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

Kazakhstan unveils new plan

As agriculture remains an important sector of Kazakhstan’s economy and the country is among the world’s largest grain exporters, the government plans to boost the grain industry through state support

Jan 23 — “Over the next four years, Kazakhstan plans to improve the profitability of its grain industry by 30% to 40% through the introduction of a new state grants distribution scheme, approving of new organic standards and shifting from cultivation of wheat toward corn and soybeans, in accordance to the State Program of Agro-Industrial Complex Development in 2017-2021.” READ MORE: http://www.world-grain.com/articles/news_home/World_Grain_News/2017/01/Kazakhstan_unveils_new_plan.aspx?ID=%7BBBCFF137-CB5E-4D6F-9136-5A155EDFA0CA%7D

Astana summit: Opposition sets demands for new talks

This week, Kazakhstan’s capital Astana acted as a new platform for peace negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition, raising Kazakhstan’s role in world politics

Jan 24 — “Russia, Turkey and Iran have pledged to strengthen a fragile ceasefire in Syria, even as opposition negotiators expressed reservations over Tehran’s role in monitoring the truce. The three regional powers announced on Tuesday in the Kazakh capital Astana the creation of a “trilateral mechanism to observe and ensure full compliance with the ceasefire”, which has been in place since late December.” READ MORE: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/astana-summit-opposition-sets-demands-talks-170124163538146.html

Kazakhstan: Striking Workers Made to Pay Damages for Not Eating

Kazakh authorities show tough attitude to oil workers striking in western Kazakhstan in support of an independent national trade union

Jan 24 — “A court in western Kazakhstan has ordered oil workers who went on a hunger strike as part of a labor dispute to pay 3.4 million tenge ($10,000) in compensation for damages purportedly incurred by their refusal to eat. Mangystau district court in the city of Aktau on January 24 found that the 28 laborers had caused their employer, Oil Construction Company, or OCC, financial losses, despite the fact that they continued to work for the duration of their protest.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82096

Are Political Reforms Afoot in Kazakhstan?

Amid long-lasting speculations about power succession in Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev has announced a constitutional reform that will redistribute state powers in the country

Jan 27 — “Wednesday, Central Asia watchers were all atwitter over a surprising announcement by Kazakhstan’s long-time president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, that he would aim to devolve some of his powers to Parliament. In December, a working group began meeting in Astana to evaluate the redistribution of powers between government branches, Nazarbayev’s announcement and the draft of proposed constitutional reforms now up for public discussion are products of that process.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/are-political-reforms-afoot-in-kazakhstan/

Kazakhstan Ranks 48 in Bloomberg Innovation Index, Second Year Among Top 50

The Kazakh government’s Program of accelerated industrial and innovative development has shown positive results

Jan 27 — “Kazakhstan rose two positions to 48th in Bloomberg’s 2017 Innovation Index, marking the second year in a row the country has been among the world’s top 50 innovative economies.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/01/kazakhstan-ranks-48-in-bloomberg-innovation-index-second-year-among-top-50/
 

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan: Brawl Breaks out on Tajikistan Border

Some sections of Kyrgyzstan’s border with Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, in the densely populated Fergana Valley the three countries share still wait for delimitation and conflicts often occur between local Kyrgyz and Tajik communities  

Jan 23 — “A brawl broke out in a contested section of the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over the weekend — the latest of many such incidents caused by failure to forge a solution on joint use of the area.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82081

Kyrgyzstan Detains Two Alleged Terrorists With Fake U.S. Dollars

The alleged terrorists are said to be linked to a man involved in last year’s attack against the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek

Jan 25 — “Kyrgyz authorities say they have detained two alleged members of a terrorist group who were carrying $56,000 in counterfeit bills. Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said on January 25 that the suspects, whose identities were not disclosed, had been detained on January 20.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-counterfeit-arrests-us-money/28256402.html

Verdict in Kyrgyzstan: Highest level of hypocrisy

Fergana international information agency’s Chief Editor, Daniil Kislov, believes Azimjan Askarov was imprisoned for criticism and the truth that the Kyrgyz government and society are still unprepared to face

Jan 26 — “Long before being convicted, Azimjan Askarov—an ethnic Uzbek who then lived in Southern Kyrgyzstan—has always been the least convenient person to deal with for police and prosecutors in his native Bazar-Kurgan and Jalalabad. He was known for defending the rights of those beaten in police stations, a girl cops raped, and Hizb-ut-Tahrir members who were peaceful but so “annoying” and “detrimental” in the government’s eyes.” READ MORE: http://enews.fergananews.com/articles/2989

Kyrgyz President Signs Constitutional Amendments

Constitutional amendments that, among others, provide for shifting key powers from the president to the prime minister have come into force in Kyrgyzstan

Jan 27 — “Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has signed constitutional amendments into law after they were adopted in a referendum in December. Lawmakers, cabinet members, and the Supreme Court chairwoman attended the signing ceremony in Bishkek on January 27.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-atambaev-signs-constitutional-amendments/28263071.html

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan’s Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev: One Of The Last Of The Civil War Era

One of the last major figures of Tajikistan’s civil war era has been removed from the post of Dushanbe’s mayor he held for 20 years, giving way to the Tajik President’s son

Jan 22 — “Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev might not be a name well known outside Tajikistan, but he has most certainly been someone well known to Tajikistan’s people throughout its 25-year history as an independent country. Ubaidulloev is part of Tajikistan’s history.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-ubaidulloev-dushanbe-mayor-dismissal-civil-war-rahmon/28249742.html

Poverty, Poor Infrastructure Take Toll on Tajik Forests

Tajikistan may have lost two-thirds of its mountain forests in the quarter-century since independence

Jan 24 — “Tajik forest rangers are on high alert for illegal tree cutting this winter. People have run out of the coal and firewood they laid in for winter, the chief forest ranger in the Danghara district in the country’s southwest said.” READ MORE: http://www.tol.org/client/article/26645-tajikistan-forest-deforestation-electricity-dam.html

Air communication between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan expected to be restored soon

After the new President was elected in Uzbekistan last December, Tashkent has begun improving relations, including in the transport and communication sphere, with neighboring Tajikistan

Jan 27 — “National Air Company Uzbekistan Airways (O‛zbekiston Havo Yo‛llari) will launch a number of new air routes this year, the company top manager Valery Tyan told reporters in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, on January 26. The press conference was held on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s national air carrier. Flights between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan will be restored in the near future, Tyan was cited as saying by Gazeta.uz.” READ MORE: https://www.news.tj/en/news/tajikistan/economic/20170127/236026

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan Tirelessly Searching for New Markets for Its Energy

The Turkmen government is pursuing the task of expanding destinations and increasing export volumes of both natural gas and electricity

Jan 23 — “Turkmenistan, which holds the world’s fourth largest proven natural gas reserve, looks to further its energy export ambitions. This requires the addition of new operating efficiencies, which is something that the country is actively working on.” READ MORE: http://www.economiccalendar.com/2017/01/23/turkmenistan-tirelessly-searching-for-new-markets-for-its-energy/

Turkmenistan says ready for Iran gas talks

Both sides in the ongoing Turkmen-Iranian natural-gas dispute say the issue could be resolved by international arbitration

Jan 26 — “Turkmenistan says it is ready to resume talks with Iran over a dispute on gas exports to its southern neighbor that were halted earlier this month as a result of a row on payments. Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry in a statement announced that Ashgabat was ready to resolve the dispute over Tehran’s outstanding payments through talks, but also emphasized that it had the right to take the dispute to international arbitration.” READ MORE: http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/26/507846/Turkmenistan-says-ready-for-Iran-gas-talks
 
TAPI Suffers Further Setback: Report

The reported delay in the implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project may offset Turkmenistan’s gas export diversification goal

Jan 26 — “The multi-billion dollar four-nation Tapi gas pipeline has been delayed by one year because of the inability of Turkmengaz to achieve financial closure, Pakistani newspaper The News reported January 26 quoting a government official. Many experts doubt the project will ever be built, despite high-level support from the Asian Development Bank, because its route traverses war-torn Afghanistan.” READ MORE: http://www.naturalgasworld.com/tapi-delayed-by-a-year-35604

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbek top finance official to tend chickens

The recent decision of the new Uzbek President testifies to the fact than a hidden struggle for power is still going on in Uzbekistan

Jan 24 — “Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev tasked Deputy Premier Rustam Azimov to oversee the development of domestic aviculture, Podrobno.uz reports. President Mirziyoyev put a challenging task during an official meeting in Karakalpakstan on January 20: there must be 100 laying hens in each household in Uzbekistan. As details emerging later suggest, Deputy Premier Azimov will oversee the new government programme.” READ MORE: http://enews.fergananews.com/news.php?id=3241&mode=snews

Uzbekistan’s President Plans to Drop Soviet Exit Visa System

The new Uzbek president has proposed some initiatives that would make his country more open to the outside world for both foreigners and the Uzbek citizens

Jan 24 — “Uzbekistan’s new president has called for the abolition of restrictive, Soviet-era laws on overseas travel, provoking questions about how open the country will be under his rule.” READ MORE: http://europe.newsweek.com/uzbekistan-president-drop-soviet-exit-visa-system-547525?rm=eu

Uzbekistan, Afghanistan keen to boost trade turnover

In recent time Tashkent has taken steps to expand its economic, and political, cooperation with neighboring Afghanistan

Jan 25 — “Uzbekistan and Afghanistan signed a bilateral trade and economic road map on the results of an official visit of the Uzbek delegation to Afghanistan, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry’s press service said in a message. The road map’s implementation will allow increasing the two countries’ trade turnover up to $1.5 billion in a short period of time.” READ MORE: http://en.trend.az/casia/uzbekistan/2713048.html

AFGHANISTAN

More Than $700m USD Invested In Poultry Sector

The Afghan government is developing the country’s poultry industry, but local farmers can only meet 49 percent of the country’s poultry needs and 25 percent of the demand for eggs

Jan 23 — “According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MoAI), more than $700 million USD has been invested in poultry farms and bird seed production in the country in the past few years. Lotfullah Rashid, spokesman for the MoAI said on Monday that according to their findings, the private and public sectors invested large amounts of money in this sector and that more than 10,800 small, medium and large seed production facilities and poultry farms have been established in recent times.” READ MORE: http://www.tolonews.com/business/more-700m-usd-invested-poultry-sector

Afghanistan: Who controls what?

Report says the area under the government control in Afghanistan is decreasing while the Taliban is gaining more ground in the war-torn country

Jan 26 — “According to a recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Western-backed Afghan government has lost control of nearly 5 percent of its territory to the Taliban since the beginning of this year. The report says the area under Afghan government “control or influence” decreased to 65.6% by the end of May from 70.5% last year, based on data provided by US forces in Afghanistan.” READ MORE: http://www.news24.com/World/News/afghanistan-who-controls-what-20170124

Afghanistan urges more women to join national army

As the intense fighting continues between the Afghan government troops and the Taliban, the Defense Ministry has encouraged women to join the army

Jan 27 — “The Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it has enforced a special salary scale and other incentives for female recruits to encourage more women to join the ranks of the Afghan National Army (ANA). MoD spokesperson Dawlat Waziri said on Thursday that more than 400 female recruits are in training at the Defence Ministry institutions currently, reports the Tolo News.” READ MORE: http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/afghanistan-urges-more-women-to-join-national-army-117012700082_1.html

WORLD

What policy will Trump pursue in Central Asia?

Analyst suggests that Washington may strengthen its ties with Central Asia despite numerous expert opinions that Trump would pay less attention to Central Asia than Obama

Jan 25 — “New American President Donald Trump, who plans to reassess U.S. foreign policy, will pay even less attention to Central Asia than his predecessor Barack Obama, according to some experts. However, one should not underestimate Trump, who, after all, had business partners in the former Soviet republics and some Central Asian countries.” READ MORE: http://www.russia-direct.org/opinion/what-policy-will-trump-pursue-central-asia

Trump’s Rhetorical Reality Show

The world governments are watching the first decisions made by the new US president, as Washington’s new policy may deeply affect the European Union, Russia, and China

Jan 26 — “U.S. President Donald Trump has been in office for less than a week, and in that time he has issued 12 executive orders and presidential memoranda — with more in the works — that advance his boldest campaign promises. The list of actions includes pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, maximizing U.S. content in revived pipeline deals with Canada, placing curbs on immigration and directing the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Trump administration is now reportedly preparing executive orders that would curtail U.S. funding for certain international organizations and review multilateral treaties. The implicit message behind the executive orders is: For those who thought his assertions on the campaign trail were all empty talk, think again. Trump means what he says.” READ MORE: https://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical-diary/trumps-rhetorical-reality-show-0?id=be1ddd5371&uuid=4894dfc1-bf57-4dbf-8062-738417ed1f05

Frictions On The New Silk Road

Experts analyze the factors that limit the effectiveness of the China-Europe container train route

Jan 26 — “The first transcontinental railway between China and Europe arrived in London on 18 January 2017, exactly 18 days after it began its journey of 12,000 kilometres from Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province, with its cargo of garments, bags and other consumer goods. The train carrying 24 containers pulled by a German Deutsche-Bahn locomotive for its final leg, transited Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before arriving in Britain. A comparable journey by sea would take 30 days or more though carrying a staggering 20,000 containers.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasiareview.com/26012017-frictions-on-the-new-silk-road-analysis/

Sergey Kwan

TCA