Weekly Digest of Central Asia

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and 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 this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.

KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan: A New Player In Kyrgyzstan’s Politics

Kyrgyzstan’s former President Atambayev has left a difficult legacy to his successor with regard to the country’s relations with its closest neighbor, Kazakhstan. It may take years, and political will from both sides, to mend the spoiled relations

Nov 29 — “The dispute between the governments of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is affecting many aspects of bilateral relations between the two countries, but one result that seems very likely is that Kazakhstan’s government will be taking a much greater interest in Kyrgyzstan’s domestic politics in the years to come.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakstan-new-player-kyrgyzstan-politcs-jeenbekov-atambaev-nazarbaev/28886927.html

Kazakhstan: State TV Doc on Kyrgyzstan’s 2010 Revolt Ruffles More Feathers

The documentary broadcast on Kazakhstan’s Khabar TV station, titled “Mission Peacemaker: The Kyrgyz Rift,” is but another episode in the diplomatic row between the neighboring countries

Nov 30 — “A state broadcaster in Kazakhstan has tweaked Kyrgyzstan with a documentary depicting that country’s 2010 revolution as a period of reckless mayhem and arguing that only Kazakhstan’s president was capable of restoring tranquillity.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/86251

Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan Leaders Meet, Raising Hopes of Rapprochement

Newly elected Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov is taking efforts to resolve the crisis in Kyrgyz-Kazakh relations

Nov 30 — “The leaders of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan met during a regional security summit in Minsk on November 30 for talks that have raised hopes that a bitter squabble between their nations could be settled. Newly elected Kyrgyz leader Sooronbai Jeenbekov and President Nursultan Nazarbayev used the encounter to discuss the stalemate on their countries’ shared border.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/86281

Kazakhstan, U.S. discuss ways to deepen strategic partnership

U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs says that Washington views Kazakhstan as a leader not only in Central Asia but on the world arena

Dec 1 — “The Nov. 30 Kazakhstan – United States Strategic Partnership Commission meeting, co-chaired by Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashykbayev and U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells, was mainly dedicated to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s official visit to the United States in January.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2017/12/kazakhstan-u-s-discuss-ways-to-deepen-strategic-partnership/

Kazakhstan exports more than 800 goods to 113 countries

Kazakhstan is taking steps to reduce the share of raw material and commodity exports and increase the export of processed and manufactured goods

Dec 1 — “Kazakhstan exports more than 800 manufactured products to 113 countries, ranking 52nd among the largest exporting countries, said Minister for Investment and Development Zhenis Kassymbek. The government plans to increase the nation’s non-oil exports by 50 percent by 2025.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2017/12/kazakhstan-exports-more-than-800-goods-to-113-countries/

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan: Ex-Mufti’s Second Wife Sparks Polygamy Debate

In Kyrgyzstan, a secular state that prohibits polygamy by law, its legalization remains an issue of national discussion

Nov 29 — “A prominent religious authority in Kyrgyzstan has admitted to taking a second wife, sparking a national discussion on polygamy in the process. Chubak azhy Zhalilov broke the news on his YouTube account and argued that he wants to see more men follow his example.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/86231

Kyrgyzstan’s new president vows to strengthen ‘strategic partnership’ with Russia

The first foreign visit of the new Kyrgyz President Jeenbekov — to Russia — signals the main vector in Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy

Nov 30 — “During his first official visit abroad since his inauguration on November 24, Kyrgyzstan’s new President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has pledged to take “every effort” to strengthen partnership between Kyrgyzstan and Russia.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18995-kyrgyzstan-s-new-president-vows-to-strengthen-strategic-partnership-with-russia

Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan for stronger ties in all areas of cooperation

Electricity export and regional transport connectivity are the main areas of cooperation between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan

Dec 1 — “Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov Friday agreed to further enhance cooperation in all areas of mutual interest including trade and defence, besides stressing on the need for greater cooperation between the chambers of commerce and Industry of the two countries.” READ MORE: https://dnd.com.pk/pakistan-kyrgyzstan-for-stronger-ties-in-all-areas-of-cooperation/135988

China, Kyrgyzstan to push forward cooperation on cross-border infrastructure

China remains Kyrgyzstan’s largest infrastructure investor — especially in the road transport and energy spheres

Dec 1 — “China and Kyrgyzstan pledged to promote cooperation on cross-border transportation infrastructure here on Friday. During a meeting with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sapar Isakov early on Friday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China is a friendly neighbor and strategic partner for Kyrgyzstan and both countries see each other’s development as opportunities.” READ MORE: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-12/01/c_136793661.htm

TAJIKISTAN

It Takes Two To Tango: Tajiks Eye Targeting ‘Men Of Loose Morals’ In Tackling Prostitution

Authorities in Tajikistan propose adding the phrase of “men of loose morals” to the country’s Administrative Code to target men involved in prostitution either as clients or sex workers

Nov 27 — “”Men of loose morals” is the term that Tajik prosecutors want added to the country’s laws to combat prostitution. Prostitution is illegal and considered a misdemeanor in Tajikistan. But under current legislation, only women are liable for committing the offense.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-prostitution-penalties-for-men-to-increase/28882733.html

Greek Court Denies Tajik Extradition Request for IRPT Member

Authorities in Tajikistan have been cracking down on members of the IRPT, which had been Central Asia’s only legal Islamist political party and until March 2015 had held two seats in the Tajik Parliament

Nov 30 — “A court in Greece has denied an extradition request from Tajikistan for the return of Mirzorakhim Kuzov, a senior member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), according to Human Rights Watch researcher Steve Swerdlow. Kuzov (also known by the name Shohnaimi Karim) was detained in October by Greek authorities at the Athens airport while he was traveling to Tehran, Iran after attending an OSCE human rights meeting in Warsaw, Poland.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/greek-court-denies-tajik-extradition-request-for-irpt-member/

Debt-Saddled Tajikistan Mulls More Bond Sales

Tajikistan needs borrowed funds for a huge hydropower plant project designed to make the country energy sufficient and even start exporting surplus electricity

Dec 1 — “Tajikistan could embark on a second round of bond sales as well as seeking a loan from the International Monetary Fund to give it a hand out of the economic doldrums. Tajikistan successfully raised $500 million in its first international bond sale two months ago, as lower borrowing costs offset investor concerns about the junk-rated country’s many risk factors.” READ MORE: http://www.tol.org/client/article/27382-tajikistan-economy-bonds-rogun-dam.html

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan’s Iron Lady: A Strange Tale Of Corruption

A story of the life and fall of Turkmenistan’s once-almighty prosecutor-general

Nov 24 — “You could say Gurbanbibi Atajanova was born with a set of jailer’s keys in her hand. She served as the country’s prosecutor-general for an astonishing 10 years under Turkmenistan’s first president, Saparmurat Niyazov, a leader known for constantly shuffling officials.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-turkmenistan-corruption-iron-lady-atajanova/28874935.html

The President of Turkmenistan dismisses the khyakims of Lebap velayat and three etraps for corruption and problems in agriculture

As Turkmenistan’s economy is experiencing a downturn, the autocratic Turkmen leader blames government officials at all levels for all sins

Nov 28 — “On 27 November the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who is paying an official visit to Lebap velayat, held a field Cabinet session. In the course of the meeting the head of state expressed grave discontent with the performance of the region’s leadership, according to the state information agency TDH.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2017/11/the-president-of-turkmenistan-dismisses-the-khyakims-of-lebap-velayat-and-three-etraps-for-corruption-and-problems-in-agriculture/

Turkmenistan starts railroad construction from its border into Afghanistan

The new railway will connect Afghanistan with Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat and on with Turkmenbashy Port on the Caspian Sea. The transport corridor will then be continued across the sea to Baku, Azerbaijan and farther via Tbilisi in Georgia to Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey

Dec 1 — “Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on November 29 launched the construction of a new railway from the Turkmen border to the city of Turgundy in Afghanistan, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported. The President called the event “historical,” adding that “we render comprehensive support and assistance to fraternal Afghan people and will continue putting all efforts that enhance the revival of the neighboring state”. READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19005-turkmenistan-starts-construction-of-railroad-from-turkmen-border-into-afghanistan

UZBEKISTAN

Sayfullo Saipov: From golden boy to ISIL supporter

Here is another attempt to understand how a young man from a decent Uzbek family has turned into an Islamist terrorist

Nov 29 — “Sayfullo Saipov, a national of Uzbekistan accused of killing eight people in Lower Manhattan on October 31, was supposed to be a golden boy. His attack, the deadliest assault in New York since September 11, 2001, was described by US officials including the president as a “terrorist” incident.” READ MORE: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/11/sayfullo-saipov-golden-boy-isil-supporter-171129091454515.html

Uzbekistan: starting to grapple with labor migration issue

Official Tashkent is changing its attitude to the large army of Uzbek labor migrants working in Russia. Although this change is for the better, much is yet to be done to protect the rights of Uzbek laborers in Russia — and perhaps the most decisive step in this direction would be Uzbekistan’s possible entry into the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union

Nov 30 — “The recent murder of an Uzbek migrant in the Moscow region was stunning for its pettiness and brazenness. The reaction both in Russia and Uzbekistan was out of the ordinary. In broad daylight on October 13 in a drab village southwest of Moscow, a man in his mid-20s allegedly stabbed hairdresser Dostan Adehanov repeatedly in the chest with a skewer.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19000-uzbekistan-starting-to-grapple-with-labor-migration-issue

Uzbek initiative may change face of Central Asia, experts say

Since coming to power, President Mirziyoyev has taken steps to open Uzbekistan up and pursue closer cooperation with the other Central Asian countries — Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan

Dec 1 — “A formerly isolated Central Asian state, Uzbekistan, has begun incremental change under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, paving the way to become the political center of Central Asia.” READ MORE: https://www.dailysabah.com/asia/2017/12/02/uzbek-initiative-may-change-face-of-central-asia-experts-say

Chinese companies to build large chemical complex in Uzbekistan

China is one of Uzbekistan’s key economic partners and infrastructure investors in major projects that link Central Asia to China, including roads, railway lines, oil and gas pipelines

Dec 1 — “Uzbekistan and China signed the agreement on the joint construction of a complex for the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), caustic soda and methanol. The complex will be built on the basis of the Uzbek enterprise Navoiazot in the largest industrial city of the central part of Uzbekistan — Navoi.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/123223.html

AFGHANISTAN

Victory or Failure in Afghanistan: 2018 Will Be the Deciding Year

Analyst says the Trump administration claims it has everything it needs to succeed in Afghanistan, but it also has a limited time to prove that it’s right

Nov 27 — “The war in Afghanistan will be decided in 2018, when a new military-heavy U.S. administration in Washington will prove whether its plan will be enough to overcome entrenched battlefield obstacles and convince skeptics that it is capable of putting an end to America’s longest conflict.” READ MORE: https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-11-27/victory-or-failure-in-afghanistan-2018-will-be-the-deciding-year

As advisory role grows in Afghanistan, so does risk to U.S. troops

The US continue relying on military rather than political tools in achieving peace in Afghanistan

Nov 28 — “The Trump administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan will array significantly more U.S. troops across the battlefield, increasing the risk to American lives, a senior general said on Tuesday. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., who commands U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters at the Pentagon that President Trump’s new plan for Afghanistan would substantially expand how American advisers provide hands-on assistance to Afghan soldiers.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/11/28/as-advisory-role-grows-in-afghanistan-so-does-risk-to-u-s-troops/?utm_term=.ea4dcf84a866

U.S. talks with Russia about military partnership in Afghanistan War

Possible US-Russia cooperation in Afghanistan may be a gamechanger in the war and fight against terrorism in this country and the wider Central Asia region

Nov 30 — “Top U.S. military commanders and diplomats are weighing a proposed strategy shift in the Afghanistan War centered on expanded military collaboration with Russia. On separate occasions this week, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, spoke publicly of Washington and Moscow’s shared interests in the fight that could also align with each country’s larger regional security goals.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/nov/30/us-russia-alliance-afghanistan-war-considered/

WHAT IS THE TALIBAN’S ‘RED UNIT’? JIHADI SPECIAL FORCES ARE USING RUSSIAN, U.S. TECH FOR ATTACKS

Insurgency in Afghanistan has become more sophisticated, as the Taliban have reportedly created their own elite division: the “Red Unit”

Dec 1 — “It was called the “Caravan of Heroes.” The video opens with the silhouettes of commandos—guns cocked—appearing over a hill, a sunrise in the background. They could have been American or British special forces, but they were from another group: the Taliban.” READ MORE: http://www.newsweek.com/what-talibans-red-unit-jihadi-special-forces-are-using-russian-us-tech-attacks-711761

WORLD

The Bridge to Connect Asia

The Wakhan corridor lies inside the Pamir Knot, between China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. If completed, it would strengthen trade between these countries and bring stability to the region

Nov 20 — “China, an economic giant, has started the move to revitalize the ancient Silk Road. Its ambitious Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, which includes plans for a Silk Road economic belt and the 21st-century maritime Silk Road, aims to connect continental Asia, Europe and Africa. The project has an estimated investment requirement of $5 trillion in infrastructure across 65 countries.” READ MORE: https://www.fairobserver.com/region/central_south_asia/wakhan-corridor-china-pakistan-afghanistan-tajikistan-world-trade-news-81661/

Has Central Asia stabilized?

State power succession remains an issue for post-Soviet Central Asian republics, especially for Kazakhstan, which largely determines the region’s stability

Nov 29 — “Central Asia is changing. In October, Kyrgyzstan had its first peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another. Less than a year earlier, Uzbekistan’s succession of power unfolded in a similarly peaceful manner. And in recent months, Kazakhstan’s own long-serving president has made preparations for his eventual succession. These developments contrast with the volatile political transitions that came earlier in Central Asia’s post-Soviet history, namely two violent revolutions in Kyrgyzstan, a bloody civil war in Tajikistan and an unexpected succession in Turkmenistan.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18994-has-central-asia-stabilized

Can India ‘Connect’ With Central Asia?

As China has built a strong economic, and political, influence in Central Asia, India has realized the importance of this region for its energy-thirsty economy

Nov 30 — “The conceptualization of regions allows countries to integrate the various available geographical models into their own strategies. A new region entered the world scenario after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991: Central Asia as a distinguished region was born.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/can-india-connect-with-central-asia/

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Prospects and Pitfalls

A former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan analyzes the bright prospects and, most importantly, the challenges facing China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Nov 30 — “Chinese President Xi Jinping initially mooted the idea of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in September and October 2013, respectively. Subsequently the two projects together came to be known as the ”One Belt One Road” (OBOR) Initiative.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-prospects-and-pitfalls/

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