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.


CSTO Rift Grows Between Moscow And Astana

Kazakhstan’s tensions with Russia over the CSTO’s mandate underscore Kazakh President Nazarbayev’s desire to demonstrate Astana’s foreign policy independence from Moscow

Aug 6 — “On June 22, Vladimir Shamanov, the head of the Russian State Duma’s Committee on Defense, announced that Russian military officials were holding talks with their colleagues in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan about the potential deployment of Kazakh and Kyrgyz peacekeepers to Syria.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-csto-kazakhstan-russia-nazarbaev/28661553.html


Israel and Kazakhstan have great potential to expand cooperation in agriculture, healthcare, telecommunications, security and renewable energy

Aug 7 — “Israel and its Eastern Mediterranean neighbors find themselves in a new geopolitical reality as the Atlantic Order ceases to be the predominant framework in which the region’s relations are conducted. With the weakening bloc led by the United States and its European allies ceding ground in the region to an emerging Eurasian order led by China and Russia, Eastern Mediterranean nations could benefit from examining how Kazakhstan attempts to constructively influence the developing economic and strategic contours of the new Eurasia.” READ MORE: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Israel-and-Kazakhstans-futurist-vision-for-Eurasia-501841

Kazakhstan: forecast and realities in economic development

Kazakhstan’s persistent dependence on oil export weighs heavily on trends in the country’s industrial output and capital investment patterns

Aug 8 — “Kazakhstan’s economy, Central Asia’s largest, witnessed an overall economic growth of 4.2 per cent on-year through the first half of the current year, according to the country’s national statistics agency. In the first quarter of the year, growth stood at 3.6 per cent, and in the first half of 2016 at only 0.1 per cent.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18455-kazakhstan-forecast-and-realities-in-economic-development

Kazakhstan reassures US oil producers over new sanctions

New US sanctions against Russia do not cover the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) pipeline which exports oil through Russia from Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oilfield in which US’ Chevron and Exxon Mobil hold stakes

Aug 9 — “US oil producers have been given assurances that their projects in Kazakhstan will not be affected by the new round of sanctions against Moscow, easing fears in the energy industry that the broad restrictions will not hit investments with indirect links to Russia.” READ MORE: https://www.ft.com/content/0d667aca-7c4b-11e7-9108-edda0bcbc928

ICAO promotes aviation development priorities in Kazakhstan

Aviation connectivity in important for Kazakhstan, the largest landlocked country in Central Asia, as Kazakhstan plans to establish itself as Central Asia’s air transport hub

Aug 10 — “Highlighting that only 5% of annual global development financing currently supports aviation infrastructure or related projects, ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu delivered a determined message to Kazakhstan’s political leaders last week on the need to prioritise air transport development in the years ahead and optimise the tremendous opportunities for economic development inherent in projected air transport growth.” READ MORE: https://www.internationalairportreview.com/news/37696/icao-promotes-aviation-development-priorities-kazakhstan/


Can authorities ensure safety of high-rise buildings in Kyrgyzstan capital?

Kyrgyzstan is experiencing a booming construction, but new high-rise buildings are often constructed in violation of the law and safety requirements, which in the future may lead to tragic consequences

Aug 6 — “The Bishkek City Planning Council has not yet decided whether to allow or not to build a 20-storey Hualin hotel in the place of the Naryn restaurant located in the heart of Bishkek, near the Victory Square.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18444-can-authorities-ensure-safety-of-high-rise-buildings-in-kyrgyzstan-capital

Yntymak Radio/TV Rebuilds Peace in Kyrgyzstan

The only station broadcasting in the Uzbek language on radio and TV helps maintain peace between the majority Kyrgyz and minority Uzbek populations in southern Kyrgyzstan

Aug 7 — “Helping warring ethnic communities find peace is a tall order for any broadcaster. But this is the mandate for Yntymak (the Kyrgyz word for “harmony”), a regional public radio/TV broadcaster in southern Kyrgyzstan.” READ MORE: http://www.radioworld.com/global/0007/yntymak-radiotv-rebuilds-peace-in-kyrgyzstan/340164

Parties Merge in Kyrgyzstan, Hoping to Get an Electoral Edge

Three opposition parties in Kyrgyzstan announced plans to merge and field a single candidate for the country’s presidential election scheduled for October 15

Aug 8 — “The leaders of three parties say they’re joining forces in the upcoming election.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/08/parties-merge-in-kyrgyzstan-hoping-to-get-an-electoral-edge/

In Kyrgyzstan, youth are at the forefront of building peaceful communities

A UN Women supported program in Kyrgyzstan has empowered 15,000 young people to prevent violence, promote gender equality and build tolerance of diversity in their communities in remote villages

Aug 9 — “It’s Saturday morning in Asylbash village, located in the northernmost Chui region of Kyrgyzstan. Fifteen-year-old Diana Ruslan kyzy is preparing to go to school for a peer education session with her classmates. They will discuss about violence against women and girls in their community and organize local initiatives.” READ MORE: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2017/8/feature-kyrgyzstan-youth-at-the-forefront-of-building-peaceful-communities


Life After Islamic State: Pardoned Tajik Militants Navigate Road To Reintegration

After Tajikistan amended its criminal laws in 2015, allowing authorities to pardon Tajik fighters who voluntarily return home and repent joining foreign militant groups, some 100 Tajik nationals have returned from Syria and Iraq

Aug 6 — “Clad in a modern two-piece suit and a tie and surrounded by close family and friends, Furqat Vatanov last month celebrated his wedding with a banquet, a ceremony the confessed former Islamic State (IS) recruit from Dushanbe says he thought would never happen.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-islamic-state-pardoned-militants-reintegration/28661770.html

Tajikistan: Pakistan’s Gateway to Central Asia

For Tajikistan, Pakistan can offer access to sea and transit transport routes; for Pakistan, Tajikistan will become a source of electricity after completion of the CASA-1000 power transmission project

Aug 7 — “Islamabad and Dushanbe have grown closer, pulled together by mutually beneficial energy projects.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/08/tajikistan-pakistans-gateway-to-central-asia/

Team of Dubai volunteers to help people in Tajikistan

As authorities in Tajikistan have recently been looking to Gulf countries as a source of much-needed investment, an UAE initiative gives Tajik families in need access to clean drinking water and source of livelihood

Aug 9 — “A team of volunteers from Dubai is on a mission to empower villages in Tajikistan by giving them safe drinking water, trucks and other machines to families in need to help them have a stable source of income.” READ MORE: http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/year-giving/team-of-dubai-volunteers-to-help-people-in-tajikistan-1.2071432

Iran’s embassy dismisses anti-Iran documentary on Tajikistan television

Tensions escalate between Tajikistan and Iran over Tehran’s support for the Tajik Islamic party banned by Dushanbe

Aug 11 — “The Embassy of Iran in Dushanbe has denied allegations made in a documentary aired by Tajikistan state television that Tehran played a negative role in Tajikistan’s civil war in the 1990s, slamming the “spiteful” narrative as an attempt to foment discord between the two countries, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reports.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18469-iran-s-embassy-dismisses-anti-iran-documentary-on-tajikistan-television


Turkmenistan launches new buses, taxis as Ashgabat prepares to host Asian Games

Despite economic difficulties caused by lower natural-gas prices, Turkmenistan continues lavish spending on the preparation for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games

Aug 7 — “A total of 200 new Hyundai New Super Aero City buses (Korea) and 100 Toyota Corolla taxi cars (Japan) have started to run in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, as the country prepares for hosting a major international sports event in September — the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18448-turkmenistan-launches-new-buses-taxis-as-ashgabat-prepares-to-host-asian-games

President: Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan leading powers in energy production

The Turkmen leader paid an official visit to Azerbaijan on August 8-9, looking for alternative routes for Turkmen gas export to destinations other than China

Aug 10 — “Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, as leading powers in energy production, advocate the transformation of the Caspian Sea basin into a territory of stability, progress and broad international partnership in Eurasia, said Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/nation/117422.html

Turkmenistan still has an option to direct its gas westward

Iran’s new pipeline transporting natural gas to the country’s northeast regions will lessen Iran’s dependence on Turkmen gas import to those regions — a blow on Turkmenistan’s gas exports

Aug 11 — “Enormous quantities of natural gas are concentrated in one limited (Caspian) region. The nations that own it – Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan – each has its market to sell the gas, but all of them would willingly diversify their gas export in order not to depend on one customer.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/casia/turkmenistan/2785956.html


Uzbek Authorities Say Visa Reform To Simplify Travel Abroad

In an initiative aimed at opening up the country under President Mirziyoev, Uzbekistan plans to abolish the exit-visa system inherited from the Soviet era

Aug 8 — “Uzbekistan’s government says its plan to abandon a requirement for Uzbek citizens to seek the authorities’ permission to leave the country will make it much easier for them to travel abroad.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-exit-visas-abolished/28665778.html

Moscow Court Halts Journalist’s Deportation To Uzbekistan

Human Rights Watch says that the new Uzbek President Mirziyoev “has promised reforms, but such endemic problems as torture and politically motivated detention have yet to be addressed”

Aug 8 — “A Russian appeals court has halted the deportation of journalist Ali Feruz to Uzbekistan, where rights groups fear he could face torture, imprisonment, or death at the hands of the authorities.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-court-suspends-journalist-feruz-deportation-uzbekistan/28664849.html

Uzbekistan: evaluating the chances for a convertible currency

Under the new president, Uzbekistan has embarked upon perhaps the most important economic reform, aimed at making the national currency freely convertible. The plan, if implemented, would help the country attract more foreign investment, as investors would have the possibility to freely exchange their profit in Uzbekistan for hard currency and take it out of the country

Aug 9 — “Uzbek monetary authorities recently announced an intention to make the country’s national currency, the soum, freely exchangeable. If Uzbek leaders succeed in realizing this goal, it will mark a transformational moment in the country’s post-Soviet economic development.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18460-uzbekistan-evaluating-the-chances-for-a-convertible-currency

The vision of Uzbekistan for cultural and civilizational development

Director General of the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) on the role and place of Uzbekistan in the Muslim world

Aug 10 — “The future vision of Uzbekistan under the capable leadership of President Mirziyoev on cultural and civilizational development needs to be commended as an inspiring national example in the Muslim world.” READ MORE: https://www.dailysabah.com/op-ed/2017/08/10/the-vision-of-uzbekistan-for-cultural-and-civilizational-development


Insecurity, lack of infrastructure and electricity cause business decline in Afghanistan

In any country, investors need safety for their money and the basic infrastructure for developing production — both preconditions still absent in many regions of Afghanistan

Aug 10 — “A survey by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) shows that problems facing Afghan businesses continue and optimism for investments in the country has declined, TOLOnews agency reports.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18462-insecurity-lack-of-infrastructure-and-electricity-cause-business-decline-in-afghanistan

John McCain announces his own strategy for Afghanistan

McCain’s Afghanistan strategy includes sending more US troops for counterterrorism missions and providing the US military with broader authority to target the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda and ISIS

Aug 10 — “Sen. John McCain on Thursday unveiled his own strategy for the US in Afghanistan — a step he says he’s taking because President Donald Trump’s administration isn’t coming up with one.” READ MORE: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/10/politics/john-mccain-afghanistan-strategy/index.html

President Trump, don’t withdraw from Afghanistan

In an opinion piece, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the American University of Afghanistan speaks against the US’ unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan

Aug 10 — “President Trump is currently playing Hamlet over the fate of Afghanistan. He is divided between repeating the Obama mini-surge and cutting America’s losses in the graveyard of empires.” READ MORE: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/president-trump-dont-withdraw-from-afghanistan/article/2630909

U.S. spent $76B on weapons and equipment for Afghan security forces

Despite the fact that the US has spent huge amounts of money on the Afghan war, there is no success in sight, and corruption and embezzlement remain endemic in the Afghan government

Aug 10 — “The U.S. Department of Defense funded more than $76 billion dollars of weapons, communication devices, and other security equipment to the Afghan security forces since 2002, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).” READ MORE: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-spent-76-billion-on-weapons-and-equipment-for-afghan-security-forces/


India and Iran agree to push forward Chabahar port project

Iran’s Chabahar port will give India an alternative access to landlocked Afghanistan and other Central Asian and Eurasian countries including Russia. Currently, Pakistan stands on the way of Indian goods

Aug 8 — “In spite of the recent stalemate over a number of issues, India has reached out to Iran in a bid to remove bottlenecks in the strategically important Chabahar port project, as this port in Iran will open up for India trade access to Afghanistan, Central Asia and other countries in Eurasia, Sputnik news agency reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18452-india-and-iran-agree-to-push-forward-chabahar-port-project

Central Asia’s Encouraging Development

A new look at the Central Asian region’s greater cooperation and coordination during the post-Soviet period

Aug 8 — “Something is stirring across the vast expanse encompassing the Caucasus and Central Asia, an area of nearly 1.6 million square miles and more than 86 million people. Throughout the region, political momentum is gathering for deeper cooperation, engagement, and coordination.” READ MORE: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/central-asia/2017-08-08/central-asias-encouraging-development

Growing extremism as source of strategic instability in Asia

A surge of extremism and radicalism now threatens the vast region of Asia — from Central Asia to Xinjiang to Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, with Islamic State militants relocating from Syria and Iraq where they are losing ground to the east

Aug 10 — “North Korea’s growing nuclear brinkmanship, renewed tensions between India and China along their disputed border and persistent frictions in the South China Sea have all contributed to a renewed focus on inter-state instabilities in Asia. There is, however, another growing source of strategic instability at the sub-state level, as increasing religiosity and extremist ideologies gain momentum in the national consciousness of several countries in the region.” READ MORE: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/growing-extremism-source-strategic-instability-asia

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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