Weekly Digest of Central Asia


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.



U.S.-Kazakhstan relations: a case for people-to-people diplomacy

A former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan says that people-to-people relationships are the absolute core of diplomacy, which includes educational and cultural exchange programmes

June 27 — “If you ask American ambassadors what resources and program they cannot do without, almost every single one will answer, “Our exchange programs that provide people-to-people experiences”. READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/06/u-s-kazakhstan-relations-a-case-for-people-to-people-diplomacy/

Kazakhstan: A model of inter-ethnic tolerance and social harmony

Colin Stevens writes that Kazakhstan inherited a unique system for managing the needs of ethnic minorities, and has been promoting a “dialogue of civilizations” for some years

June 27 — “Over the years it has fashioned a multi-ethnic civic nation and also established the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan to oversee the work of creating a uniform national identity. Kazakhstan is certainly multi-ethnic: 59.2% of the population is Kazakh, 29.6% is Russian, while 10.2% comprises Germans, Tatars, Ukrainians, Uzbek and Uyghurs.” READ MORE: https://www.eureporter.co/featured/2017/06/27/kazakhstan-a-model-of-inter-ethnic-tolerance-and-social-harmony-2/

Eni, KMG strengthen ties offshore Kazakhstan

The Italian and Kazakh companies will operate a block which is thought to hold potential for large hydrocarbon resources in the Caspian Sea

June 27 — “SC KazMunayGas (KMG) has signed an agreement that confirms the transfer to Eni of 50% of subsoil use rights for the Isatay block in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea.” READ MORE: http://www.offshore-mag.com/articles/2017/06/eni-kmg-strengthen-ties-offshore-kazakhstan.html


As Kazakhstan and Israel mark 25 years of diplomatic relations, the Israeli ambassador to Kazakhstan says that Kazakhstan is one of Israel’s major friends

June 27 — “Mutual exchange of technologies, flourishing business connections and warm bilateral diplomatic relations are the main characteristics of Israel and Kazakhstan, said Michael Brodsky, the Israeli ambassador to Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Kazakhstan-Allied-with-Muslim-bloc-but-great-friend-of-Israel-498008

It is in Amercia’s interest to keep Kazakhstan engaged – and its side

The Director of the Foreign Policy Center at the Heritage Foundation says the best way for the U.S. to weave its way through the challenges of the Central Asia region is by having a strong bilateral relationship with Kazakhstan

June 29 — “This month Kazakhstan kicked off Astana Expo 2017, the first international exposition to be held in the former Soviet Union. The theme of Astana’s Expo is “Future Energy”. Heads of Asian and European powers, including President Xi Jinping, Indian Premier Narendra Modi, and King of Spain Felipe VI, among others, opened the Expo together with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.” READ MORE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/it-is-in-amercias-interest-to-keep-kazakhstan-engaged_us_5954a8ebe4b0326c0a8d0dde

Kazakhstan: the crossroads of the new Silk Road

The Economist writes that Kazakhstan, the world’s largest landlocked country, is open for business and investment but only half-ready for it

June 30 — “WHEN an authoritarian ruler builds a gigantic dark globe, he should not be surprised that people call it the “Death Star”. But whereas the Death Star from “Star Wars” was a tool for wiping places off the map, the Kazakh pavilion at Expo 2017, which opened in June in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, is supposed to put the Central Asian country of 18m on the map, especially for investors.” READ MORE: http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21724435-worlds-biggest-landlocked-country-open-business-only-half-ready-it-kazakhstan


Kyrgyzstan farmers face challenges when exporting products to EEU market

To increase agricultural exports to EEU countries, Kyrgyzstan needs certified laboratories for its products, logistics and processing enterprises for its fruit, vegetable, meat and milk, and development of agricultural cooperatives

June 25 — “Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov recently inspected the Issyk-Kul regional plant quarantine laboratory and was impressed with its modern equipment and qualified staff.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18242-kyrgyzstan-farmers-face-challenges-when-exporting-products-to-eeu-market

China, Kyrgyzstan border forces hold exercises to stop arms smuggling

Both Beijing and Bishkek are concerned about security in China’s Xinjiang, the region bordering Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which is the place of continuous unrest caused by militant separatists from the Muslim Uighur minority

June 27 — “Chinese and Kyrgyzstan border forces held exercises on Tuesday in China’s Xinjiang region to bolster defenses against the smuggling of weapons, China’s state media reported. China has stepped up security in Xinjiang in its far west amid fears of attacks by militants from the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority.” READ MORE: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-kyrgyzstan-idUSKBN19I1BI?il=0

Kyrgyzstan: Alleged Chinese Embassy Attackers Jailed, Questions Linger

Kyrgyzstan is interested in security cooperation with China, the country’s main infrastructure investor. Hence Bishkek’s desire to find and punish the perpetrators of last year’s attack on the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek

June 28 — “A court in Kyrgyzstan has sentenced three people to lengthy jail terms for their alleged role in the car bomb attack on China’s embassy last August, but many questions remain over the rigor of the 10-month long investigation.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84151

‘The Soviet times were good’: Kyrgyzstan local reveals that life was worry-free under USSR rule… but now ‘extremist Islam is blighting the country’

A 36-year-old Kyrgyz spoke to MailOnline Travel about the impact of independence on Kyrgyzstan, her concern about the rapid spread of Islam and the radicalization of Muslims in the country

June 30 — “’The Soviet times were good, we didn’t have to worry about our futures,’ Gulzat Akmatbekova, 36, says with a glint of nostalgia in her eyes. The part-time Saga holiday tour guide from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, speaks ardently about the past under USSR rule, with free health care, free housing and a buoyant job market.” READ MORE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-4632216/Kyrgyzstan-local-reveals-life-good-USSR-rule.html


The Many Agents Of Tajikistan’s Path To Peace

20 years after the end of the civil war, Tajik President Rahmon has removed from the political stage his main opponent — the Islamic Rennaissance Party of Tajikistan, consolidated his grip on power, and cleared the way to lifelong rule

June 26 — “On June 27, Tajikistan marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Tajik Peace Accord that ended a five-year civil war there. The man who will be taking much of the credit for achieving peace in Tajikistan is President Emomali Rahmon, aka “Asosguzori sulhu vahdati milli — Peşvo’i millat” (“Founder of Peace and Unity — Leader of the Nation.”)” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-civil-war-peace-20th-anniversary-rahmon-nuri/28579612.html

Russian helicopter crews hold drills in Tajikistan

Russia has intensified training of its military stationed in Tajikistan as the situation remains tense on the Tajik-Afghan border as fighting with the Taliban increases in the nearby Afghan provinces

June 28 — “Russian helicopter crews deployed in Tajikistan are conducting training flights aimed at searching and detecting militant groups in mountainous areas of the country, a spokesman for Russia’s Central Military District said on Wednesday.” READ MORE: http://tass.com/defense/953606

AllurGroup ships first batch of Kazakh-manufactured cars to Tajikistan

The Kazakh-made JAC S3 crossovers, chosen due to their high cross-country ability and affordability, will renew the taxi fleet of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe

June 29 — “AllurGroup shipped June 24 the first batch of 55 Chinese-designed JAC cars worth almost $600,000 to Tajikistan, according to the company’s website.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/06/allurgroup-ships-first-batch-of-kazakh-manufactured-cars-to-tajikistan/

Tajikistan dreams of regional electricity grid rebirth

Tajikistan possesses huge hydro power resources for electricity generation, but the country mainly produces electricity in summer and experiences power shortages and blackouts in winter. Improved regional cooperation with neighboring countries in the power sector can help Dushanbe solve the problem. The EurasiaNet.org article analyses the problem

June 30 — “Brutal winter weather in the late 2000s delivered a knockout blow to Central Asia’s unified power grid. Now, almost a decade later, tentative efforts are underway to promote a comeback of the network. Tajikistan is the Central Asian state currently most interested in reviving the grid.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18273-tajikistan-dreams-of-regional-electricity-grid-rebirth


Army officers in Turkmenistan reportedly convicted for practicing non-traditional Islam

There have been practically no reports on incidents related to religious issues or Islamic extremism in the reclusive Turkmenistan, but the situation may change

June 27 — “The foreign-based independent website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports that officers from the 22nd motor rifle division of the Turkmen armed forces have been accused of disseminating non-traditional Islam and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18251-army-officers-in-turkmenistan-reportedly-convicted-for-practicing-non-traditional-islam

Uzbekistan ups gas condensate supply from Turkmenistan

As Uzbekistan’s oil and gas reserves and production lag behind the country’s needs for hydrocarbons, Tashkent has looked to Turkmenistan’s huge gas resources

June 27 — “Uzbekistan will increase the supply of gas condensate from Turkmenistan to load the Bukhara oil refinery, Turkmenneft state concern reported citing Uzbekneftegaz National Holding Company.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/115363.html

Turkmenistan, Japan hold business talks

Turkmenistan is the only country in Central Asia where large Japanese companies have invested in big oil and gas projects. In other Central Asian countries, Japan’s cooperation is mainly focused on social and healthcare assistance programs

June 28 — “Tokyo hosted the 12th joint meeting of the Turkmen-Japanese and Japanese-Turkmen committees on economic cooperation, Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a message. The Turkmen delegation was headed by the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashid Meredov.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/casia/turkmenistan/2771283.html


Uzbekistan censors “inappropriate” music videos

The new law aims to “prevent the dissemination of music videos that do not correspond to national traditions and the mentality of the Uzbek people”, though the move strengthens the already existing censorship in the country

June 26 — “As of 1 July 2017, singers in Uzbekistan will require state permission to post their music videos on YouTube, and risk losing their performance licence if they do not adhere to the proposed legislation.” READ MORE: https://www.calvertjournal.com/news/show/8481/uzbekistan-censors-discordant-music-videos

World Bank accused over child labour in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan continues using child and forced labor in its cotton sector, a major hard-currency earner for the country. In recent years, however, the situation in this sphere has been improved

June 27 — “The World Bank has been accused of turning a blind eye to the use of child and forced labour in Uzbekistan where a new report says schools have been pressing children as young as 10 to pick cotton as recently as last autumn.” READ MORE: https://www.ft.com/content/215070fc-5b4b-11e7-9bc8-8055f264aa8b

Uzbekistan, Lukoil eye new projects in oil and gas sector

Along with Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Russia’s LUKOIL is one of the largest investors in Uzbekistan’s oil and natural gas sector

June 29 — “Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and CEO of PJSC LUKOIL Vagit Alekperov, who arrived in Tashkent for a working visit, discussed the implementation of current projects and preparation for prospective projects in the oil and gas sector, the Uzbek national news agency (UzA) reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/115439.html

Uzbekistan raises refinancing rate amid growing inflation

Despite the government’s reform plans, Uzbekistan’s economy continues experiencing difficulties and price hikes, as well as the weakening of the national currency against the dollar

June 29 — “Uzbekistan’s Central Bank has raised the refinancing rate to 14 percent per annum starting from June 28. The decision was due to the increasing inflation in the country and the need to limit the increased risk of further inflation, the Jahon information agency reports.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18262-uzbekistan-raises-refinancing-rate-amid-growing-inflation


China to support Afghanistan-Pakistan dialogue, Afghan peace process

China, in conjunction with Pakistan, seems to play a bigger role in Afghanistan’s peace process. Beijing is a major infrastructure investor in Afghanistan, while Islamabad’s influence on the Taliban makes it the key player in the game

June 27 — “China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have agreed to form a foreign ministers dialogue mechanism, said a joint statement issued by the three countries’ foreign ministries, after China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past weekend, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews agency reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18249-china-to-support-afghanistan-pakistan-dialogue-afghan-peace-process

ISIS, Aided by Ex-Taliban Groups, Makes Inroads in Northern Afghanistan

With their defeat in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State militants may soon relocate to other regions including Afghanistan, and the Taliban is the only real force capable of resisting ISIS expansion

June 28 — “Two Taliban groups that recently switched allegiance to the Islamic State have overrun an embattled district in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 government fighters and a large number of civilians, according to Afghan officials in the area.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/world/asia/isis-northern-afghanistan.html

Why Is Afghanistan the ‘Graveyard of Empires’?

Throughout history, not one foreign power and invader has ever succeeded in conquering Afghanistan, and the history is repeating

June 30 — “Where is the United States’ war in Afghanistan going? Recently, the Trump administration gave Secretary of Defense James Mattis the authority to set troop levels there; so far, rumors suggest that 4,000 more American troops may soon be on their way to Afghanistan. However, this may not be enough; occupying and administering Afghanistan is a herculean task that few empires have ever had success with.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/why-is-afghanistan-the-graveyard-of-empires/

Pentagon asked to identify larger role for India in Afghanistan

India, the largest regional contributor to Afghan reconstruction that has pledged some USD 2 billion for the purpose since 2001, certainly deserves and should play an important role in Afghanistan’s peace process and reconstruction

June 30 — “The Pentagon has been asked by a key Senate panel to identify ways so that India can play a larger role in providing increased and coordinated defence- related support to war-torn Afghanistan.” READ MORE:


US Deploys ISIS to Central Asia

Analyst says ISIS’s deployment to Central Asia, closer to Russia’s borders, could be a US plot to destabilize and create turmoil in Russia

June 26 — “America created and supports ISIS, al-Qaeda and other well-known terrorist groups – using their fighters to advance its imperium.” READ MORE: http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-deploys-isis-to-central-asia/5596144

Terrorism: Central Asia migrants in Moscow recruited by ISIS

Feeding off of poverty, unemployment and lack of education, ISIS has utilized social media as a successful tool in transnational recruitment, and Central Asian migrants in Russia are an easy recruitment pool

June 27 — “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets Central Asians in their home countries online and abroad, and thousands are believed to be fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18254-terrorism-central-asia-migrants-in-moscow-recruited-by-isis

Summits, Roads and Suspended Disbelief in Central Asia

With its Belt and Road Initiative, and the addition of Pakistan and India to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China has embarked on a difficult task of untying the Pamir Knot, a researcher believes

June 27 — “Towering above the arid steppes of Central Asia is the rooftop of the world, the Pamir Knot, where Earth’s most striking mountain ranges – the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakorum, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush – converge, forming a bulging mass of piercing rock and glacial ice.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/summits-roads-and-suspended-disbelief-in-central-asia/

Sergey Kwan