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

Broker Behind World-Beating Rally Stirs Kazakh Controversy

Kazakhstan has perhaps the most developed stock market in Central Asia, and Bloomberg offers a glimpse on a ‘wizard’ on this local market

Oct 17 — “As Kazakh stocks staged a world-beating rally since the end of 2015, few have benefited more than Timur Turlov. The 29-year-old owner of Freedom Finance JSC, Kazakhstan’s biggest brokerage, is so active on the main stock exchange that his company’s turnover is three times bigger than its closest competitor and profits are soaring.” READ MORE: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-16/broker-behind-world-beating-stock-rally-stirs-kazakh-controversy

Astana’s plan to stay warm in the winter? Build a ring of one million trees

When some 20 years ago Kazakhstan moved its capital from the southern city of Almaty to Astana, the government ignored the fact that its location in the open steppe, with cold winters and icy winds, would pose a big challenge to comfortable living

Oct 18 — “In 1997 the Kazakh president launched a plan to protect his new capital from the icy winds of the featureless steppes with a ring of trees. Twenty years on, his scientists are still struggling to grow forests in a spot where no trees stood” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/18/astana-plan-warm-winter-ring-one-million-trees

Kazakhstan Set to Launch National Cryptocurrency Backed by Fiat

As blockchain and cryptocurrencies are entering the mainstream of today’s economic reality, Kazakhstan’s Astana International Financial Center is set to become an international hub for blockchain operations and the development of the digital assets market

Oct 19 — “Kazakhstan’s Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) and Exante have announced a partnership regarding the development of a national cryptocurrency. The Kazakhstan government intends to launch a state-issued cryptocurrency that is backed by fiat.” READ MORE: https://news.bitcoin.com/kazakhstan-set-to-launch-national-cryptocurrency-backed-by-fiat/

Kyrgyzstan Alerts WTO to Kazakhstan Border Kerfuffle

The crisis on the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border with long lines of people and vehicles unable to get into Kazakhstan has shown that EEU free movement and trade rules are easily bent to fit the political goals of leaders of this or that EEU member country

Oct 19 — “On Wednesday, as Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sapar Isakov headed for Astana to try and work through the country’s border issue, Bishkek sent off a communique to the World Trade Organization (WTO), alerting the body to the trouble on the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/kyrgyzstan-alerts-wto-to-kazakhstan-border-kerfuffle/

Kazakhstan participates in Eurasian Economic Forum in Verona, Italy

Located in between China and Europe and being a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, Kazakhstan is the link between the largest markets of Eurasia

Oct 20 — “Kazakh Invest, the national agency for attracting investments in Kazakhstan, is taking part, for the first time, in the X Eurasian Economic Forum in Verona (Italy) on October 19-20.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18806-kazakhstan-participates-in-eurasian-economic-forum-in-verona-italy

KYRGYZSTAN

Presidential election: Kyrgyzstan choses to keep its political establishment in place

In the October 15 presidential election, Kyrgyz people expressed a pragmatic approach to politics: let things go on as they do, let leaders govern and leave business to the population

Oct 16 — “It is a warm, sunny and lazy Sunday afternoon in the Kyrgyz capital and all is quiet. The ominous spectre of mass demonstrations, burning vehicles, charging security forces and shootouts invoked by western “revolution manufacturers” and mass media parroting them is as remote as remote could ever be.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18786-presidential-election-kyrgyzstan-choses-to-keep-its-political-establishment-in-place

Life in limbo: inside Bishkek’s illegal ‘new-builds’

Internal migration from the countryside to the capital, Bishkek, remains a social and economic problem in Kyrgyzstan, as thousands of people still live in self-built homes with no household utilities and infrastructure

Oct 17 — “It is a sharp descent from Kurbangul Kyrgyzbayeva’s ramshackle home into the narrow pit where she grows corn, tomatoes and chives. Crooked steel bars and smashed bricks line the shallow, hand-hewn mud steps. When Kyrgyzbayeva bought the plot on which she lives, on the northern edge of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, there was little there other than a mound of earth and piles of building site refuse in a disused quarry.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/17/life-limbo-inside-bishkek-illegal-new-builds-kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan holds an election that was not a foregone conclusion

Whatever the result, the October 15 presidential election marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one president to another in a country that has seen two revolutions

Oct 18 — “AS THE young man hesitated, golden autumn leaves drifted down onto the streets of Bishkek, the relaxed capital of Kyrgyzstan. “It’s a choice between old and new. I can’t decide,” he explained, as he hovered outside the polling station. The choice was as unusual as it was difficult.” READ MORE: https://www.economist.com/news/asia/21730385-nor-was-it-triumph-democracy-kyrgyzstan-holds-election-was-not-foregone-conclusion

‘All of us will be victims at some point’: why Bishkek’s only gay club closed

Members of Kyrgyzstan’s LGBT community often fall victim of hate crimes and harassment in the Muslim-majority country

Oct 19 — “Anara had never been in love before. Pacing nervously outside the house of the girl she’d just started seeing, overwhelmed by emotions, she forgot the need for caution. Dating a member of the same sex can be dangerous in Kyrgyzstan’s capital city, Bishkek. Their budding relationship was already the subject of whisper and rumour.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/19/victims-closure-bishkek-only-lgbt-club-kyrgyzstan

TAJIKISTAN

Demolishing Dushanbe: how the former city of Stalinabad is erasing its Soviet past

Dushanbe’s Soviet-era buildings are being demolished and replaced by multistorey apartment blocks and skyscrapers — a move some believe aimed at destroying people’s memory and telling future generations that history begins from this time, as if there was nothing before

Oct 19 — “Once this shop was one of the most beautiful buildings in the city,” says Nematullo Mirsaidov as he gazes up at an old department store now dwarfed by new towers. He has been struck by how much Dushanbe has changed since he started visiting from the northern city of Khujand more than a decade ago, but sees change as a positive” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/19/demolishing-dushanbe-former-stalinabad-erasing-soviet-past

Inter Fitness – Tajikistan’s first green fitness centre

With assistance from the EBRD, Tajikistan’s first green fitness centre installed a best-in-class system that comprises a range of renewable and efficient energy technologies, including low-emissions windows, LED lighting, an air heat recovery system, and solar heating panels

Oct 19 — “When Inter Fitness LLC started building a state-of-the-art fitness centre in Dushanbe in 2012, it was breaking ground in more ways than one. The first health club of its kind in the capital of Tajikistan, Inter Fitness sought to attract an active and health-conscious clientele with first-class facilities and a premium service.” READ MORE: http://www.ebrd.com/news/2017/inter-fitness-tajikistans-first-green-fitness-centre.html

Tajikistan: LGBT Registry Sparks Outrage

Rights groups fear the LGBT community in Tajikistan may face harassment and persecution, as the Tajik authorities have recently imposed a number of restrictions regulating the private lives of ordinary Tajiks

Oct 19 — “Authorities in Tajikistan have reportedly compiled a registry of hundreds of people in the country’s gay and lesbian community as part of a purported drive to promote moral behavior. RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, reported on October 17 that the list drawn up by the Interior Ministry and the General Prosecutor’s Office comprises 319 gay men and 48 lesbians.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85616

TURKMENISTAN

‘People are afraid to say a word’: inside Ashgabat, Central Asia’s closed city

The story of an ethnic Russian man who was born in Turkmenistan and lived in the authoritarian country’s harsh realities

Oct 16 — “When I was child, Ashgabat was known as the “garden city”. It drowned in greenery, canals gurgled with mountain water and trees cast a shady cool even in July and August. In the evenings, neighbours would gather around gazebos and drink tea.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/16/people-afraid-inside-ashgabat-turkmenistan-closed-city

What a 25-Fold Increase in Turkmen Water Prices Will Mean

Turkmenistan is abolishing household utilities subsidies for the population as the Turkmen economy faces a crisis caused by decreasing revenues from hydrocarbon exports

Oct 18 — “Plans for Ashgabat to roll back significant subsidies on basic services — water, gas, and electricity — which had made them virtually free to Turkmen citizens have been floating in the ether of policymaking in Turkmenistan for at least two years.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/what-a-25-fold-increase-in-turkmen-water-prices-will-mean/

First-ever golf course opens in Turkmenistan

With the recent hosting of the Asian Martial Arts Games and now opening its first golf course Turkmenistan aims to become a regional sports center and attract more tourists

Oct 18 — “The opening of the first golf course in Turkmenistan took place in the capital Ashgabat on October 17 with the participation of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18794-first-ever-golf-course-opens-in-turkmenistan

Turkmenistan hosts regional forum on Caspian Sea

The Caspian Sea littoral countries — Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan — have taken another step to finalizing a Convention on the Sea’s legal status

Oct 19 — “Ashgabat hosted an international conference, titled ‘Peace, stability and international cooperation in the Caspian region, on October18, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry in a message. The conference was organized by the Turkmen Foreign Ministry together with the State Enterprise on Caspian Sea Issues under the President of Turkmenistan.” READ MORE: http://menafn.com/1095964749/Turkmenistan-hosts-regional-forum-on-Caspian-Sea

UZBEKISTAN

Tashkent City: is ‘progress’ worth the price being paid in Uzbekistan?

Ordinary citizens of Tashkent are not happy with the changing face of Uzbekistan’s capital

Oct 18 — “Abdujalil Azimov sits on a stool listening to Uzbek pop on a transistor radio as his sheep graze contentedly in the evening sunshine on a strip of grass in the centre of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. In front rises a line of gleaming white marble blocks containing opulent new flats.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/18/people-paying-tashkent-gentrification-mahallas

EBRD Approves First New Projects for Uzbekistan Since 2007

After a decade-long break and with the coming of the new leadership in Tashkent, the European bank is returning to financing new projects in Uzbekistan

Oct 20 — “Five months after the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signaled it was preparing to return to working actively with Uzbekistan after a decade, the bank has approved its first new projects for the country, with several more in various stages of approval.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/ebrd-approves-first-new-projects-for-uzbekistan-since-2007/

Warming Uzbek-Iranian Relations Worth Watching

As Uzbekistan has of late experienced chronic shortages of oil and gasoline, Tashkent has asked Iran to supply its crude oil to the Central Asian country

Oct 20 — “A recent meeting of officials from Uzbekistan and Iran was a curious event. Central Asia has seen a reshuffling of relations over the past couple years, and improved relations between Tashkent and Tehran is one of the more intriguing developments.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-iran-oil-qishloq-ovozi/28806277.html

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan undertake resolving their water disputes

In a landmark shift in bilateral relations, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have begun resolving and cooperating in border delimitation and water issues, including a plan of joint construction of a major hydropower plant in Kyrgyzstan

Oct 20 — “Transboundary water sharing is one of the most contentious issues dividing Central Asian countries. And as Uzbekistan continues to actively pursue better relations with its neighbors (see EDM, May 24, June 27, September 12, 18), discussions over water usage are moving to the top of the agenda.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18809-uzbekistan-and-kyrgyzstan-undertake-resolving-their-water-disputes

AFGHANISTAN

Pakistan, Afghanistan in Angry Tangle Over Border Fence to Keep Out Militants

Pakistan plans to fence up most of the 2,500 km border with Afghanistan despite Kabul’s protests that the barrier would divide families and friends along the Pashtun tribal belt

Oct 18 — “Pakistan is betting that a pair of nine-foot chain-link fences topped with barbed wire will stop incursions by Islamist militants from Afghanistan, which opposes Islamabad’s plans for a barrier along the disputed frontier.” READ MORE: https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-10-18/pakistan-afghanistan-in-angry-tangle-over-chicken-wire-border-fence-to-keep-out-militants

Trump wants to plunder Afghanistan for its vast mineral wealth

The US president convened meetings with mining executives to discuss how to profit from Afghanistan’s rich mineral resources

Oct 18 — “October 7th marked sixteen years since the start of the US War in Afghanistan – America’s longest war. In an effort to justify the continued and expanded presence of US troops in the country, President Trump is seeking a plan to have US companies extract minerals from resource-rich Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://www.salon.com/2017/10/18/trump-wants-to-plunder-afghanistan-for-vast-mineral-wealth_partner/

The next proxy battleground with Iran and Russia: Afghanistan

In an opinion piece, Jason M. Brodsky, the policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), says the Kremlin is using a similar playbook in Afghanistan as it has in Syria, and in Afghanistan, Moscow boasts of its role as a peacemaker, but it is in fact a continued troublemaker

Oct 19 — “The debate over the future of Washington’s posture towards Tehran has revolved around three basic nuclear options: legitimation of the deal; decertify, waive, and replace; or outright repeal. It has reached a fever pitch as the Trump administration completed its long-awaited Iran policy review.” READ MORE: http://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/356285-the-next-proxy-battleground-with-iran-and-russia-afghanistan

Afghanistan talks without Taliban: What can they achieve?

Representatives from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States met in Oman on Monday to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban, which did not participate in their sixth Quadrilateral Coordination Group’s meeting

Oct 20 — “After a one-year hiatus, the four-nation Afghanistan peace talks are taking place in Oman. Pakistan is under pressure from Donald Trump’s administration to honor its counterterrorism commitments in the region.” READ MORE: http://gearsofbiz.com/afghanistan-talks-without-taliban-what-can-they-achieve/139329

WORLD

Interview: Tigran Sargsyan on the Eurasian Economic Union

The chairman of the EEU’s Eurasian Economic Commission talks about the Russia-led economic bloc’s past, present, and future

Oct 18 — “Tigran Sargsyan is the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, a body responsible for administering the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)’s day-to-day business and treaty obligations. Before joining the Eurasian Economic Commission in 2016, Mr. Sargsyan was the Chairman of Armenia’s Central Bank from 1998 to 2008, Prime Minister of Armenia from 2008 to 2014, and Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States from 2014 to 2016.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/interview-tigran-sargsyan-on-the-eurasian-economic-union/

EBRD to fund Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline to supply Caspian gas to Europe

Potentially, Turkmenistan may join the project by transporting its natural gas across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan

Oct 19 — “The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on October 18 said its Board of Directors has approved a US $500 million regional project that will help finance the delivery of crucial energy supplies from the Caspian Sea to Europe along the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC).” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18801-ebrd-to-fund-trans-anatolian-gas-pipeline-to-supply-caspian-gas-to-europe

Xi’s road map to the Chinese Dream

China’s Belt and Road Initiative – the New Silk Road – is to make the ‘Chinese dream’ come true

Oct 21 — “Now that President Xi Jinping has been duly elevated to the Chinese Communist Party pantheon in the rarified company of Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory, the world will have plenty of time to digest the meaning of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” READ MORE: http://www.atimes.com/article/xis-road-map-chinese-dream/

Sergey Kwan

TCA