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

Risk limit may cause sharp drop off in EBRD’s Kazakhstan lending

Many of the EBRD’s large Kazakh investments have been made with the country’s sovereign wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna, and it means the Bank is now close to its “single obligor limit”, a risk management rule designed to stop it building up too much exposure with any one counterparty

Oct 20 — “The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is hitting its lending limit with Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund, risking a sharp drop off in its annual 1 billion euro lending programme to the country.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/kazakhstan-economy-ebrd/risk-limit-may-cause-sharp-drop-off-in-ebrds-kazakhstan-lending-idUSL8N1MG5U7

Fuel Crisis Exposes Kazakhstan’s Energy Contradictions

A fuel shortage in oil-rich Kazakhstan could seem a paradox but the reason is simple: the capacity of the country’s three refineries is not enough to meet the domestic demand and talks about the construction of a fourth refinery remain just talks

Oct 23 — “The price for gasoline in Kazakhstan reached 144 tenge (40 cents) per liter in September. At the beginning of October, it had already broken the psychological ceiling of 150 tenge per liter. A report from a village in Western Kazakhstan recorded as much as 200 tenge per liter. The government recently lifted the cap on gasoline prices, which were once fully set by the government.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/fuel-crisis-exposes-kazakhstans-energy-contradictions/

Kazakhstan to re-examine 2004 banker’s death, may target Nazarbayev critic

Authorities in Kazakhstan have begun a new round of the ‘hunt’ for the fugitive Kazakh tycoon and die-hard opposition figure who promised to replace long-time President Nazarbayev

Oct 25 — “Kazakh state prosecutors said on Wednesday they will re-investigate the 2004 death of a prominent banker after the man convicted of accidentally killing him said he had in fact been hired to do so by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former oligarch turned opponent of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kazakhstan-ablyazov/kazakhstan-to-re-examine-2004-bankers-death-may-target-nazarbayev-critic-idUSKBN1CU2PB

Kazakhstan plagued by oil theft

Kazakhstan’s oil sector is hit by corruption: an analysis of just 40 of Kazakhstan’s oil production companies showed that they sold more oil than they extracted, with this oil going to Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Russia

Oct 26 — “The theft of crude oil has cost Kazakhstan around 104 billion tenge (US$313 million) over the last three years, according to the country’s deputy prosecutor general, Andrei Lukin. Cases of stealing in the oil-producing heartland of western Kazakhstan are nothing new, although it seems authorities now have a clearer picture of the extent of the illegal trade following major security operations recently carried out against criminal groups.” READ MORE: http://www.youroilandgasnews.com/kazakhstan+plagued+by+oil+theft_145919.html

National Bank of Kazakhstan Proposes to Restrict the Exchange and Mining of Cryptocurrencies

The government in Kazakhstan plans to restrict cryptocurrencies in order to prevent ‘speculative risks’ which can potentially lead to public discontent in case the people lose their real money if a cryptocurrency bubble bursts

Oct 27 — “The central bank of Kazakhstan has submitted proposals to its government to restrict some cryptocurrency-related activities. However, the bank’s chairman admitted that he does not fully understand what cryptocurrency is. Experts also weighed in on the reality of banning crypto mining in the country.” READ MORE: https://news.bitcoin.com/national-bank-of-kazakhstan-restrict-exchange-mining-cryptocurrencies/

Kazakhstan adopts new military doctrine

In the new geopolitical realities in the Central Asia region and the world, Kazakhstan has adopted a new Military Doctrine identifying the country’s security threats and ways to counter such threats

Oct 27 — “President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree, on September 29, adopting Kazakhstan’s new Military Doctrine. The document outlines key priorities in military security for the Central Asian republic (Zakon.kz, September 29; Nomad.su, October 9).” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18842-kazakhstan-adopts-new-military-doctrine

KYRGYZSTAN

The Dark Side of Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Affordable Housing’

As corruption thrives with regard to the distribution of land plots for individual construction in and around Bishkek, the government’s ‘Affordable Housing’ program has so far failed to offer affordable mortgage loans to ordinary Kyrgyz citizens

Oct 20 — “On April 24, 2016, Leila Nazgul Seiitbek and her husband, Zalzar Temiraliev, were driving home with their four-year-old son after a late afternoon meeting with some friends in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Out of nowhere, a Land Cruiser almost slammed into the side of their car, forcing them to pull over.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/the-dark-side-of-kyrgyzstans-affordable-housing/

Migrant Women Workers and a ‘Lost Generation’ of Children in Kyrgyzstan

Labor migration caused by poverty and unemployment at home has had a heavy toll on women and children who remain in Kyrgyzstan

Oct 26 — “Dilya-eje, a secondary school teacher in the border village of Samarkandek, Kyrgyzstan, often visits the houses of her neighbourhood to record the children who should attend school the next year. She always indicates the status of their parents in her notebook. More than half of the parents are labelled as migrants.” READ MORE: https://thewire.in/190767/migrant-women-workers-lost-generation-children-kyrgyzstan/

Kyrgyzstan: Report Shows Presidential Candidate Gained Access to Private Data

A research claims that President-elect Sooronbai Jeenbekov’s campaign gained direct access to government computer servers giving it access to vast pools of personal data about the country’s voters

Oct 26 — “An in-depth investigation by news website Kloop.kg has revealed evidence of collusion in Kyrgyzstan between the government and the winner of this month’s presidential election.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85731

Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan border crisis remains unresolved

The problem with crossing the Kazakh border by Kyrgyz trucks remains unresolved, as long lines of trucks stand on the Kyrgyz side of the border, while the Kazakh side points to ‘smuggling’ from Kyrgyzstan

Oct 26 — ““The Kyrgyz Republic has deliberately chosen the path of Eurasian integration, as it best meets the strategic economic interests of the country. This decision was dictated by long-term national priorities of the Kyrgyz Republic,” Sapar Isakov, Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, said at the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council meeting on October 25 in Yerevan, Armenia.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18836-kyrgyzstan-kazakhstan-border-crisis-remains-unresolved

TAJIKISTAN

UN demands Tajikistan free detained Jehovah’s Witness

A Jehovah’s Witness is imprisoned in Tajikistan for conscientiously objecting to the country’s mandatory military service

Oct 25 — “A United Nations committee is calling for the immediate release of an 18-year-old Jehovah’s Witness the panel says is being unlawfully detained in Tajikistan because of his faith.” READ MORE: http://religionnews.com/2017/10/25/un-demands-tajikistan-free-detained-jehovahs-witness/

Tajik Polygamy: ‘Secret’ Second Wives Confront Risk, But Often It’s Too Late

In Tajikistan, polygamous unions frequently involve wealthy men seeking a younger second or third wife. Such “marriages” can take place with or without the knowledge of the first wife, who remains the man’s only legal wife in the eyes of a court

Oct 26 — “Tahmina Khojaeva is fighting to hang on to the newly refurbished apartment in Dushanbe where she and her husband are trying to raise their newborn twins. The problem is the other man, whom she describes as her former husband in a nearly four-year polygamous marriage.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-polygamy-second-wives-polygamy-/28817828.html

Junk Bond Sale and Development Aid: How to Build a Road and a Dam in Tajikistan

Tajikistan raised the much-needed $500 million in international bonds which will be used to complete the country’s Rogun dam project, which is to make Tajikistan energy sufficient and even allow electricity export

Oct 26 — “This week, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao made a three-day visit to Tajikistan, meeting Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and other members of Tajik government. The ADB seems optimistic about Tajikistan’s economic performance, despite the country’s fragile economy.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/junk-bond-sale-and-development-aid-how-to-build-a-road-and-a-dam-in-tajikistan/

Tajikistan: Student Medic Pays $16,000 Admission Bribe

Bribes for entrance to medical high scools in Tajikistan can reportedly reach $25,000 — the largest bribes in the Tajik education system

Oct 26 — “The size of the alleged bribe needed to get an aspiring medical student into college in Tajikistan is, it turns out, enough to cover annual fees at some British universities.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85711

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan leader opens luxury golf course in his desert state

Outside observers are skeptical about the idea of opening a golf course in Turkmenistan, but by doing so, the Turkmen leader aimed to raise his country’s international profile and attract more tourists

Oct 26 — “The eccentric dictator of Turkmenistan has opened a luxury golf course in the poor central Asian state, which is largely covered by desert. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, a sports fan, was seen on television teeing off at the government-funded course near the capital, Ashgabat. The opening ceremony was attended by Jack Nicklaus, the American golfer, whose company designed the course.” READ MORE: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/turkmenistan-leader-gurbanguly-berdymukhamedov-opens-luxury-golf-course-in-his-desert-state-vpt6dlpk6

The Real ‘Gates of Hell’ Haven’t Stopped Burning For 46 Years

The Darvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan’s Karakum desert lures hundreds of tourists every year

Oct 26 — “Deep in the Karakum desert is a place so metal that hordes of camel spiders routinely plunge to their deaths into a pit of fire. These unknowing souls are drawn to the flames of the Darvaza gas crater, a blazing pit in Turkmenistan that’s more commonly known as The Gates of Hell.” READ MORE: https://www.inverse.com/article/37799-gates-of-hell-darvas-gas-crater

Turkmenistan Independence Day: Top 10 facts about the diverse Asian country

Some peculiar facts about the isolated Central Asian country which remains a terra incognita to most people in the West

Oct 27 — “TODAY is Independence Day in Turkmenistan, celebrating their declaration of independence from the Soviet Union on October 27, 1991.” READ MORE: http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/871793/Turkmenistan-things-to-do-facts-Independence-Day

UZBEKISTAN

Trade possibilities spurring rapprochement between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

With the new leadership in Tashkent, the warming political relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have allowed boosting trade between the two neighbors

Oct 25 — “As visitors arrived at the UzExpoCenter exhibition hall in Tashkent last week, they were greeted by sight of a carpet woven with the image of the presidents of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan shaking hands. Some took photos of themselves cheerfully standing in front of the carpet.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18831-trade-possibilities-spurring-rapprochement-between-tajikistan-and-uzbekistan

Once Closed and Repressive, Uzbekistan Is Opening Up

One of the first results of the ongoing economic and political reforms in Uzbekistan is the release of a number of political prisoners jailed during the Karimov era

Oct 25 — “Muhammad Bekjanov, often called the world’s longest-imprisoned journalist, did 18 years of hard time in some of Uzbekistan’s most notorious prisons, with nicknames like “Goodbye to Youth.” He was a writer with never much hope for a happy ending to his own story.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/world/asia/uzbekistan-politics.html

Uzbekistan establishes new auto alliance

Uzbekistan is a leading automobile manufacturer and exporter in Central Asia and the post-Soviet domain

Oct 26 — “Uzavtosanoat Joint Stock Company and GM Uzbekistan have agreed to create the GM Uzbekistan Alliance, which is a new cooperation platform that meets the needs of the Uzbek growing automotive industry, GM Uzbekistan reported. Uzavtosanoat and GM will jointly develop the sale of Chevrolet and Ravon cars.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/casia/2813257.html

Turkey, Uzbekistan ready to cooperate: business figures

Uzbekistan’s president’s visit to Turkey this week was used as an opportunity to expand economic and business cooperation between the two countries

Oct 27 — “The Turkey-Uzbekistan Business Forum, for a third time this year, brought together business figures and officials from both countries to discuss mutual investment opportunities, the easing of regulations and more cooperation.” READ MORE: http://aa.com.tr/en/economy/turkey-uzbekistan-ready-to-cooperate-business-figures/949121

AFGHANISTAN

A Newly Assertive C.I.A. Expands Its Taliban Hunt in Afghanistan

In its activities in Afghanistan, the C.I.A. is now shifting from focusing on defeating Al Qaeda to targeting the Taliban

Oct 22 — “The C.I.A. is expanding its covert operations in Afghanistan, sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors alongside Afghan forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country, according to two senior American officials, the latest sign of the agency’s increasingly integral role in President Trump’s counterterrorism strategy.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/22/world/asia/cia-expanding-taliban-fight-afghanistan.html

Trump’s Afghanistan policy needs a reboot

A counterterrorism and security analyst claims that more U.S. troops in Afghanistan isn’t the most appropriate answer to the current stalemate

Oct 24 — “Since President Trump announced his new Afghan policy in August, foreign policy watchers have regularly debated whether or not it’ll be successful. Trump authorized an increased military presence in Afghanistan by sending an additional 4,000 troops. As a result, has Afghanistan fared any better? Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem so.” READ MORE: http://thehill.com/opinion/356995-trumps-afghanistan-policy-needs-a-reboot

The Myth of an Iran-Russia Alliance in Afghanistan

For Iran and Russia, Afghanistan is more likely an area of geopolitical competition than a sphere of cooperation, an analyst believes

Oct 25 — “On September 28, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis criticized Russia and Iran for providing military and financial support to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The U.S. Defense Department’s criticisms of Moscow and Tehran followed allegations that Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) forces routinely fight alongside Taliban militias in Afghanistan and that Russia had distributed small arms to Taliban fighters via Iranian proxies.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/the-myth-of-an-iran-russia-alliance-in-afghanistan/

The Man Who Thought He Could Fix Afghanistan

To get something done in Afghanistan, you need to know Scott Guggenheim. But even the ultimate fixer isn’t sure anyone can solve the country’s problems

Oct 27 — “On November 9, 2016, Scott Guggenheim, a longtime American adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, rose early with the sun, got into an armored vehicle and headed across Kabul’s fortified Green Zone to the U.S. Embassy.” READ MORE: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/27/kabul-afghanistan-us-fixer-scott-guggenheim-215742

WORLD

Ports, Pipelines, and Geopolitics: China’s New Silk Road Is a Challenge for Washington

As the US is wavering on its international commitments and plans to cut assistance to Central Asia countries, China is expanding its economic, and political, influence in Eurasia

Oct 23 — “On China’s remote western frontier with Kazakhstan, yurts and camels are silhouetted against a piercing blue sky. Yet the most striking image rising from the desert is an entirely new city. Founded four years ago, Khorgos is poised to become the world’s busiest inland port, a vital link in China’s multi-billion dollar plan to re-create the Silk Road.” READ MORE: http://time.com/4992103/china-silk-road-belt-xi-jinping-khorgos-kazakhstan-infrastructure/

China party congress subordinates regional, global engagements to national interests: what it means for Central Asia?

The message Beijing sent to neighbouring countries and beyond at the recent party congress was: China comes first, the rest of the world will come as well — but later

Oct 24 — “Rather than what one might have expected, China’s regional and global aspirations were not on top of the agenda at the Communist Party congress which took place this past week. Instead, domestic affairs dominated the event in the form of a consolidation of the hierarchic political and governmental power structure amidst speculations about a possible change in the denomination of candidates for succession within the system’s top ranks.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18825-china-party-congress-subordinates-regional-global-engagements-to-national-interests-what-it-means-for-central-asia

A new ear of cooperation for Central Asia

President of the Asian Development Bank comments on Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation program’s (CAREC) new 2030 strategy

Oct 27 — “Central Asia is a dynamic and fast-changing region. Over the past couple of decades, it has shown that increased regional cooperation is indispensable to achieving development goals. The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation program started operations in 2001 and has made significant contributions to the region’s growth.” READ MORE: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2017-10/27/content_33787205.htm

Sergey Kwan

TCA