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 to switch from Cyrillic to Latin: social and economic realities versus political zeal

The planned switch to Latin is unlikely to bring many changes, and will hardly weaken Russia’s position in the country as some commentators predict, unless Russia itself weakens its economic, military and political influence in Kazakhstan

June 18 — “Language is one of those issues over which emotions often prevail over the voice of reason. Yet, coexistence of more than one language on a single national territory is far more common than many people seem to think. Kazakhstan has adopted a plan for a switch of the Kazakh language from Cyrillic to Latin.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18206-kazakhstan-to-switch-from-cyrillic-to-latin-social-and-economic-realities-versus-political-zeal

Investors welcome push to prise open Kazakhstan

As Kazakhstan’s economy has experienced a downturn due to low oil prices, the government aims to start a new round of privatization and reforms

June 19 — “During a banquet at London’s Spencer House in April thrown by financier Jacob Rothschild, the octogenarian host gave his guests from Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund a gentle admonishment. Executives from the fund had spent the day explaining to potential investors their long-awaited privatisation programme to sell off state-run companies worth $70bn. Lord Rothschild felt a nagging sense of déjà vu.” READ MORE: https://www.ft.com/content/96dcbd4c-4a04-11e7-919a-1e14ce4af89b

Kazakhstan to reduce tax inspections

The government wants to create favourable conditions for business, while maintaining a high tax collection and reducing the number of tax inspections

June 21 — “The Kazakh government will reduce the number of tax inspections 37.5 percent in 2017, Minister of Finance Bakhyt Sultanov said during a June 19 joint session of both houses of Parliament.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/06/kazakhstan-to-reduce-tax-inspections/

Kazakhstan: Astana Airport Named After Nazarbayev

The move may be considered yet another attempt to strengthen President Nazarbayev’s cult of personality

June 21 — “In an inevitable development, the government of Kazakhstan has decided to name the airport in the capital city in honor of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. As soon as Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev signed a decree to that effect on June 20, the state machine kicked into high gear hailing the decision.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84071

SOCAR to partake in Caspian Depression development in Kazakhstan

The project’s implementation is expected to provide Kazakhstan with a stable source of oil and help avoid the decline in oil production which may otherwise occur in 15-20 years

June 21 — “Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, along with other interested companies, signed a memorandum of understanding on implementation of the Eurasia project, which envisages development of the Caspian Depression in Kazakhstan, the Kazakh Energy Ministry said June 21.” READ MORE: http://en.trend.az/business/energy/2769280.html

With big changes, Kazakhstan tries to chart a new path

Analyst says it’s about time Washington pay a little more attention to what’s happening in Kazakhstan

June 22 — “I started writing this column to help educate Americans on the former Soviet Union and its successor states. There is a dearth of understanding of these parts of the world in the West, a lack of knowledge about emerging trends that at times may cause the U.S. to miss important opportunities.” READ MORE: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jun/22/big-changes-kazakhstan-tries-chart-new-path/

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan: Lineage Associations and Informal Politics

The tribal and clan character of Kyrgyz society, inherited from centuries ago, continues to be an important, if not decisive, factor in Kyrgyzstan’s politics and social life

June 16 — “As Kyrgyzstan constructs a modern national identity, a social institution long considered to be a vestige of the past – lineage identity – continues to exert significant influence over the process. This fact needs to be recognized and addressed.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84036

Curtain Falls On Bishkek’s Lone LGBT Club Amid Worsening Atmosphere

The LGBT community in Kyrgyzstan is facing hard times, as it encounters intolerance from the majority of the population and the authorities

June 18 — “The old Asanbay car wash lies empty by day, a lonely mirage of heat dancing on the bare concrete forecourt as traffic rumbles in the distance. But once the sun sets on a Saturday night, scores of young people emerge from the darkness, descending upon the venue.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-lgbt-club-closing-gay-rights-homophobia/28561339.html

Water Stress in the Naryn River Basin

A study analyzed water chemistry from Kyrgyzstan’s Naryn River Basin to find changes in the contribution of mountain headwaters to river discharges that flow downstream to agricultural areas

June 22 — “Around the world, meltwater from snow and glaciers has provided surrounding communities with water for irrigation and hydropower, but climate change is altering the timing and volume of the annual water flow cycle.” READ MORE: http://glacierhub.org/2017/06/22/water-stress-in-the-naryn-river-basin-a-strain-on-the-community/

Bishkek’s Ak-Keme hotel in Kyrgyzstan transferred to state ownership with help of police

Conflicts between the state and investors have in no way improved the investment attractiveness of Kyrgyzstan

June 24 — “Early in the morning of June 22, police officers cordoned off the Ak-Keme hotel in Bishkek. All the hotel employees were taken out of the building and inventory of the hotel property began.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18240-bishkek-s-ak-keme-hotel-in-kyrgyzstan-transferred-to-state-ownership-with-help-of-police

TAJIKISTAN

Dushanbe-Astana Train Makes First Journey

The new rail route is to increase passenger traffic between Tajikistan and Kazakhstan and boost the number of visitors at the ongoing Expo 2017 exhibition in Astana

June 19 — “The first-ever train connecting the capitals of Tajikistan and Kazakhstan has concluded its first trip. The first Dushanbe-Astana train arrived in the Kazakh capital’s central railway station late on June 18.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-tajikistan-train-dushanbe-astana/28563464.html

Tajikistan to issue government securities for $1 billion to raise funds for Rogun power plant

The government of Tajikistan is doing its best to complete its major hydropower project, Rogun, which is to put an end to the country’s decades-long power shortages and even allow exporting electricity

June 22 — “Tajikistan plans to issue government securities for a total of $1 billion for placing in international financial markets, Avesta news agency reported. The lower house of Tajikistan’s parliament on June 21 approved the Government’s proposal to issue the securities, which will be used to raise financing for the country’s strategic project — construction of the Rogun hydro power plant.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18228-tajikistan-to-issue-government-securities-for-1-billion-to-raise-funds-for-rogun-power-plant

Signed, Sealed, Sprung: Tajik Lawyer Accused Of Faking Documents, Official Stamps To Free 10 Inmates

The profession of lawyer is becoming increasingly difficult, and often dangerous, in today’s Tajikistan

June 22 — “With dozens of satisfied clients, Tura Sunnatov seemed like one of the more successful defense lawyers in Tajikistan. In less than two years, he had secured the release of 10 inmates and helped reduce the prison sentences of 16 others.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-lawyer-faked-documents-officials-stamps-free-inmates/28573544.html

The long echo of Tajikistan’s civil war

This year marks 20 years since the signing of peace accords and the end of the civil war in Tajikistan, but the price of peace has cost the country its democratic freedoms, an author believes

June 23 — “On 11 and 12 February 1990, the streets of Dushanbe teemed with thousands of protesters. These protesters in the capital of Soviet Tajikistan demanded improved living conditions and the fair distribution of housing from the authorities.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bakhtiyor-sobiri/long-echo-of-tajikistan-s-civil-war

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmen President Pardons More Than 1,000 Prisoners

Such amnesties occur every year in Turkmenistan, but the number of prisoners in the country seems not to have decreased over the past years

June 19 — “State media in Turkmenistan are reporting that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has pardoned more than 1,000 prisoners. Media outlets quote Berdymukhammedov as saying that the amnesty is linked to the Night of Blessing, which is observed by Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-president-pardons-1000-prisoners/28563484.html

“Turkmenistan acting as transcontinental economic bridge”

Turkmenistan has a strategic location and can increase freight traffic along the International Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA)

June 21 — “Turkmenistan is acting as a transcontinental economic bridge of interaction among the European, Asia-Pacific and South-Asian economic systems, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said. He made the remarks at a meeting of the Turkmen State Security Council, the country’s State News Agency reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/115056.html

Foreign companies show interest in promising Turkmen market

The international exhibition in Ashgabat shows that despite the ongoing economic downturn in Turkmenistan, leading foreign companies are interested in the Turkmen market

June 21 — “In Ashgabat, the universal exhibition “International Economic Cooperation-2017” organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry was completed. Over 80 national and foreign companies, state and individual enterprises submitted proposals, developments and innovations, integrated solutions and services.” READ MORE: http://www.turkmenistan.gov.tm/_eng/?id=8576

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan: Teenager Death Prompts Education Reforms

The new Uzbek president has been trying to reform many aspects of life in Uzbekistan — from education to law enforcement agencies to healthcare to currency regime

June 19 — “The death of a young college student earlier this month has shocked Uzbekistan into greater awareness about the scale of bullying in the nation’s schools and energized the agenda for comprehensive reforms to the education system.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84041

Uzbekistan to inject $500 million into commercial banks

The money will be used for financing of targeted programs for social and economic development of Uzbekistan’s regions and financial support for businesses

June 21 — “Uzbekistan’s president has approved additional measures to improve financial stability and increase the capitalization of the country’s commercial banks, the Jahon information agency reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18222-uzbekistan-to-inject-500-million-into-commercial-banks

Why Indonesia is Important for Uzbekistan?

Uzbekistan can become an attractive tourist destination for travellers from Indonesia

June 21 — “Where can other soil in earth that can be the one of the oldest centers of human civilization, arts & culture? The answer is Central Asia as proved by numerous relics and evidences. I still can figure the oldest soil of that ancient Great Silk Road when standing firmly at the previous center of Karvon Saray, the place of gathering and exchanging the finest stuffs such as Silk, Rugs and Spices coming from all over the continents and Uzbekistan is the center of the location in Asia.” READ MORE: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/06/21/080886404/Why-Uzbekistan-is-Important-for-Indonesian

ICD to support SMEs in Uzbekistan

Development of the private sector and small business is among the economic priorities of the new Uzbek president

June 22 — “The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector arm of IDB Group, and Uzbekistan’s “Microkreditbank have entered into a Joint Strategic Collaboration to finance SMEs in Uzbekistan.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/115139.html

AFGHANISTAN

Trump’s massive Afghanistan mistake

The opinion piece authors believe that the Trump administration has not offered a single serious argument for the continued U.S. mission in Afghanistan

June 18 — “After President Trump gave Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced it will send an additional 4,000 troops to the embattled nation.” READ MORE: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/trump-massive-afghanistan-mistake-article-1.3253687

Instead of sending more soldiers to Afghanistan, Trump should do this

A defense analysts says that instead of sending more troops to Afghanistan, Washington could engage in diplomatic efforts in the region, including Islamabad, Kabul, and New Delhi, to convince Pakistan to cease or severely curtail cross-border support for the insurgency

June 21 — “In an effort to check the deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan, the Trump administration is expected to approve an increase in the number of United States troops there. Yet as should now be unmistakably clear, such a deployment will have no impact on the military balance there, will not improve prospects for peace, and perhaps most critically, will not accomplish any U.S. national security objectives.” READ MORE: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/instead-of-sending-more-soldiers-to-afghanistan-trump-should-do-this/article/2626700

Trump administration abruptly shutters diplomatic office on Pakistan and Afghanistan policy

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan office will be absorbed into the larger State Department division responsible for South and Central Asia

June 23 — “The Trump administration has moved to close the stand-alone State Department office devoted to policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan that was the brainchild of diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, current and former State Department officials said.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-administration-abruptly-shutters-diplomatic-office-on-pakistan-and-afghanistan-policy/2017/06/23/91f9654e-5843-11e7-b38e-35fd8e0c288f_story.html

Afghanistan: Taliban leader wants US and NATO troops out

The Taliban head in Afghanistan says constructive diplomatic relations could be possible if US and NATO troops get out of the country

June 23 — “Marking the Eid al-Fitr festival at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada issued a statement on Friday calling on US and NATO troops to leave Afghanistan.” READ MORE: http://www.dw.com/en/afghanistan-taliban-leader-wants-us-and-nato-troops-out/a-39387625

WORLD

Central Asia: All Together Now

The American Interest authors claim that Central Asian nations have paid a heavy price for the lack of cooperation and coordination among them

June 16 — “After a quarter century of independence, the fragmentation of Central Asia is evident to all. A senior official there might justifiably complain about how each country “[is] pursuing its own limited objectives and dissipating its meager resources in the overlapping or even conflicting endeavors of sister states.” READ MORE: https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/06/16/central-asia-all-together-now/

Hydropower A Hot Topic In Central Asia, And Not Just From The Usual Suspects

Central Asian countries, and rather surprisingly Uzbekistan, have been paying increased attention to developing their hydropower and renewable energy projects

June 19 — “There has been a lot of talk about hydropower in Central Asia since the start of May, and not just from the usual quarters. Perhaps it’s just officials watching the melting snows of spring and envisioning lights coming on in homes and factories across their countries, but hydropower seems to be a hot topic lately.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/central-asia-hydropower-uzbekistan-roghun-nurek-/28564134.html

In Central Asia, China finds a crowded playing field

Stratfor analyzes implications of Central Asia lying at the crossroads of trade and transit routes between China and Europe, and being the place of a power struggle between several global players

June 20 — “For thousands of years, Central Asia has served as a nexus between the world’s great powers. Goods and ideas have flowed across the region since ancient times, connecting China, Europe and the Middle East and giving rise to countless trade hubs, from Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan’s Almaty. In the 19th century, the British and Russian empires vied for dominance over Central Asia in the so-called Great Game (which Moscow ultimately won), a testament to the region’s enduring significance.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18218-in-central-asia-china-finds-a-crowded-playing-field

Sergey Kwan

TCA