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.


Almaty hosts Kazakhstan-Thailand business forum

The purpose of the forum was to develop trade relations and establish joint ventures with Thai companies in Kazakhstan

July 3 — “A Kazakh-Thai business forum was held in Almaty, organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Kazakhstan and the Almaty Council of Businesswomen, the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan reported on July 1.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18279-almaty-hosts-kazakhstan-thailand-business-forum

Kazakhstan Has Become A Model Of Tolerance And Inter-ethnic And Inter-religious Friendship: Ambassador

Ambassador of Kazakhstan to India speaks about his country’s achievements and prospects of cooperation between the two countries

July 3 — “Kazakhstan was the centre of international activity last month. With Astana Expo 2017, world arrives in Kazakhstan, exhorting the very debate on ‘future energy’, and leading the Shanghai Organization cooperation (SCO) summit, where India was accorded the status of long awaited permanent member.” READ MORE: http://www.businessworld.in/article/Kazakhstan-Has-Become-A-Model-Of-Tolerance-And-Inter-ethnic-And-Inter-religious-Friendship-Ambassador/03-07-2017-121359/

Kazakhstan population reaches 18 million

Since Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991 to date, the share of ethnic Kazakhs in the country’s population has grown from 40 to over 70 percent, though Kazakhstan still remains a multi-ethnic country with a strong spirit of inter-ethnic accord

July 4 — “Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced at the recent Fifth World Kurultai of Kazakhs that Kazakhstan’s population had reached 18 million.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/07/kazakhstan-population-reaches-18-million/

Astana Explains Why Kazakhstan Has No Plans to Send Servicemen to Syria

Kazakhstan says that sending Kazakh troops to Syria requires authorization by the United Nations. Besides, Astana apparently has no desire to get involved in the Syrian conflict on the ground, providing a platform for the Syrian talks in Astana instead

July 5 — “Zhainakov commented on remarks by head of the Russian delegation at Astana talks Alexander Lavrentyev who said earlier in the day that Moscow would welcome Kazakhstan’s decision to send peacekeepers to monitor the situation in de-escalation zones in Syria.” READ MORE: https://sputniknews.com/asia/201707051055257579-kazakhstan-troops-syria/

Kazakhstan devotes record funding to attract foreign investment

The money will develop the country’s industrial zones and parks, and the infrastructure of special economic zones (SEZ) in the Almaty, Astana, Mangistau and Pavlodar provinces

July 6 — “The government has allocated a record 12.2 billion tenge (US$37.8 million) to attract foreign investment in 2017, reports Finprom.kz.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/07/kazakhstan-devotes-record-funding-to-attract-foreign-investment/

Protests Continue in Kazakhstan Over China’s Treatment of Kazakhs

There is a growing anger among Kazakhs with relatives in China over the Chinese authorities’ apparent crackdown on the Kazakh minority group in Xinjiang. Some 200,000 Kazakhs hold Chinese passports and permanent residence cards for Kazakhstan

July 6 — “Amid growing cross-border tensions over a dispute over Chinese restrictions on the free movement of Kazakhs to neighboring Kazakhstan, an elderly Kazakh mother has made an emotional plea to the country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to put pressure on Beijing to release her son, an ethnic minority Kazakh actor in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.” READ MORE: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/protests-continue-in-kazakhstan-over-chinas-treatment-of-kazakhs-07062017105333.html


Trump for President of Kyrgyzstan?

A poll showed Trump’s popularity in Kyrgyzstan — probably because of the local people’s desire to see new faces in Kyrgyz politics as well

June 30 — “When young, educated voting-age dwellers of Bishkek were asked by their peers this past spring whether they would vote for Donald Trump if they could in Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming presidential election, nearly 45 percent said they would not – but 51 percent expressed more or less openness to the idea.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/trump-for-president-of-kyrgyzstan/

Kyrgyzstan to create two technopolises for textile and garment industry

The clothing and garment industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of Kyrgyzstan’s economy with a big potential of export to EEU member countries. It is largely due to the government’s support of the industry that employs thousands of local citizens

July 3 — “Two sewing technopolises will be created in Kyrgyzstan — one in Voenno-Antonovka village of the Chui oblast (near Bishkek) and the other at the Bishkek Machine-Building Plant.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18283-kyrgyzstan-to-create-two-technopolises-for-textile-and-garment-industry

Kyrgyzstan facilitates export to EEU member states

From August 12, 18 new technical regulations of the Eurasian Economic Union will come into force, eliminating barriers to Kyrgyz exports to EEU countries

July 5 — “The government of Kyrgyzstan creates conditions for unimpeded export to the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sooronbay Zheenbekov defined resolution of the issue of unification of technical regulations as one of the main directions.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/115741.html

Kyrgyzstan: Destroying Independent Media, Mission Accomplished

Kyrgyzstan fell by four spots to 89th in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index 2017 — largely due to authorities’ lawsuits against independent media outlets

July 6 — “If the intention of Kyrgyzstan’s authorities was to destroy a prominent independent media outlet by suing it for libel, then top officials in Bishkek should crack open the champagne.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84251

Road traffic accidents increase dramatically in Kyrgyzstan

Reckless driving and pedestrians’ ignorance of traffic rules is a serious problem in Kyrgyzstan, which makes the situation on Kyrgyz roads really appalling

July 6 — “Pedestrian safety is becoming a major issue in Kyrgyzstan today. Just now, a few minutes ago before I started to write this article I nearly fell victim to a traffic accident myself: as I started to cross the road at an intersection a car driven at high speed drove through a red light, almost hit me and continued driving as if nothing had happened at all.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18302-road-traffic-accidents-increase-dramatically-in-kyrgyzstan


Two Iranian Organizations Shut Down in Tajikistan

As Tajikistan and Iran are experiencing political tensions, the Tajik government has restricted the activities of Iranian companies and forced many organizations related to Iran to shut down in Tajikistan

July 4 — “The economic and cultural offices of the Iranian embassy in Tajikistan’s northern province of Sughd have been closed, according to local media reports. It is said that the Iranian embassy has closed its two offices in the historical city of Khujand at the request of Tajik government.” READ MORE: http://ifpnews.com/exclusive/two-iranian-organizations-shut-tajikistan/

Tajikistan: Border Incidents Highlight Drug Trafficking Threat

This year, Tajik authorities have registered 32 illegal incursions of drug traffickers from the Afghan side of the border, as drugs trade remains a major source of funding of insurgency in Afghanistan

July 5 — “Border guards in Tajikistan have said two drug traffickers were killed in an exchange of gunfire after they attempted to cross over from Afghanistan.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84221

Pakistan, Tajikistan to boost trade, energy, defence ties

For landlocked Tajikistan, Pakistan with its transit potential and sea ports is an important partner in terms of regional connectivity

July 6 — “With a focus on regional connectivity, trade and energy, Pakistan and Tajikistan Wednesday agreed on exploring new avenues of cooperation by increasing collaboration in economy, defence and security, agriculture and education sectors.” READ MORE: http://nation.com.pk/national/06-Jul-2017/pakistan-tajikistan-to-boost-trade-energy-defence-ties

Tajikistan: opposition beds down and plots in Polish exile

After authorities in Tajikistan banned the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan in 2015, hundreds of Tajik opposition members have fled the country for the Middle East, Russia, and Europe, with Poland becoming an attractive place for Tajik political emigrants. A EurasiaNet.org article focused on the issue

July 7 — “The smell of plov and freshly prepared kulcha bread wafts improbably throughout the stairwell of an anonymous post-Soviet apartment building east of Warsaw. Places like Minsk Mazowiecki, a mid-sized town some 40 kilometers outside the Polish capital, have in the past couple of years become home to many families from Tajikistan – like that of Muhamadjon Kabirov.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18308-tajikistan-opposition-beds-down-and-plots-in-polish-exile


Turkmenistan plans to invest in textile production in Moldova

In exchange, Turkmenistan, one of the world’s largest cotton producers, is interested in importing wine and pharmaceutical products from Moldova

July 2 — “Turkmenistan plans to invest in textile production in Moldova’s Autonomous Unit of Gagauzia, the website of Autonomous region said in a message.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/business/economy/2772594.html

Afghanistan, Turkmenistan Sign Bilateral Agreements

Energy and transport are the main areas of cooperation between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, as Kabul needs Turkmen electricity and Ashgabat is interested in exporting its natural gas to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan

July 4 — “President Ashraf Ghani signed a number of bilateral agreements with his Turkmenistan counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, on Monday during a one-day official visit to Ashgabat.” READ MORE: http://www.tolonews.com/business/afghanistan-turkmenistan-sign-bilateral-agreements

Afghanistan and Turkmenistan: A Model for Regional Economic Cooperation

For Turkmenistan, Afghanistan is a key partner for the planned transit of Turkmen gas to Pakistan and India via TAPI pipeline, as well as importer of Turkmen electricity

July 6 — “Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, relations between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have consistently grown. But the past two years under the National Unity Government of Afghanistan have seen rapid expansion of bilateral ties between the two countries.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/afghanistan-and-turkmenistan-a-model-for-regional-economic-cooperation/


Uzbekistan and Russia to Restart Joint Military Exercises

After many years, Uzbekistan has resumed military cooperation with Russia, but the Uzbek foreign minister has said his country has no plans to rejoin the CSTO, a Russia-led post-Soviet security bloc

July 4 — “This October, Uzbekistan and Russia will hold their first joint military exercises since 2005, a dramatic move away from the anti-Russian policy of recently departed president Islam Karimov.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84206

Croon Jewels: Uzbekistan Outlaws ‘Adapted’ Foreign Tunes

The new measure targets adaptions — rather than cover versions in their original language — as a way to “defend culture and protect the country from works and performances that deceive the audience”

July 4 — “Authorities in Uzbekistan have forbidden musicians from localizing foreign songs or performing such adaptations, according to sources at the industry’s regulatory body, Uzbekkonsert, and in the media.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-outlaws-adapted-foreign-songs/28595785.html

HRW and BBC Returning to Uzbekistan?

Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister has announced a number of initiatives that would make the somewhat reclusive country more open to the outside world

July 5 — “In possibly its boldest gesture toward openness in years, Uzbekistan has announced that it is open to resuming cooperation with New York-based Human Rights Watch. And in a separate development, the BBC’s Uzbek service has advertised a position for a multimedia correspondent based in Tashkent — indicating that Tashkent is gradually warming to the idea of greater exposure to international media coverage.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84231

Uzbekistan’s position on use of transboundary water resources unchanged

Speaking on Uzbek television this week, Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister signaled that Tashkent has slightly softened its position to the Rogun dam project in neighboring Tajikistan

July 6 — “Uzbekistan has urged neighboring Tajikistan to take into account interests of countries in the lower reaches of rivers, while building world’s tallest dam for the Rogun hydroelectric power station.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/115786.html


Time to Say Goodbye to Afghanistan

As many analysts see no military solution to Afghan insurgency, a Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University believes that in Afghanistan, the US can safely let the Afghan people sort out their own fate

July 2 — “The window during which President Donald Trump can extricate U.S. forces from the mess in Afghanistan and blame his predecessors for the calamity is rapidly closing. A few more weeks, another surge, and he will be the third president to be saddled with this war; it will become his.” READ MORE: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/time-say-goodbye-afghanistan-21387

Afghanistan Reacts to Iran’s Comments On Dam Projects

Afghanistan and Iran are in a row over the use of transboundary water resources, as the Iranian president criticizes Afghanistan’s dam project that would reduce the water flow to Iran

July 5 — “Following comments by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Afghanistan’s dam projects, the Afghan Ministry of Water and Energy on Wednesday said building dams on Helmand River is Kabul’s top priority which is aimed at managing the country’s waters and improving the national economy.” READ MORE: http://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/afghanistan-reacts-iran’s-comments-dam-projects

To Win Afghanistan, Get Tough on Pakistan

The director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington says the United States could help Pakistan realize through tough measures that the gravest threat to its future comes from religious extremism it is fostering in its effort to compete with India

July 6 — “President Trump’s review of American policy in Afghanistan should involve adopting a tougher approach to Pakistan. Although the Taliban are said to control or contest 40 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, Taliban leaders operate from the safety of Pakistan.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/opinion/to-win-afghanistan-get-tough-on-pakistan.html

Analyst says US cannot win war in Afghanistan without Moscow

Afghan analysts says the Pentagon’s previous strategy in Afghanistan has obviously failed and alienated the local population from the US

July 7 — “The United States should team up with the major players in the region, most notably with Russia, to tackle the terror threat in the Middle East and Afghanistan, Ali Ahmad Karimi, an Afghan political observer, told Russia’s Sputnik news agency.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18307-analyst-says-us-cannot-win-war-in-afghanistan-without-moscow


Turkish Cargo to Connect Baltic Region with Central Asia

The Turkish airline plans to connect the Baltic region to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan through its extensive network of air routes

July 4 — “Turkish Airlines’ cargo carrier Turkish Cargo plans to provide very fast connections between the Baltic region and the Central Asia, Africa, Middle East and Far East, the airline’s Regional Cargo Manager Efe Ozler said.” READ MORE: http://www.aviationpros.com/news/12348880/turkish-cargo-to-connect-baltic-region-with-central-asia

Central Asia: all together now

Strategically located at the heart of Eurasia, Central Asia has been and will remain an important geopolitical region and a place where the interests of the world’s great powers confront each other. Yet, the region still has to forge its collective identity, and develop into what is called Greater Central Asia

July 5 — “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://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18296-central-asia-all-together-now

Silk Road Economic Belt: Challenges and Prospects

While pursuing its Silk Road Economic Belt project, China will have to compete with Russia and other regional and global powers for influence in the Central Asia region

July 6 — “As discussed in my last column that Central Asia constitutes the major part of the China’s Silk Road Economic Belt Strategy. According to this strategy China is building and planning to build a network of roads and railways through Central Asia which will ultimately connect China with the Middle East and Europe, it will also integrate China’s western regions to Central Asia.” READ MORE: http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/silk-road-economic-belt-challenges-and-prospects/254022.html

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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