Weekly Digest of Central Asia

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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

China’s Ambitious New ‘Port’: Landlocked Kazakhstan

China’s gateway to Central Asia, and to Europe, is now located at the border with Kazakhstan

Jan 1 — “China’s largest shipping company has poured billions of dollars into buying seaports in Greece and other maritime nations around the world. But the location of its latest big foreign investment has given a curious twist to the expanding ambitions of the China Ocean Shipping Company: The nearest ocean is more than 1,600 miles away.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/world/asia/china-kazakhstan-silk-road.html

MyBusiness: business without borders app to aid entrepreneurs doing business in Kazakhstan

The new app includes government databases and a legal database for entrepreneurs interested in doing business in Kazakhstan — in English, Kazakh, Mandarin and Russian

Jan 4 — “The “MyBusiness: business without borders” app, developed and created by Chevron, the British Council and the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, is a hoped-for way to protect the rights of entrepreneurs in the country.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2018/01/mybusiness-business-without-borders-app-to-aid-entrepreneurs-doing-business-in-kazakhstan/

Almaty taps China for wind power

Kazakhstan is developing alternative and renewable energy, with a focus on wind and solar power projects implemented with foreign investment

Jan 4 — “Chinese Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wind turbines, will build wind farms in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Chinese company will build two units with a capacity of 5 million watts based on wind energy in 2018” READ MORE: http://www.manilatimes.net/almaty-taps-china-wind-power/372093/

More Kazakh stores to appear in Russia

Kazakhstan expands the export of its environmentally friendly food products, with the main destinations being the huge markets of China and Russia

Jan 4 — “Kazakh groceries are planned to be opened in Tyumen, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk regions of Russia, the Kazakh embassy in Russia reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/124950.html

Kazak and Chinese employees jointly guard the 10,000-km Central Asia-China gas pipeline

Unlike in Uzbekistan, where army soldiers shoulder the duty of guarding gas pipelines, in Kazakhstan the pipeline to China is guarded by private security companies

Jan 4 — “Oscar, a Kazak national, was patrolling like any other day along the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline in Kazakhstan. A vice manager for the security department in AGP (Asia Gas Pipeline LLP), a joint natural gas pipeline company between China and Kazakhstan, he has worked there for the past eight years.” READ MORE: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1083344.shtml

Kazakhstan: taxi industry a bellwether for the economy

There is a tough competition in Kazakhstan’s taxi market, with the new taxi app players and unlicensed taxi drivers competing for each customer on the streets of the largest Kazakh cities

Jan 4 — “By Central Asian standards, Almaty has long been considered an expensive city. But the city’s taxi drivers may beg to differ: these days, you can get across the center for as little as a couple of dollars. Kazakhstan is slowly crawling out of a slump induced in large part by falling oil prices, but this bellwether of the real economy tells a less straightforward story.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19155-kazakhstan-taxi-industry-a-bellwether-for-the-economy

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan to review its civil aviation policy

To expand the geography of air flights, Kyrgyzstan needs to improve conditions for its aviation development and be removed from the EU blacklist

Jan 4 — “Bishkek-Tashkent-Bishkek air flight has been resumed late in December 2017, to run twice a week. In early 2018, it is also planned to resume the Osh-Tashkent-Osh flight. The agreement on the resumption of air communications between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan was reached during the official visit of Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to Tashkent in December.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19156-kyrgyzstan-to-review-its-civil-aviation-policy

Kyrgyz Police Probe Fire At Baptist Church Amid Hate Crime Fears

The attitude to Kyrgyz Christian converts has worsened in the mainly Muslim Kyrgyzstan and several villages in the country have refused to allow deceased Christian converts to be buried in local cemeteries

Jan 4 — “Police in a northern Kyrgyz village have launched an investigation into a fire at a Baptist church that some believe was an arson attack.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-baptist-church-fire-hate-crime-police-inestigation/28955135.html

Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan launch free transit regime

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and China are jointly developing the Tashkent- Andijan-Osh-Irkeshtam-Kashgar transport corridor

Jan 4 — “The protocol on introducing amendments and supplements to the agreement between the governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan on the international road traffic dated September 4, 1996, came into force, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/124983.html

Unknown Lands – A trip of Italians through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan

The unspoiled nature and local hospitality attracts foreign travellers to Kyrgyz, and Tajik, mountains

Jan 5 — “Italian traveler and videomaker Marco Barbieri visited with his friends Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan last fall. They traveled along the M-41 highway connected Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the highway is known as one of the most beautiful places in Central Asia.” READ MORE: https://akipress.com/news:600562/

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan: Prosecutors Investigate Legality of Telecoms Restrictions

Authorities in Tajikistan are taking new unpopular, restrictive measures — now in the telecommunications sphere

Jan 3 — “Prosecutors in Tajikistan are investigating the circumstances around the recent ban on money-saving phone apps imposed by the nation’s telecommunications regulator. The unusual sight of one branch of government probing another raises fresh questions about possible infighting in a regime almost entirely bereft of a real opposition.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/86616

Tajikistan ranked 7th place in the top 20 adventure travel destinations of the world

2018 was declared the Year of Tourism and Folk Crafts Development in Tajikistan, in an effort to attract more tourists and foreign cash to the country

Jan 4 — “Tajikistan ranked 7th place among top 20 adventure travel destinations in the rating of the International organization “British Backpacker Society”. NIAT “Khovar” has been reported by the Committee on Tourism Development of the Republic of Tajikistan.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/casia/tajikistan/2843671.html

About 3 mln tons of cement produced in Tajikistan in 2017

Tajikistan mainly exports its cement to neighboring Afghanistan, as well as to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan

Jan 4 — “Over one million tons of cement was exported by Tajikistan for the whole of last year. About three million tons of cement was produced in the country in 2017, Avesta reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/124961.html

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: the results of 2017

10 most important events that have taken place in Turkmenistan over the past year

Dec 30 — “The New Year is the time to sum up the results of the year. The year 2017 was abundant in events for Turkmenistan and its residents. The country survived the increased kindergarten rates, which sparked protests in provinces, the commissioning of Garlyk Mining and Processing Plant which operates at 7% of its estimate capacity; the President’s singing in front of voters and many other things.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2017/12/turkmenistan-the-results-of-2017/

Black cars reportedly banned in Turkmenistan

Black cars are prohibited in authoritarian Turkmenistan because white is the favorite color of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov

Jan 2 — “Starting from January 2018 the use of black cars will be prohibited in Turkmenistan, the foreign-based independent news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports. The parking lot located on Yubileynaya street in Ashgabat has been filled with vehicles of dark colors for over two months. Correspondents of Chronicles of Turkmenistan report that the cars were actually arrested and towed away as per police requirements.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19144-black-cars-reportedly-banned-in-turkmenistan

It is continuing the implementation of the joint project of the Academy of Civil Service and the EU for the improvement of the administrative management system

The EU assists Turkmenistan in raising the professional level of government employees and improving the educational process in this area

Jan 3 — “The regular meeting of the Coordinating Council of the joint project of the Academy of Civil Service and the European Union “Strengthening Civil Service Potential in Turkmenistan” was conducted at the Yildyz Hotel in Moscow. The meeting reviewed the results of the work for the reporting period, as well as the action plan for 2018.” READ MORE: http://www.turkmenistan.gov.tm/_eng/?id=9716

Turkish entrepreneurs hold a protest action in front of Turkmenistan’s Embassy in Ankara (video)

Turkish entrepreneurs demand payments for various construction projects they have completed in Turkmenistan

Jan 4 — “In late December 2017 Turkish entrepreneurs working in Turkmenistan organized a protest action in front of Turkmenistan’s Embassy in Ankara.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/01/turkish-entrepreneurs-hold-a-protest-action-in-front-of-turkmenistans-embassy-in-ankara-video/

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan: jailed entrepreneur keeps faith in the system

Harassment of private entrepreneurs by corrupt law-enforcement officials is widespread in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, and Uzbekistan is no exception. With reforms announced by the new Uzbek head of state, there is a hope that that practice will stop

Jan 3 — “A scroll through Olim Sulaimanov’s Facebook page suggests nothing of a man seeking to buck the system in Uzbekistan. One post from early January features a screenshot of the televised New Year’s Eve address by the president accompanied by wholehearted messages of support from Sulaimanov.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19151-uzbekistan-jailed-entrepreneur-keeps-faith-in-the-system

Uzbekistan exported textile worth over $1 bn in 2017

Uzbekistan is taking efforts to switch from exporting raw cotton to selling textile products with added value

Jan 3 — “Light industry enterprises of Uzbekistan exported products worth $1.1 billion to 50 nations in 2017 and the share of value-added products exceeded 40 per cent. The number of exporting enterprises rose from 293 in early 2017 to 350 by the year end. The country produces around 1.4 million tonnes of cotton fibre annually, of which about 60 per cent is consumed domestically.” READ MORE: http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/textile-news/uzbekistan-exported-textile-worth-over-1-bn-in-2017-239880-newsdetails.htm

Uzbekistan offers Tajikistan to open flights to Samarkand and Bukhara

With the warming relations between Dushanbe and Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have restored, and are now expanding, their air communication

Jan 4 — “The Uzbek national airline, Uzbekistan Airways, offered to open new flights which are set to link the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara with the capital of Tajikistan – Dushanbe, Tajik media outlets reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/124955.html

In Uzbekistan, A Visit To Your Jailer’s Grave

Local authorities have turned the late President Karimov’s gravesite in Samarkand into a place of pilgrimage

Jan 4 — “Apparently, there’s a new form of penance in Uzbekistan. Authorities there sent recently released prisoners to the ancient Silk Route city of Samarkand. There, they visited major attractions including the Al-Buhari Memorial Complex, Gur-i Emir (Tamerlane’s grave), the observatory of Ulughbek, and…the tomb of Uzbekistan’s first postindependence leader, Islam Karimov.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-pilgrimage-dictators-grave/28955195.html

AFGHANISTAN

Russia’s Afghanistan Strategy

Moscow believes that peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved by military force alone, but through negotiations and involvement of various parties in this country

Jan 2 — “For the last decade and a half, Russia and the United States have had largely similar aims in Afghanistan: preventing chaos and the reemergence of a safe haven for terrorists. That convergence has allowed the two countries to work together. But beneath the surface, there are important differences. Although both want stability, they define it in very different ways.” READ MORE: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2018-01-02/russias-afghanistan-strategy

Why the Taliban Isn’t Winning in Afghanistan

The Taliban is now seen as being too weak for victory in Afghanistan but still too strong for defeat

Jan 3 — “We must face facts,” remarked Senator John McCain in August 2017, “we are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide.” He is not the only one who has argued that the Taliban are on the march.” READ MORE: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2018-01-03/why-taliban-isnt-winning-afghanistan

Report: 21 Journalists Killed in Afghanistan in 2017

Being a journalist remains extremely dangerous in the war-torn country

Jan 3 — “Last year was the deadliest since 2016 for journalists in Afghanistan, with 21 reporters being killed in the line of duty, a new report, released by Nai, a nongovernmental organization advocating for open media in Afghanistan, claims.” READ MORE: https://www.voanews.com/a/report-21-journalists-killed-in-afghanistan-2017/4191693.html

Why Would China Help Build an Afghan Military Base in Badakhshan?

China is an important economic player and investor in Afghanistan, and the country’s stability meets Beijing’s interests in this region

Jan 5 — “According to regional reports, China is set to build an Afghan military outpost in Badakhshan.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/why-would-china-help-build-an-afghan-military-base-in-badakhshan/

WORLD

The Geopolitics of the Beijing-Moscow Consensus

Russia and China are at the same time rivals and partners in large-scale integration and infrastructure projects on the Eurasian continent, particularly in Central Asia

Jan 4 — “The integration of China’s Belt and Road and Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union will have major implications.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/the-geopolitics-of-the-beijing-moscow-consensus/

How China’s Belt and Road builds connections

Analysts on considerable risks entailed by Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative strategy

Jan 4 — “As the dust settles from the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Congress, one of the strongest edifices left standing is Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy initiative — the US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Two members of the BRI Leading Small Group, Wang Hunning and Wang Yang, secured five-year positions on the reshuffled Politburo Standing Committee. The BRI even received an awkward mention in the revised Party Constitution.” READ MORE: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2018/01/04/how-chinas-belt-and-road-builds-connections/

Finding the Way Forward on Iran

An opinion piece on what is going on in Iran and what this country represents today

Jan 5 — “Last May an article in this newspaper asked, “Is Iran a democracy or a dictatorship?” After more than a week of protests in as many as 80 Iranian cities, it’s safe to say we have the answer. Again.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/opinion/finding-the-way-forward-on-iran.html

Sergey Kwan

TCA