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.


Can a Giant Science Fair Transform Kazakhstan’s Economy?

With Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan has embarked on a way of transforming itself from a natural resources dependent country into a financial hub, the Dubai of Central Asia

Sep 9 — “By day, the huge and gleaming sphere looks like the spaceship of aliens who may not have come in peace. At night, it blinks out a playful pattern of colors and boosterish slogans on its high-tech outer skin — a few parts light show, a few parts bumper sticker.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/business/kazakhstan-expo-economy.html

Turkey, Kazakhstan sign investment deals worth $590 million, pledge stronger economic ties

Both Kazakhstan and Turkey are well positioned for taking advantage of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, to increase bilateral trade and transit of Chinese goods along the modern Silk Road

Sep 10 — “During President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Kazakhstan to hold a series of meetings with the leaders of Islamic countries and attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Science and Technology Summit held in the country’s capital city Astana, Turkish and Kazakh companies Saturday signed investment agreements worth $590 million, according to a statement released by the Kazakhstan’s Prime Ministry.” READ MORE: https://www.dailysabah.com/economy/2017/09/10/turkey-kazakhstan-sign-investment-deals-worth-590-million-pledge-stronger-economic-ties

Kazakhstan: Former Top Security Chief Convicted, But Why?

The conviction of the former head of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee may be part of an effort to clear the political scene of undesirable elements, as the country will inevitably face a power succession game

Sep 11 — “A military court in Kazakhstan has sentenced a former head of the nation’s security services to seven-and-a-half years in prison on charges of divulging state secrets. The sentence was handed down to Nartay Dutbayev by the Akmola garrison military court on August 24 following a trial held behind closed doors, but confirmation of the news has only now come to light.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85076

Kazakhstan embraces the digital age

With oil prices remaining low and the oil market being volatile, Kazakhstan is taking efforts aimed at diversification into the non-oil sectors of the economy — including digital economy

Sep 12 — “International Sovereign Wealth Funds have been gathering in Astana to explore new frontiers and tap into more markets. With the advent of the digital economy, Kazakhstan is seeking opportunities and facing new challenges.” READ MORE: http://www.euronews.com/2017/09/12/kazakhstan-embraces-the-digital-age

TCO partnership key to Tengiz reaching 3 billion barrels milestone

General Director of Tengizchevroil LLP speaks about the expansion of Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oil project and what it will give the country’s economy

Sep 14 — “Significant and often untapped oil and gas reserves can still be found in abundance and in places where the business climate is conducive and attractive to energy investors. Kazakhstan is such a place. Its growing importance as a key energy supplier is impressive.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/09/tco-partnership-key-to-tengiz-reaching-3-billion-barrels-milestone/

‘Cyber Shield’ to fight extremism in Kazakhstan

As Islamist extremism and terrorism is becoming a serious challenge in Kazakhstan, threatening with cyberattacks, the government is implementing a costly information security project aimed at thwarting the threat. The Jamestown Foundation’s article focuses on the issue

Sep 15 — “Speaking at a joint session of Kazakhstan’s parliament, on September 4, President Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed the importance of speeding up the implementation of the “Cyber Shield” information security project, one of the priority tasks he had set before the government in his January 31, 2017, annual Address to the People of Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18635-cyber-shield-to-fight-extremism-in-kazakhstan


Kyrgyzstan and Centerra Clinch Pre-Election Deal

The new agreement between the government of Kyrgyzstan and the Canada-based gold company over Kumtor looks like a part of efforts aimed at strengthening the positions of President Atambayev’s loyalists — the new PM Isakov and presidential candidate Jeenbekov

Sep 12 — “Kyrgyzstan and its largest foreign commercial investor, Centerra Gold, claim to have buried more than half a decade of uncertainty with a deal the government signed right in time for the October 15 presidential election.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85101

Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Campaigns Kick Off

A total of 13 candidates are competing for Kyrgyzstan’s presidency, but only four of them have chances of being elected. These are Omurbek Babanov, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, Temir Sariev, and Bakyt Torobayev. Much, however, will depend of the so-called administrative resource, that is the support from the ruling administration

Sep 13 — “Campaigning officially kicked off this week in Kyrgyzstan, which will hold its presidential elections on October 15. The polls are positioned to represent the first normal transfer of power in the country’s 26-year history.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/09/kyrgyzstans-presidential-campaigns-kick-off/

Kyrgyzstan: Opposition Front Collapses In Sight of Election

In Kyrgyzstan, a country with the strong North-South divide, presidential candidates from the South have failed to unite into a single front, giving way to the candidate from the ruling party, who is also from the South

Sep 13 — “At the start of August, the leaders of three political parties in Kyrgyzstan announced they were joining forces and putting forward a single candidate for the October 15 presidential election. Bakyt Torobayev of the Onuguu-Progress party, Adakhan Madumarov of Butun Kyrgyzstan, and Kamchibek Tashiyev and Akhmatbek Keldibekov, joint leaders of Ata-Jurt, are all southerners, which would have made whoever received their collective support a formidable player in the vote.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85136


Suqia provides water to Tajikistan

In recent time Tajikistan has been looking to rich Arab countries as a source of much-needed investments in the Tajik economy, as well as donors for the country’s infrastructure and humanitarian projects

Sep 7 — “Under the umbrella of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), the UAE Water Aid Foundation (Suqia) has provided drinking water to over 45,000 people in Tajikistan.” READ MORE: http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/society/suqia-provides-water-to-tajikistan-1.2086664

Tajikistan’s Latest Crackdown on Tradition

Authorities in Tajikistan have introduced restrictions on lavish ceremonies to mark major life events. The move is considered by many as a further intrusion into the citizens’ private life in the country that is becoming more authoritarian

Sep 12 — “When Mavluda Mirzoeva buried her husband on August 7 this year, she planned a sequence of traditional rituals as part of the mourning process. One of these was to be a lavish feast to which more than 200 neighbours, relatives and friends would be invited to honour her late husband. A vast pilaf cooked in a nearby restaurant would feed male guests in the morning, with women invited later in the day.” READ MORE: https://iwpr.net/global-voices/tajikistans-latest-crackdown-tradition

Strengthening Infrastructure in Tajikistan for Disaster and Climate Resilience

Protecting Tajikistan’s socioeconomic gains of the recent years and making development efforts in the country sustainable requires efforts to build climate and disaster resilience in this mountainous country — the task that can not be accomplished without foreign donors

Sep 13 — “The deep irony of climate change is that the countries least responsible for its causes will suffer the most from its effects. Nowhere in Central Asia is this truer than in Tajikistan, a heavily mountainous region with a population of 8.5 million and a high vulnerability to climate-induced shocks like droughts, flooding, landslides, and more.” READ MORE: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2017/09/04/strengthening-infrastructure-in-tajikistan-for-disaster-and-climate-resilience

Tajikistan: Government a No-Show at OSCE Conference

The refusal of Tajikistan to send a delegation to the OSCE event attended by the opposition party banned in the country indicates a further weakening in Dushanbe’s willingness to engage with international partners on democratic reforms and other political matters

Sep 13 — “Tajikistan has declined to despatch an official delegation to attend this year’s annual rights conference in Poland held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, thereby spurning an event heavily attended instead by the exiled opposition.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85121


Belarus Balks at Prospect of Big Investments in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan’s economy seems to have suffered another blow after a company from Belarus, Turkmenistan’s major economic partner, has refused to take part in bidding for construction of a new large plant in the Central Asian country

Sep 8 — “Turkmenistan’s investment climate is so poor that even companies in one of its closest ally nations decline the opportunity to work there. A senior executive at Belaruskali, a Belarus-owned global player on the potash fertilizer market, announced on September 7 that his company will not be bidding to build a new mining and processing plant in Turkmenistan.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85036

The Caspian Sea Is Evaporating Due to Rising Average Temperatures

A new study says that the Caspian Sea’s shrinking is due to the water evaporating away because of increasing average atmospheric temperatures. The process would lead to negative environmental and economic consequences in countries that share the Caspian waters

Sep 8 — “When the ancient Romans arrived at the Caspian Sea a couple thousand years ago, they thought they’d arrived at an ocean. That’s because the water they encountered was salty. Nope! Sorry, Romans. Nestled amongst modern day Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran, the Caspian Sea actually is the world’s largest lake.” READ MORE: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/caspian-sea-evaporating-temperatures-climate.htm

ICAO backs Turkmenistan’s freight ambitions

Turkmenistan is seeking to become a transit air freight hub servicing the Middle East and neighboring Central Asia countries including Iran and Afghanistan

Sep 12 — “ICAO has backed Turkmenistan’s plans for its new Ashgabat airport to become a freight hub, but also highlighted a number of priorities it should pursue to support air traffic growth. In a meeting last week with the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu pledged support for the state’s goal of establishing a regional transit and airfreight hub in Ashgabat.” READ MORE: http://www.aircargonews.net/news/region/asia/single-view/news/icao-backs-turkmenistans-freight-ambitions.html

Repression casts shadow on Asian Games in Turkmenistan, rights groups say

Rights groups say that while hosting the Games may bring prestige for the government of Turkmenistan, it has led only to further human rights violations and restrictions for the country’s citizens

Sep 15 — “Turkmenistan will host the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) starting September 17 amid an appalling record of human rights abuse, Human Rights Watch and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) said on September 13.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18631-repression-casts-shadow-on-asian-games-in-turkmenistan-rights-groups-say


Eurasia’s Latest Economic Reboot Can Be Found In Uzbekistan

A Forbes contributor reviews the economic, and political, reforms currently going on under the new president in Uzbekistan

Sep 14 — “Eurasia has become a hot spot on the map because of China’s Silk Road initiative. The region’s most populated country, once closed to the world, is now looking to reboot itself following generations of Soviet-style governing, and maybe take advantage of the region’s new push forward.” READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/09/14/eurasias-new-perestroika-uzbekistan-silk-road-china/#446b283d6f25

Uzbekistan: Prosecutors Go After Sadist Local Official

Insulting and even beating subordinates and ordinary people has been a common practice for Uzbek government officials at all levels, but for the first time such incident has triggered wide public indignation in the country

Sep 14 — “Prosecutors in Uzbekistan have reacted swiftly to the indignation generated by footage that surfaced online showing a local official assaulting heads of schools for failing to organize sufficiently elaborate celebrations for Independence Day.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85146

‘It Changes Lives’: Families Welcome Reopening Of Kyrgyz, Uzbek Border Posts

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have recently reopened a major border checkpoint, and several other checkpoints are expected to reopen along their 1,300-kilometer border, as the once-frosty relations between the two neighboring countries are experiencing a thaw

Sep 14 — “Chinikhon Eralieva is packing her bags to visit her two daughters and six grandchildren in neighboring Uzbekistan. The 79-year-old retiree has lived all her life in the village of Sary Syia in southern Kyrgyzstan. But like many ethnic Uzbeks in the area, Eralieva has relatives on both sides of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-uzbekistan-reopening-border-crossings-mirziyoev/28735887.html

Uzbekistan a year after Karimov

During his first year in power, Uzbekistan’s President Mirziyaev has undertaken a number of reforms to open up his country to better relations with Central Asia neighbors and the international community. Although many of the reforms could be considered cosmetic, one thing is certain — Uzbekistan has begun to change and this change will benefit all countries in the region. The Jamestown Foundation’s article elaborates on the issue

Sep 14 — “For most of the last two decades, specialists on Central Asia have asked what will happen when one or another of its longtime authoritarian leaders passes from the scene. Many have made particularly dire predictions, including a descent into chaos or the rise of a Central Asian variant of the Islamic State.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18630-uzbekistan-a-year-after-karimov


The New Afghanistan Policy Is Set. The Question Is How to Implement It

The National Interest author reflects on the many challenges facing the US in the implementation of its new strategy in Afghanistan

Sep 13 — “The focus now should be on the implementation of the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and the region. Commentators debate the pros and cons of the approach, but it is now U.S. policy. It requires careful coordination and integration of the tools of American power—military, diplomatic, economic and development—to move toward its objective: a negotiated Afghan political settlement.” READ MORE: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-new-afghanistan-policy-set-the-question-how-implement-it-22285

US Bombing Campaign in Afghanistan Intensifies, Hitting New High

The record increase in US airstrikes comes as President Trump last month unveiled his new strategy for the Afghan war, with a troop surge and increased foreign airpower for Afghan forces to help them fight against the Taliban and IS militants

Sep 13 — “The U.S. military dropped 555 bombs in Afghanistan against Taliban and Islamic State targets in August, the highest number in a single month since 2012. Overall, the U.S. has conducted about 2,400 airstrikes since the beginning of the year in support of Afghan partners battling the Taliban and IS terrorists” READ MORE: https://www.voanews.com/a/us-bombing-campaign-in-afghanistan-intensifies-hitting-new-high/4027318.html

Afghanistan: The Graveyard of Empires: Part 1 of a Series

Throughout history, not one foreign power — from the British to the Soviet empire — has succeeded in conquering Afghanistan. The US will hardly be an exception

Sep 14 — “Many empires, nations, and alliances in the past have found Afghanistan to be a hellish trial. As Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) immortalized in his poem entitled “The Young British Soldier,” Afghanistan was a dreaded assignment for British troops” READ MORE: http://www.thetribunepapers.com/2017/09/14/afghanistan-the-graveyard-of-empires-part-1-of-a-series/

What Trump Left Out of His Afghanistan Strategy: China

Trump’s strategy in Afghanistan seems to have ignored the role of such regional powers as Russia, China, and Iran, not to mention the Central Asian states

Sep 15 — “After months of review and anticipation, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan last month. In doing so, he became the third American president to take ownership of what is now the United States’ longest war.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/09/what-trump-left-out-of-his-afghanistan-strategy-china/


In Central Asia, Sympathy And Solidarity For Rohingya

While authorities in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have largely remained silent on the Burmese crisis, officials in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have been more vocal in condemning the violence against Burma’s Rohingya Muslims

Sep 7 — “As the latest crisis unfolded for Burma’s beleaguered Rohingya Muslims, with tens of thousands fleeing fresh violence, authorities in faraway Kyrgyzstan scrapped a soccer match over “heightened terrorist threats.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/rohingya-central-asia-social-media-sympathy/28722498.html

Caspian Sea is China’s best bet for Belt and Road

The route through Kazakhstan, the Caucasus, the Caspian and Black Seas, and Greece could be the best way to Europe for Chinese goods

Sep 14 — “Most attention on China’s Belt and Road Initiative has so far centered on northern rail routes through Russia and Central Asia and investments in Mediterranean and Indian Ocean seaports. But policymakers in Beijing have long dreamt of an alternative that would more closely align China’s land and maritime trade strategies. They may have found it in the route from Piraeus, Greece, to Khorgos, on Kazakhstan’s border with China.” READ MORE: https://asia.nikkei.com/Viewpoints/Tristan-Kenderdine/Caspian-Sea-is-China-s-best-bet-for-Belt-and-Road

Can this be India’s response to China’s ‘One Belt One Road’?

In the book entitled ‘The Trade Game: Engaging With Central Asia’, a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi evaluates the extent and pattern of over two decades of the economic and trade ties between India and former Soviet republics of Central Asia

Sep 15 — “The Great Game — also known as Bolshaya Igra — was all about intense rivalry between the British and Russian Empires in Central Asia (from early 19th century to early 20th century), wherein Britain sought to influence or control much of Central Asia to create a buffer to her empire’s “crown jewel”, India.” READ MORE: http://www.asianage.com/books/150917/can-this-be-indias-response-to-chinas-one-belt-one-road.html

Sergey Kwan