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.


Kazakhstan’s Lesson for North Korea

Kazakhstan, which inherited a large nuclear arsenal from the Soviet Union, has voluntarily refused from nuclear weapons, becoming a leading country in terms of nuclear non-proliferation

Aug 18 — “North Korea’s pursuit of a deliverable nuclear-tipped ICBM aimed at the United States is the latest emerging threat to the American homeland. The U.N. Security Council has imposed another round of sanctions, which Russia and China supported. Other countries have dealt with their nuclear legacy differently.” READ MORE: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-08-18/kazakhstan-offers-a-model-to-resolve-north-korea-nuclear-arms-standoff

Expert: Modernisation is a genuine goal for Kazakhstan

In an interview, a senior fellow at the EastWest Institute speaks about Kazakhstan’s role in the world and the country’s modernization drive

Aug 21 — “Kazakhstan is boosting its role in international and regional affairs by providing a platform for negotiations and being an intermediary between the superpowers. Astana’s ambitions to modernise the country are genuine, said Danila Bochkarev.” READ MORE: http://www.euractiv.com/section/china/interview/expert-modernisation-is-a-genuine-goal-for-kazakhstan/

Dropped seeds from Kazakhstan got us modern apples

Reseachers have narrowed down the origin of domesticated apple from very broad Central Asia to Kazakhstan’s area west of Tian Shan Mountains

Aug 21 — “New research clarifies the genetic exchange that brought us today’s domesticated apples. Silk Road travelers, trading their goods and ideas across Eurasia, brought with them hitchhiking apple seeds, discarded from the choicest fruit pulled from wild trees. This early selection would eventually lead to the 7,500 varieties of apple that exist today.” READ MORE: http://www.futurity.org/apples-silk-road-kazakhstan-1519762-2/

Gülenists no longer welcome in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has shut down 27 out of 30 schools affiliated with Gülen, whom the Turkish authorities accuse of masterminding the failed coup in Turkey. This shows that Turkey remains an important economic, and political, partner for Kazakhstan

Aug 22 — “The ex-Soviet country of Kazakhstan has been one of the Central Asian countries ripe with Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) activity since the historical, cultural and religious relations with Turkey were restored after its independence in 1991.” READ MORE: https://www.dailysabah.com/feature/2017/08/23/gulenists-no-longer-welcome-in-kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan, a World Expo Is All About Energy (and Dancing)

A travel writer shares his impressions of the Expo 2017 currently being held in Astana

Aug 23 — “Germany wants you to know that it has a house whose energy is supplied by algae growing in its walls. Pakistan wants you to know that its parliament building runs entirely on solar power. Russia, sort of missing the point, is very excited about oil and gas reserves in the Arctic. Welcome to Expo 2017, the world’s fair in Astana, Kazakhstan. The theme: Future Energy.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/23/travel/kazakhstan-world-expo-astana.html


Senior official says Kyrgyzstan is interested in military cooperation with Russia

Kyrgyzstan, which hosts a Russian air base and has received large military equipment assistance from Russia, now seeks to establish joint military production with Russia

Aug 18 — “Kyrgyzstan is considering the possibility to galvanize cooperation with Russia in the military-industrial complex, the republic’s Deputy Prime Minister Zhenish Razakov said on Friday during a meeting with Deputy Chairman of the Military Economic Cooperation Board of the Russian Military Industrial Commission within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Oleg Bochkaryov.” READ MORE: http://tass.com/world/960981

Kyrgyzstan’s Odd Hydropower Deal Continues Making Waves in Czech Republic

The Czech Security Information Service is investigating the circumstances by which Czech company Liglass Trading could have won the tender to build major hydropower plants in Kyrgyzstan

Aug 21 — “The strange story of the mysterious Czech company that was awarded the right to build a hydropower plant in Kyrgyzstan has slipped off the radar in Bishkek, where the saga might be expected to garner most attention.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84786

Kyrgyzstan’s Eurasian Economic Union membership: official view and business opinion

There were both pros and cons of Kyrgyzstan’s entry into the Eurasian Economic Union, but today most observers believe the decision was correct, though the country had no choice

Aug 21 — “Two years ago, Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian Economic Union to gain full access to its 180-million people market. The adaptation period is over, and Kyrgyz producers and suppliers of products now work on an equal footing with those from other EEU member countries.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18515-kyrgyzstan-s-eurasian-economic-union-membership-official-view-and-business-opinion

Kyrgyzstan: Court Orders Closure of Opposition TV Channel

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan continue going after independent (opposition) media critical of the country’s president

Aug 22 — “A court in Kyrgyzstan’s capital on August 22 ordered the closure of the Sentyabr (September) television station, which is linked to the party of recently jailed opposition leader Omurbek Tekebayev.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84806


Pakistan, Tajikistan to cooperate in different sectors

For Pakistan, Tajikistan is a potential source of electricity imports within the CASA-1000 power transmission project; while Tajikistan hopes to get access to Pakistan’s sea ports to boost international trade

Aug 23 — “Pakistan and Tajikistan have mutually agreed on enhancing and extending their bilateral relations and to work collectively on different sectors particularly trade, tourism and aviation sector.” READ MORE: http://nation.com.pk/business/23-Aug-2017/pakistan-tajikistan-to-cooperate-in-different-sectors

Uzbekistan Jails Woman for Spying for Tajikistan

Despite the recent warming in the relations between Dushanbe and Tashkent, authorities in Uzbekistan continue jailing citizens on charges of ‘spying’’ for Tajikistan

Aug 23 — “The thaw between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan has not spelled an end to spy-mania. In the first such instance since the death of the late, paranoid Uzbek president Islam Karimov, a court in Uzbekistan has sentenced a woman to 10-and-a-half years in jail on charges of spying for Tajikistan.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84816

Tajik President’s Order: ‘Find This Man A Wife’

Tajikistan’s autocratic ruler ordered to arrange the wedding of a village school teacher who gave a speech praising “the leader of the nation and founder of peace in Tajikistan”, and to pay its costs

Aug 23 — “Arranged marriages of couples who have never met are common in rural Tajikistan. But the August 27 wedding of village schoolteacher Saidsho Asrorov’s to Marjona Hudoidodova is highly unusual.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-rahmon-arranged-marriage-find-this-man-a-wife/28692751.html

Tajikistan parliament approves bill supporting ‘traditional clothes’

Tajikistan’s government is targeting the use of the Islamic hijab by Tajik women in a move to tighten control of the religious aspects of life in the country

Aug 24 — “Tajikistan’s lawmakers have approved legislation that obliges individuals and organizations “to stick to traditional and national clothes and culture,” a move widely seen as an effort to discourage people from wearing the hijab and Islamic clothing, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18530-tajikistan-parliament-approves-bill-supporting-traditional-clothes


Turkmenistan Turns To Europe As Iran, Russia Shut Off Their Gas Markets

If ever implemented, the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline project would allow Turkmenistan exporting its gas to Europe without dependence on Russia, and with support from the EU and US

Aug 23 — “Turkmenistan, with estimated gas reserves of 50 trillion cubic meters that account for about 10 per cent of the world gas reserves, lost two major markets, Russia and Iran, in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The country has no access to open seas and must ship its gas to international markets through neighbors, including Iran which was the Central Asian country’s biggest gas customer.” READ MORE: https://caspiannews.com/news-detail/turkmenistan-turns-to-europe-as-iran-russia-shut-off-their-gas-markets-2017-8-18-8/

Turkmenistan: Liquor Ban Sends Drinkers Scrambling for Supplies

To boost the country’s image, Turkmenistan has banned alcoholic drinks sales during the upcoming major sports event in Ashgabat, although the move will hit the state budget revenues as the country’s economy is experiencing hard times

Aug 23 — “As soon authorities in Turkmenistan declared last week that the country would be a liquor-free zone for the duration of the upcoming Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, distressed drinkers stormed their local stores.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84821

Facilities in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in the Guinness Book of Records

Turkmenistan spares no money to boost the country’s image as Ashgabat prepares for hosting the largest ever sports event in Turkmen history

Aug 23 — “Representatives of the Guinness World Records, which collects information for the Guinness World Records Book, have registered new facilities in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, as the largest facilities by certain parameters.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18527-facilities-in-ashgabat-turkmenistan-in-the-guinness-book-of-records

Turkmenistan should cultivate diverse gas markets, expert says

China is now the only buyer of Turkmen natural gas, and Ashgabat is trying to diversify its gas export routes, looking to the west across the Caspian Sea

Aug 24 — “Turkmenistan-China gas relationship may be viewed as one country’s over-dependence on another, Sean Roberts, an expert on Central Asia and Associate Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, told Trend commenting on the construction of Tajik section of the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan-China gas pipeline launched last month.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/118076.html


Live Shows Disappear From Uzbek TV Screens

Prime Minister ordered to stop all live shows on Uzbek television except for newscasts, and said that programs would now be subject to a censor’s approval

Aug 23 — “Several live programs have disappeared from the airwaves in Uzbekistan in recent days, including a popular new talk show that was a forum for frank discussions of the shortcomings of the authorities.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-live-shows-disappear-television/28692966.html

India asks Uzbekistan to cut duties on leather, fabrics, ease visa norms

Non-tariff barriers such as import quotas, licensing, price and foreign exchange control, complicated customs procedures and harsh sanitary norms limit the trade between Uzbekistan and India

Aug 24 — “In a bid to strengthen bilateral ties with Uzbekistan, India has requested the Central Asian country to reduce duties on a number of products, simplify customs procedures and ease visa norms.” READ MORE: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/foreign-trade/india-asks-uzbekistan-to-cut-duties-on-leather-fabrics-ease-visa-norms/articleshow/60212883.cms

National energy-saving company to appear in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is pursuing a policy of energy efficiency as the country’s hydrocarbon resources are depleting and oil and gas production barely meets domestic consumption and export needs

Aug 24 — “National Energy-Saving Company (NEC) is being created in Uzbekistan in accordance with the presidential decree “On measures for further introduction of modern energy-efficient and energy-saving technologies”. READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/118034.html


Why Afghanistan’s War Defies Solutions

There is an opinion that under the present circumstances, the Afghan war problem has no solution at all

Aug 24 — “The generals publicly supported their intervention in Afghanistan, but in private they worried they were trapped. After 16 years, they feared they had produced “a recipe for endless war,” according to an American ambassador who met with them. But the generals, the ambassador said, “felt there was no alternative, no realistic alternative” than to continue fighting a doomed mission.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/world/asia/afghanistan-intervention-state-collapse.html

What the Soviets learned fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan

There are more voices in the US saying that America should stop its war in Afghanistan and withdraw its troops as soon as possible, as the Soviet Union did before its collapse

Aug 24 — “As we evaluate President Trump’s new policy on the Afghanistan war, we should be mindful of the first law of holes: If you find yourself in one, stop digging. (“There is no ‘winning’ military strategy in Afghanistan,” Opinion, Aug. 23)” READ MORE: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-ol-le-afghanistan-war-trump-soviets-20170824-story.html

Trump’s Afghanistan Plan Upends His Campaign Promises Against Perpetual War

The new US strategy for Afghanistan is, in fact, a betrayal of Trump’s presidential campaign promises

Aug 25 — ““I share the American people’s frustration” with nearly two decades of “a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly, lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests,” President Trump said as he began to get to the meat of his Afghanistan strategy speech Monday night.” READ MORE: https://thefederalist.com/2017/08/25/trumps-afghanistan-plan-upends-campaign-promises-perpetual-war/


Both Republicans and Democrats are pushing a bipartisan bill that proposes to defund the war in Afghanistan to allow Congress to debate the future of the conflict

Aug 25 — “Republican and Democrat legislators alike were left shaking their heads in disbelief at President Donald Trump’s plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this week, as anger grew over his lack of strategy to end the 16-year conflict.” READ MORE: http://www.newsweek.com/trumps-afghanistan-plan-definition-insanity-say-gop-and-dem-congress-members-655144


Xinjiang: economic realities behind civil strife

China’s persecution of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang can drive increasing parts of the Uyghur nation into the arms of extremist organizations such as Daesh, Al-Qaeda and Taliban

Aug 19 — “A radical shift in domestic policy in and regarding China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang, replacing communal coexistence between Chinese “colonials” and the indigenous Uyghur population, is claimed by central authorities in Beijing to be aimed at lifting development and living standards of the entire population.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18508-xinjiang-economic-realities-behind-civil-strife

Saudi Arabia woos Persian-speaking Sunnis in Central Asia

A member of the scientific board at the Iran and Eurasia Studies Institute in Tehran says Saudi Arabia is leading a campaign against Iran in Central Asia

Aug 22 — “In an unprecedented move that surprised many observers around the world, Tajikistan’s state TV on Aug. 8 aired a documentary accusing Iran of involvement in the murder of several Tajik social and political figures as well as 20 Russian military officers in the country during the 1990s Tajik civil war.” READ MORE: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/08/iran-tajikistan-saudi-arabia-influence-tension-central-asia.html

China’s Other New Security Concern — Its Ethnic Kyrgyz

In China, ethnic Kyrgyz, and Kazakhs, mainly inhabit the western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and are considered by Beijing connected to another Turkic Muslim group in Xinjiang — the Uyghurs

Aug 25 — “Earlier this month, Qishloq Ovozi looked at China’s recent worries about its ethnic Kazakhs and now there is information China has similar concerns about its ethnic Kyrgyz citizens.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-china-ethnic-kyrgyz/28697314.html

Sergey Kwan