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 Worries About Catalonia, Thinks About Home

By supporting the ‘territorial integrity’ of Spain Kazakhstan has again exposed its worries about potential separatist moods in the country’s northern regions inhabited by a large ethnic Russian minority

Oct 30 — “Kazakhstan’s government engaged in some not-so-subtle signaling over the weekend by issuing a statement on Catalonia to convey its support for the “territorial integrity” of Spain. While being careful to note that what happens inside Spain is Madrid’s business alone, the Foreign Ministry in Astana is sending a message on separatism that is worth decoding.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85786

Kazakhstan to Qazaqstan: Why would a country switch its alphabet?

Kazakhstan’s transition to a Latin-based alphabet is seen by many as an attempt to weaken the country’s historical ties to Russia

Oct 31 — “The Kazakh language has long been unsure which alphabet to find a comfortable home in and it’s now in for another transition – but this is not without controversy.” READ MORE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41800186

Japan looks to investment opportunities in Kazakhstan regions

In Central Asia, Japan was traditionally engaged in humanitarian aid projects, but things are changing now with more Japanese investors looking to the region

Nov 2 — “A Kazakh-Japanese business forum on the topic “Regions of Kazakhstan: prospects for Japanese investments” was held in Tokyo on October 31 under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Japan, the official website of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18867-japan-looks-to-investment-opportunities-in-kazakhstan-regions

Kazakhstan, Korea open Friendship Garden in Astana

The new Kazakh and Korean Friendship Garden testifies to the development of bilateral economic and cultural ties and also improves the green belt around the Kazakh capital city

Nov 3 — “The Kazakh and Korean Friendship Garden opened recently in the capital signifies the harmonious cooperation and long friendship between the countries. The project was initiated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev during then-Korean President Park Geun-hye’s visit to Kazakhstan in 2014.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2017/11/kazakhstan-korea-open-friendship-garden-in-astana/

Kazakh restaurant opens in Manhattan

Residents of New York now can try dishes of traditional Kazakh cuisine in a restaurant opened by enterprising Kazakh expats

Nov 3 — “While studying in the United States, Karaganda siblings Farida Gabbasova and Zhanibek Gabbasov missed the tastes of home. To treat themselves and others to their favourite foods, they have opened a small restaurant in Manhattan featuring Kazakh cuisine, reported 24.kz.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2017/11/kazakh-restaurant-opens-in-manhattan/


Microfinance in Kyrgyzstan: poor services, high interest rates

Microfinance remains an important source of financing for poor and mostly rural people in Kyrgyzstan, but the sector’s loans still have rather high interest rates

Oct 30 — “A roundtable to discuss the Main Directions of the Microfinance Sector Development in Kyrgyzstan for 2018-2021 was held in Bishkek on October 26. Representatives of the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic (NBKR), the Economy Ministry, the Union of Banks of Kyrgyzstan, microfinance organizations, credit unions, and independent experts attended the meeting.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18855-microfinance-in-kyrgyzstan-poor-services-high-interest-rates

Kyrgyzstan: MPs Move to Legalize Glacier Mining

Between environmental concerns and economic expediency, Kyrgyzstan seems to have chosen the latter by moving to allow mining operations at mountain glaciers at Kumtor gold deposit

Nov 2 — “A parliamentary subcommittee in Kyrgyzstan has given backing to legislative changes that will allow companies to work on mines at glaciers in exceptional circumstances — a development that has appalled environmental campaigners.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/85831

Are newly-built high-rise buildings safe in Kyrgyzstan?

Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek is seeing a booming construction of commercial and residential property, but quantity not always means quality

Nov 3 — “Special attention of government agencies, the media and general public is currently paid to the quality of construction works in Kyrgyzstan. The reason was the recent collapse of a building under construction in the southeast of Bishkek.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18876-are-newly-built-high-rise-buildings-safe-in-kyrgyzstan

Kaz comes a cropper in Kyrgyzstan

The suspension of a copper mine operated by a Kazakh company in Kyrgyzstan might be another twist in the ongoing ‘economic war’ between the two neighbors caused by Kazakhstan’s alleged meddling in the Kyrgyz presidential election

Nov 3 — “Just when investors thought it might be safe to enter the Kyrgyz Republic, the volatile government has struck again, this time suspending operations at Kaz Minerals’ (LN:KAZ) Bozymchak copper and gold mine.” READ MORE: http://www.mining-journal.com/commodities/copper/kaz-comes-a-cropper-in-kyrgyzstan/


Relatives Of Fugitive Tajik Colonel Said Sentenced To Prison

Authorities in Tajikistan are stepping up their struggle against Islamic extremism, but most importantly, against any potential opposition force in the tightly-controlled country

Oct 30 — “A court official in Tajikistan says prison sentences have been handed down to two brothers and a nephew of Gulmurod Halimov, a fugitive police colonel who joined the extremist group Islamic State (IS).” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-court-jail-sentences-relative-fugitive-colonel-halimov/28824371.html

Tajikistan’s Presidential Family Ousts Competitor in the Fuel Market

In Tajikistan, the President’s family is consolidating its grip on power and the control of the country’s lucrative economic sectors

Nov 1 — “On October 14, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon singled out the company Umed-88 as an insolvent business that the government had irresponsibly provided with a large loan. The following week, local media unveiled that just as Rahmon was speaking, Radjabali Odinayev, the founder and owner of Umed-88, had been arrested on charges of fraud, smuggling, tax evasion, and forgery.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/tajikistans-presidential-family-ousts-competitor-in-the-fuel-market/

Turkmenistan president visits Tajikistan to expand cooperation

Turkmenistan is going to supply electricity via Afghanistan to Tajikistan in autumn and winter periods should the Tajik side express its interest in it

Nov 3 — “A Declaration and Agreement on strategic partnership between Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and a package of other interstate documents were signed after talks between Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe on November 2.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18872-turkmenistan-president-visits-tajikistan-to-expand-cooperation


Iran Rejects Turkmen Proposal For Gas Shipments To Turkey

Turkmenistan badly needs to diversify its gas export routes, but its long-lasting gas dispute with Iran is an obstacle to Ashgabat’s plan

Oct 30 — “Energy politics around the Caspian Sea breeds complications, as a recent example involving Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia reminds us. Turkmenistan is in a serious bind. The country has the fourth-largest natural gas reserves in the world but currently has only one customer — China — at a time when Turkmenistan’s economy appears to be spiraling downward.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-rejects-turkmenistan-proposal-gas-shipments-turkey/28824118.html

Turkmen president prioritizes stable exchange rate of national currency

Stability of the national currency is of paramount importance for Turkmenistan as the country’s economy is facing a decline along with decreasing gas export revenues

Nov 1 — “Ensuring stable exchange rate of the Turkmen national currency, the manat, is one of priority tasks of the country’s banking sector, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said in his appeal to bank employees on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the introduction of the Turkmen manat.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/casia/turkmenistan/2815320.html

ADB to support Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan power transmission line project

In addition to CASA 1000 power transmission project that will supply electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, energy-thirsty Pakistan will also import electricity from Turkmenistan

Nov 1 — “The Asian Development Bank has pledged to provide US $150 million for a power transmission line from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan, TOLOnews reported. Officials from the bank said they will provide technical assistance as well as financial assistance to the three countries” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18863-adb-to-support-turkmenistan-afghanistan-pakistan-power-transmission-line-project

Tajikistan Railway will connect to Turkmenistan through Afghanistan by TAT Railway Track

The new railway will form a transit corridor that will later be linked to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, across the Caspian Sea

Nov 2 — “Turkmenistan and Tajikistan reviewed the pace of work on Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan (TAT) Railway track during a meeting of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon with President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov here on Thursday.” READ MORE: https://dnd.com.pk/tajikistan-railway-will-connect-to-turkmenistan/135056


Uzbekistan & Turkey: is it love?

Uzbekistan has taken efforts to mend its relations with Turkey, a move analysts say is part of President Mirziyoyev’s plan to attract much-needed investments in the Uzbek economy

Oct 29 — “The just-concluded Uzbek-Turkish summit meeting in Ankara was like a meeting of long-lost friends. “You could tell from our eyes how we had missed one another over these 20 years,” Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said, standing near his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a joint briefing. “We understood one another without saying even half a word, even without words, just by looking at one another.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18848-uzbekistan-turkey-is-it-love

A snapshot of Uzbekistan, homeland of the suspect in the deadly New York truck attack

The Los Angeles Times looks into why Central Asia, and especially Uzbekistan, is ideologically important for Islamic State, and if Uzbekistan is a breeding ground for extremism

Nov 2 — “The suspect in this week’s deadly truck attack in New York, Sayfullo Saipov, came to the United States from Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic, apparently seeking a better life.” READ MORE: http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-uzbekistan-explainer-20171102-story.html

Tashkent Washes Its Hands Of Radicalized Uzbeks

Officials in Uzbekistan insist that the suspect in the deadly New York truck attack Sayfullo Saipov, like other Uzbeks accused of terrorist attacks this year, were radicalized outside the country

Nov 2 — “Tashkent was quick to react after an Uzbek immigrant was accused of killing eight people in a truck attack in New York earlier this week. But while President Shavkat Mirziyoev quickly expressed Uzbekistan’s willingness to use “all its resources” to help investigate the October 31 attack, observers continue to scrutinize Tashkent’s response in light of the country’s history of repression of Islam at home.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-distances-itself-uzbek-terror-attack-suspects/28831746.html

Uzbekistan paves way for Central Asia business reforms

Under the new President Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan is making strides in economic reforms, the fact recognized by the World Bank’s latest “Doing Business” report

Nov 3 — “The 15th edition of the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report, which surveys tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, lawyers and accountants for on-the-ground insight into commercial and regulatory conditions across a dozen categories, showed Uzbekistan as one of the top 10 reformers over the past year among the 190 countries tracked.” READ MORE: http://www.atimes.com/uzbekistan-paves-way-central-asia-business-reforms/


The Afghan conundrum

In spite of differences that persist within different stakeholders in Afghanistan and the different regional players, one thing is sure – an unstable Afghanistan is in no one’s interest

Oct 28 — “This week US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paid a visit to South Asia. He visited both Islamabad and New Delhi, and made a sudden, secret visit to Afghanistan, too. So tight was the security that there is confusion over where exactly he had his meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani – in Kabul or at the Bagram Air base, which he visited.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18847-the-afghan-conundrum

UN secretary general speaks out on Afghanistan

In his report, UN secretary general Guterres admits that the Taliban maintain their ability to contest territory across Afghanistan, which compels Kabul to devote significant resources to preserve the status quo, let alone make advances

Nov 1 — “Every three months the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) issues a report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security. Although available online, few outside UN spheres and foreign embassies in Kabul take the trouble to go through it from back to back.” READ MORE: http://www.atimes.com/un-secretary-general-speaks-afghanistan/

The Fence Driving a Wedge Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Pakistan has started fencing the 2,344-kilometer border with Afghanistan — the measure estimated to cost more than $532 million and driving a wedge between the neighboring countries that have accused each other of harboring insurgents that launch cross-border attacks

Nov 1 — “On the upper deck of the Hamza Fort border check-point in Pakistan’s South Waziristan, Major General Nauman Zakaria points to a 12-foot high fence just yards away — the latest initiative the military says will stem insurgent attacks across a more than 1,000 mile disputed border with Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-31/the-fence-driving-a-wedge-between-pakistan-and-afghanistan

Afghanistan is the war the US will never win

An opinion piece author believes that in the end, the long war in Afghanistan will drain the United States’ resources and weaken its ability to maintain global dominance

Nov 3 — “Afghanistan has always been the graveyard of empires, and it will be no different this time for the US. It is just that successive American administrations have refused to concede defeat, believing that by maintaining a presence on the ground they can safeguard America’s broader strategic interests.” READ MORE: https://www.iol.co.za/news/opinion/afghanistan-is-the-war-the-us-will-never-win-11837228


Find Out Some (But Not All) The Secrets Of China’s Foreign Aid

A new report finds that China spent $354.3 billion on foreign aid from 2000 to 2014, with Chinese funds going to more than 4,300 projects in 140 countries and territories, with Angola, Pakistan and Russia getting the most money over the 15-year period

Oct 31 — “For a long time, China’s foreign aid spending was best described in the words of Winston Churchill: “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The country withholds information from the public because it is considered a state secret. China joins countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela who collectively spend billions of dollars on overseas development each year but provide little to no information about where the money goes.” READ MORE: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/10/31/560278615/find-out-some-but-not-all-the-secrets-of-chinas-foreign-aid

How One Region’s Gains Are Another’s Tragedy

Stratfor says that security crackdowns in Central Asia have driven many militants — and people susceptible to militancy and radicalization — away from the region to more lax security environments, such as conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, or more open communities in Europe and the United States

Nov 2 — “Though Central Asian nations have kept terrorism relatively contained recently, more Central Asian nationals seem to be conducting attacks abroad. There are two parts to the trend: First, in cracking down on extremist elements, Central Asian states are pushing radical nationals out of the country and into other conflict zones and into more open societies.” READ MORE: https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/how-one-regions-gains-are-anothers-tragedy

The Quiet Rivalry Between China and Russia

As China moves forward with its One Belt, One Road initiative in Eurasia, Russia may have realized that it is losing to Beijing in building influence on Central Asia

Nov 3 — “China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, an economic expansion plan that follows the trade routes of the medieval Tang and Yuan dynasties across Eurasia, is overly ambitious because, like all grand strategies, it is aspirational. Yet the future of Eurasia is written into its design.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/opinion/china-russia-rivalry.html

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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