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: Moody’s Improves Prognosis for Economy

The agency says the decision was due to the Kazakh economy’s increasing adaptiveness to low oil prices and the government’s rescue program for the banking system with bailouts of up to $1.5 billion which has been used to help banks with huge bad debts address their liabilities before international creditors

July 30 — “The era of economic doom and gloom may be coming to a close in Kazakhstan — at least that’s the assessment of international ratings groups like Moody’s. Moody’s earlier this week raised Kazakhstan’s sovereign rating to Baa3 and improved its prognosis from negative to stable, as the economy ministry buoyantly revealed.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84561

Russian experts on Kazakhstan-US military cooperation, possible US base in the Caspian

Although Russia remains the main military partner of Kazakhstan, the country seeks to develop military cooperation with other key global players, such as the US, China, and India

July 31 — “As Kazakhstan and the US have recently renewed an agreement on military cooperation, Russian experts consider the impact it will have on Russian-Kazakh ties, specifically with regard to prospects of a US naval base in the Caspian Sea, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reports.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18413-russian-experts-on-kazakhstan-us-military-cooperation-possible-us-base-in-the-caspian

EXPO Astana: Behind the Glitz

Many in Kazakhstan believe the EXPO which is going on in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana is a wasteful exercise, especially during tough economic times in the country which heavily depends on oil exports

Aug 1 — “Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, is hosting a specialized EXPO focusing on renewable energy sources and highlighting energy beyond traditional fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, which have been the staple of the country’s economy throughout its independence.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/expo-astana-behind-the-glitz/

Relationship with Kazakhstan pays off

A joint venture in Kazakhstan between China General Nuclear Power Corp and Kazakhstan’s state-owned atomic company is now a major uranium fuel supplier for China’s nuclear power plants

Aug 1 — “Overseas operations are crucial to the uranium subsidiary of China General Nuclear Power Corp. The State-owned energy giant has a particularly close relationship with Kazakhstan through CGNPC Uranium Resources Co Ltd.” READ MORE: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-08/01/content_30312980.htm

Dozens of Ethnic Kazakhs Detained Amid Security Crackdown in China’s Xinjiang

Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have been persecuting the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority which Beijing accuses of separatism and Islamic extremism. Xinjiang’s Kazakh ethnic minority, many of whom are Muslims, have recently been targeted in a similar manner to the Uyghurs

Aug 1 — “Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have detained dozens of ethnic Kazakhs in recent weeks amid an ongoing security crackdown targeting anyone with ties beyond China’s borders, sources told RFA.” READ MORE: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/kazakh-detainees-08012017132013.html

Kazakhstan: a promising and inspiring state

In an opinion piece, Ambassador of Indonesia to Kazakhstan in 2012-2017 talks about Kazakhstan’s development and its place in the world’s politics and economy

Aug 3 — “Kazakhstan is a promising state. The Great Steppe covers a large territory on the Eurasian continent: from west to east, it extends to almost 3,000 kilometres and from north to south to 1,650 kilometres – from the Altai Mountains to the Volga River delta and from the southern edge of the Western Siberian Plain to the foothills of the western Tien Shan Mountains. Kazakhstan inherits the golden history and has been granted an abundance of natural resources and magnificent human resources.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/08/kazakhstan-a-promising-and-inspiring-state/

KYRGYZSTAN

One in five girls and women kidnapped for marriage in Kyrgyzstan – study

Bride kidnapping is commonplace in rural areas and even in cities of Kyrgyzstan, even though it is illegal and often associated with raping of kidnapped girls

Aug 2 — “About one in five young women and girls in Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped for marriage, according to a study published on Wednesday which found their babies are smaller than average, probably due to their mothers’ psychological distress.” READ MORE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-4751730/One-five-girls-women-kidnapped-marriage-Kyrgyzstan–study.html

Kyrgyzstan: Two Opposition Trials Conclude With Lengthy Sentences

As the country heads for a presidential election this autumn, authorities in Kyrgyzstan have cracked down on opposition with several high-profile trials on charges varying from corruption to an attempt to overthrow the government

Aug 2 — “Courts in Kyrgyzstan wrapped up two separate politically charged trials on August 2, sentencing multiple opposition figures to lengthy terms in prison.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84611

Kyrgyzstan: Caught in a Web of International Investment Agreements

Since its independence, Kyrgyzstan has been involved in numerous investment arbitration disputes with foreign investors in the country’s economic projects

Aug 3 — “Corruption has not only limited FDI into Kyrgyzstan, but forced the country to accept unfavorable treaty terms.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/08/kyrgyzstan-caught-in-a-web-of-international-investment-agreements/

Presidential election campaign enters a new stage in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan continues surprising the world as a total of 58 people announced their intention to run for the country’s presidency. Most of them will certainly not enter the ballots, and the struggle for the presidential post will be carried out between 2-3 main candidates

Aug 3 — “On August 3, the Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan (CEC) registered the first presidential candidate, Temir Sariyev, nominated by the Ak Shumkar political party. From August 1, the CEC has stopped accepting applications from those wishing to run for presidency in the country.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18434-presidential-election-campaign-enters-a-new-stage-in-kyrgyzstan

TAJIKISTAN

Tajik Parliament Plans to Monitor Citizens Who Visit ‘Undesirable’ Websites

The Ministry of Internal Affairs will be following Tajiks online, a move that will help not only combat extremism and terrorism, but also supress any dissent in the country

July 31 — “Security services in Tajikistan will soon have the right to monitor citizens’ online activities, by keeping detailed records of SMS and mobile messages, social media comments, and anyone who visits “undesirable” websites.” READ MORE: https://globalvoices.org/2017/07/31/tajik-parliament-plans-to-monitor-citizens-who-visit-undesirable-websites/

Over 20 agreements signed at first Belarus-Tajikistan-Afghanistan business forum

Balarus looks to the markets of Tajikistan and Afghanistan for the export of its products and technology, especially with regard to Belarusian agricultural machinery and trucks, which are planned to be assembled in Tajikistan

Aug 1 — “More than 20 agreements were concluded during the first international Belarus-Tajikistan-Afghanistan business forum held in Dushanbe as part of the international expo and fair Tajikistan 2017, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” READ MORE: http://eng.belta.by/economics/view/over-20-agreements-signed-at-first-belarus-tajikistan-afghanistan-business-forum-103771-2017/

Tajik ‘Doctor’ Jailed For Treating Ex-OMON Commander Who Joined IS

Investigators said that ‘doctor’ Mahmadiev joined IS in 2015 and provided medical aid to former Tajik police commander Gulmurod Halimov, who joined the Islamic State extremist group in Syria

Aug 2 — “A court in Dushanbe has sentenced a Tajik man to 13 years in jail for giving medical aid to a high-profile defector, former Tajik police commander Gulmurod Halimov, who joined the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-doctor-jailed-islamic-state-mahmadiev-halimov/28654536.html

TURKMENISTAN

Ashgabat 2017 launch ticket sales in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan started to sell tickets for the largest sports event the country will host in its history — the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, to be held in Ashgabat in September

July 29 — “With more than 700,000 tickets available for more than 220 sessions, spectators will be able to watch the best athletes from Asia and Oceania compete from September 16 to 27 and across 21 sports.” READ MORE: http://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1053353/ashgabat-2017-launch-ticket-sales-in-turkmenistan

Is There A Terror Threat In Turkmenistan?

Authorities in Turkmenistan have strengthened security measures as the fighting is going on between Afghan government forces and the Taliban in regions bordering Turkmenistan. Also, there are reports about Islamic State militants active in northern Afghanistan

Aug 1 — “Is there a terror threat in Turkmenistan? That’s the big question as the Turkmen government takes actions that appear to support the idea. The authorities seem more obsessed with security than normal lately, and that’s saying a lot considering how tight the government’s grip over society has been since independence in late 1991.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-turkmenistan-terror-threat-afghanistan-islamic-state/28653368.html

Turkmenistan president blames officials for ‘inadequately low output’ in agriculture

The Turkmen president has expressed his discontent with the performance of agriculture, as the country’s economy is experiencing hard times amid lower prices for natural gas — the country’s main export item

Aug 2 — “President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov discussed the state of affairs in the country’s agricultural sector at a video conference with khyakims (governors) of velayats (provinces) on July 31, the Chronicles of Turkmenistan independent website reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18425-turkmenistan-president-blames-officials-for-inadequately-low-output-in-agriculture

Parody Video Mocks Turkmenistan’s Leader as an Action Hero

Like many authoritarian leaders, the Turkmen president likes theatrical displays: he has posed in front of cameras performing music, showing off his athletic capabilities, competing in a horse and car race, and riding a bicycle. Now the time has come to show his ‘military strength’

Aug 3 — “A propaganda video intended to show Turkmenistan’s president as a strong leader who knows his weapons instead became the butt of a global joke. When the repressive regime exalted its president this week with footage portraying him as a military man of action, an exiled opposition publication spliced in clips of Arnold Schwarzenegger suiting up in the 1985 action movie “Commando.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/03/world/asia/turkmenistan-propaganda-parody-video.html

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan: king cotton confronts caper uprising

Under the new president, Uzbekistan is pursuing a policy of agricultural diversification — reduction of land areas under cotton, which has been the country’s main agricultural export item for decades, in favor of fruit and vegetables, whose export is to bring in even more money to Uzbek farmers and more hard currency to the State

July 31 — “At the turn of the first millennium, Bukhara-born philosopher Avicenna recommended using liquid extracts from caper buds to soothe the effects of hemorrhoids and toothaches. The bush itself, he said, could be exploited to treat asthma or even purge the body of parasitic worms.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18416-uzbekistan-king-cotton-confronts-caper-uprising

Karimova’s Son Calls For Her Right To Defend Herself

Karimova’s son, who lives in London, says his mother is still alive only because she has removed from Uzbekistan computer files that can compromise many high-ranking Uzbek officials

Aug 2 — “The son of Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of the late longtime Uzbek President Islam Karimov, has called for her legal right to fight the charges against her in court. The son, whose name is also Islam Karimov, made the call after Uzbek prosecutors said late last month that Karimova was in custody following a 2015 conviction and faces additional charges in a continuing investigation.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-gulnara-karimova-son-speaks-out/28654269.html

Uzbekistan: Karimov’s Economic Model Comes Under Attack

For the first time since the death of longtime Uzbek President Islam Karimov last year, Uzbekistan’s television criticized the policy and ‘mistakes’ of the late Uzbek leader, a move that can be considered as the preparation of the public opinion for wider reforms

Aug 3 — “Criticizing the policies of the late president of Uzbekistan is very much in vogue these days. Late last month, a recently created state-run TV news channel featured analytical content criticizing the “mistakes” of the previous leadership — a description that could only be understood as a reference to Islam Karimov.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84626

Uzbekistan opens door to Central Asian integration

The new president of Uzbekistan seeks to restore the country’s role as a transit hub on the Silk Road by opening rail and air routes to neighboring Central Asian countries

Aug 3 — “A train pulls slowly out of Tashkent’s shiny railway station, only to grind to a halt half an hour later at Keles, on the Uzbek side of the border with Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Uzbekistan-opens-door-to-Central-Asian-integration

AFGHANISTAN

McCain threatens to give his own Afghanistan strategy to Trump

The Trump administration has been delaying with its Afghanistan plan for months amidst internal disagreements over possible increase in US troops number in the country

July 31 — “Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain on Monday threatened to present President Donald Trump with his own Afghanistan strategy if the Trump administration won’t develop its own.” READ MORE: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/31/politics/mccain-trump-afghanistan-strategy/index.html

Afghanistan in crisis: Why is the region still a hotbed of terrorism and violence?

As the AfPak region remains a hotbed of terrorism and violence, the U.S. must remain engaged in Afghanistan, General Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan says, and US troops withdrawal will only strengthen the Taliban and other militant groups there

Aug 2 — “Afghanistan is back in the news. Wednesday, 2 U.S. servicemembers were killed in a suicide bombing attack. Already this year, U.S. airstrikes are at their highest level since 2012, and President Trump is considering sending up to 3,000 more troops to support the 8,400 Americans already serving there.” READ MORE: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/08/02/afghanistan-in-crisis-why-is-region-still-hotbed-terrorism-and-violence.html

There’s nothing left for the US to win in Afghanistan

An opinion piece author names the reasons why the US should withdraw from the war in Afghanistan

Aug 2 — “This Monday, a Taliban suicide bomber penetrated a western neighborhood of Kabul where many Afghan politicians and security officials live, killing 24 Afghan government employees. That attack, yet another incident in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital, was the most recent of several large-scale insurgent bombings that have occurred this year.” READ MORE: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/theres-nothing-left-for-the-us-to-win-in-afghanistan/article/2630427

Is the top US commander in Afghanistan in Trump’s crosshairs?

The White House blames General Nicholson for he has been unable to win the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in America’s history

Aug 4 — “General John Nicholson, a highly respected four-star Army general with 35 years experience may be in the White House’s political crosshairs and become the first high-ranking military officer President Donald Trump decides to fire.” READ MORE: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/03/politics/nicholson-afghanistan-trump/index.html

WORLD

America’s next Security Competition Will Be in Central Asia

Analyst says the Central Asia region is changing and the United States cannot afford to just sit and look on how the process is going on without its participation

July 30 — “Today, Central Eurasia is undergoing another broad transformation, one that may lead to regional cooperation and growth. This was the take-home message from my visit to Kazakhstan last month for the 2017 World Expo and Astana Economic Forum. Unfortunately, the United States, distracted by Washington scandals, Russia investigations, the health-care debacle, and a myriad of foreign-policy crises, may miss the boat—but it had better not.” READ MORE: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-next-security-competition-will-be-central-asia-21710

Expert: Beijing’s Belt and Road Plan is About Building a New Chinese-Led Order for the 21st Century

Expert says that Beijing sees the Belt and Road Initiative as enhancing China’s security, helping meet its energy needs and countering the United States’ rebalancing to Asia begun in the administration of President Obama

Aug 3 — “Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative is part and parcel of President Xi Jinping’s strategy to solidify China’s emergence as a great economic and military power, a leading expert on Asian economies said Wednesday.” READ MORE: https://news.usni.org/2017/08/03/expert-beijings-belt-road-plan-building-new-chinese-led-order-21st-century

Afghan Express: Huge Transport Project Poised to Boost Trade Across Central Asia

Iran and Afghanistan plan to build one of the most ambitious railway projects in Central Asia which will create a new transport corridor across the region

Aug 3 — “This new project will allow Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan to gain direct access to Central Asian, European and Russian markets, effectively bypassing sea shipping lanes and the overcrowded Suez Channel.” READ MORE: https://kathmandutribune.com/afghan-express-huge-transport-project-poised-boost-trade-across-central-asia/

Sergey Kwan

TCA