, Ashgabat, and glitzy seaside resort town, Avaza, are usually pictured empty of all but manufactured crowds cheering the arrival of the president. Meanwhile, non-state media have been reporting lines for basic goods for several months.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/turkmenistan-playing-games-as-the-economy-sinks/

UZBEKISTAN

Reform or Regime Consolidation? Azimov Dismissed From Deputy Prime Minister Post

In an expected move, President Mirziyoyev has finally sidelined his would-be rival who could but failed to succeed the late President Islam Karimov

June 6 — “Rustam Azimov, once floated as a possible successor to Islam Karimov, seems to have been sidelined for good.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/reform-or-regime-consolidation-azimov-dismissed-from-deputy-prime-minister-post/

The Praise Problem: Uzbekistan Bans Soppy Paeans To Presidents

Uzbek authorities have warned that singing the praises of a sitting head of state could cost singers and songwriters their licenses to perform

June 7 — “Dedicating flattering songs, books, and movies to sitting presidents is generally the rule in post-Soviet Central Asia, where regimes have gone to great lengths to establish cults of presidential personality. Uzbekistan wants us to believe it has become an exception.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-mirziyaev-bans-musical-praise-berdymukhammedov-nazarbaev/28534163.html

Uzbekistan: President Appeals to Muslims “Gone Astray”

For the first time in Uzbekistan, the President appeared to admit that the perceived problem of extremism may in part be the fault of the authorities

June 7 — “The custom in Uzbekistan has for many years been to speak about suspected radical Islamists in terms of sinister plots to sow death and destruction. Accordingly, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s public remarks during a visit to Andijan over the weekend marked a curious development — albeit one the significance of which it may take some time to decipher.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83896

Uzbekistan offers 29 mineral deposits to foreign investors

Uzbekistan has large mineral reserves of more than 1,800 mineral deposits but their development requires large financial investments

June 8 — “Uzbekistan has offered 29 deposits of strategically important solid minerals, including 12 gold deposits to foreign investors for industrial development. The investors were also invited to develop eight deposits of tungsten and three deposits of uranium, iron and lithium, each, in accordance with the Uzbek government’s decree.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/114436.html

AFGHANISTAN

Why the US Must Stay the Course in Afghanistan

A researcher says the US needs to remain steadfast in Afghanistan, and remain committed to denying the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS another safe haven in that country

June 8 — “The desire to “bring the boys home” after war’s end is deeply engrained in the American psyche. Americans tend to get impatient with long-lasting military commitments overseas and like to see an end in sight. It is an understandable and noble impulse, and reflects the deep connection many Americans feel with family, friends, and neighbors serving in the military.” READ MORE: http://dailysignal.com/2017/06/08/us-must-stay-course-afghanistan/

Hekmatyar Warns Against Efforts to Topple Afghan Government

Kabul hopes a deal with the notorious warlord would encourage other militants to seek peace with the Afghan government, but the Taliban have categorically rejected the Hekmatyar peace deal

June 8 — “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the warlord who entered a peace deal with President Ashraf Ghani’s administration, said he would not allow anyone to overthrow the government illegally because efforts to do so would result in Kabul being overrun by Taliban.” READ MORE: https://www.voanews.com/a/afghanistan-hekmatyar-ghani/3892322.html

Afghanistan’s ‘Kabul Process’ Kicks Off Amid Regional Shifts

Kabul has launched a new Afghan-led and Afghan-owned inclusive peace process as the country is experiencing an upsurge in terror and fighting

June 9 — “Afghanistan initiated the ‘Kabul Process’ this week, an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned inclusive peace process. This is in contrast to the other peace processes like the Russia-China-Pakistan trilateral that had even excluded Afghanistan when discussing the future of a presumably terrorism-free and militancy-free Afghanistan.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/afghanistans-kabul-process-kicks-off-amid-regional-shifts/

Regional Power Play In Afghanistan And India’s Policy Options – Analysis

Analyst says India needs to take a clear position in partnering with the US or any other regional power or bloc in addressing the causes of instability in Afghanistan

June 9 — “On May 31, a truck bomb exploded in central Kabul killing nearly 100 people and injuring hundreds others. The continuing ghastly violence serves as a reminder of the difficulties the country has encountered in its search for a semblance of peace and stability.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasiareview.com/09062017-regional-power-play-in-afghanistan-and-indias-policy-options-analysis/

WORLD

One Belt, One Road: Russian dreams exceed reality

The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor article argues that Moscow and Beijing pursue rather different goals when partnering in implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative

June 8 — “Russian President Vladimir Putin made another trip to China last month (May 14–15) to address the Belt and Road Forum. But his speech at the summit’s opening highlighted that Russia and Chi¬na ascribe completely different meaning to Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18155-one-belt-one-road-russian-dreams-exceed-reality

Beware of Beijing

Carnegie India’s director believes that India should utilise Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, but it must sidestep ambushes by China and Pakistan

June 8 — “In Astana, Kazakhstan, this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will tick off a box that has long been on India’s wishlist — full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).” READ MORE: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/beware-of-beijing-4693739/

Putin warns IS plans to destabilize southern Russia and Central Asia

As Russia and Central Asian states face increased terrorism threat, the role of the SCO’s counterterrorism agency is also increasing

June 9 — “The Islamic State terror group (IS, outlawed in Russia) plans to destabilize the situation in southern Russia and Central Asia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting between the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states.” READ MORE: http://tass.com/politics/950688

Sergey Kwan

TCA