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.


Bigger Role for Kazakhstani President at National Security Council to Ensure Smooth Transition

Nazarbayev’s expanded role at the helm of a more powerful National Security Council appears to be part and parcel of ongoing preparations for a presidential succession in the country

June 7 — “On May 31, the Kazakhstani Senate approved a bill on reforming the National Security Council (NSC) of Kazakhstan. This move marked the official end of a months-long legislative process, to be followed in the days to come by a presidential endorsement, which is the precondition for its becoming law.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/bigger-role-for-kazakhstani-president-at-national-security-council-to-ensure-smooth-transition/

Kazakhstan’s New Capital Is Growing Up Quick

Only 20 years after its establishment, Astana boasts world class, futuristic architecture, with a skyline that rivals Dubai

June 8 — “Kazakhstan is celebrating 20 years since the launch of its futuristic capital city, Astana. Energy revenue is front and center in this story of rapid economic development and urban planning success. As I spoke at a conference there, dedicated to the capital’s anniversary, I reflected on the role of oil and gas in Astana’s fast rise.” READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/arielcohen/2018/06/08/kazakhstans-new-capital-is-growing-up-quick/#4177a411c44a

Kazakhstan opens office to shield investors from corruption risks

While working in Kazakhstan, investors have to increase the project costs by around 30 percent to account for corruption-related expenses, the country’s anti-corruption policy department head says

June 11 — “The Protecting Business and Investments Project Office was launched in the Kazakh capital June 8 to facilitate investing in the Kazakh economy by shielding investors from corruption risks and alleviating bureaucratic procedures.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2018/06/kazakhstan-opens-office-to-shield-investors-from-corruption-risks/

Kazakhstan among nations cheering SCO’s ‘victory’ over the G7

Kazakhstan is well-situated to take the maximum benefit from economic cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

June 12 — “The relative success of the weekend’s June 9-10 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China, may have been exaggerated in some quarters given the absolute dog’s dinner the G7 summit in Canada turned into as Donald Trump stoked a series of rows with supposed allied nations—but Kazakhstan, for instance, was certainly hailing it a significant advance with Kazakh and Chinese businesses signing 40 deals worth $13bn during the event, according to June 11 reports from Kazakh media outlets.” READ MORE: http://www.intellinews.com/kazakhstan-among-nations-cheering-sco-s-victory-over-the-g7-143281/


Central Asia improves ailing road infrastructure

In Central Asian countries, roads are the main means of communication. The states allocate some funds for their construction and maintenance, but they are critically lacking. To find money, the governments decided to introduce toll roads

June 10 — “Well-developed infrastructure is a critical factor in economic development, international experts say. Motor roads in Central Asia require significant repairs, the OECD Central Asian Analytical Network reports, adding that 60% of roads in Kyrgyzstan, 54% in Kazakhstan, 48% in Tajikistan and 23% in Uzbekistan do not have asphalt or concrete cover.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/19855-central-asia-improves-ailing-road-infrastructure

Uzbek Diaspora Leaders Urge Kyrgyz President To Revisit Violence Of 2010

A fresh review of the events of eight years ago, notably the case of ethnic Uzbek journalist and rights activist Azimjon Askarov, has also been called for by international rights organizations and the UN Human Rights Committee

June 12 — “Seven prominent ethnic Uzbeks who fled Kyrgyzstan in the wake of violent clashes have called on new Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to revisit the investigations and consequences of the fighting that erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbek-diaspora-leaders-urge-kyrgyz-revisit-osh-violence-2010/29287473.html

Washed-up Kyrgyz official heads Tajikistan telecoms company

The official — Kadyrkulov — was tainted by some corruption scandals under former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev

June 12 — “A mobile phone company in Tajikistan has appointed a disgraced former government official from neighboring Kyrgyzstan as its general director. According to a June 11 report in Asia-Plus newspaper, Beeline Tajikistan, a mobile telecommunications operator recently acquired by Tajik company ZET Mobile Limited, will be headed by Almazbek Kadyrkulov.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/washed-up-kyrgyz-official-heads-tajikistan-telecoms-company

Kyrgyzstan: Looking for digital solutions to combat child labour

Despite efforts taken by the government and local NGOs, child labour remains a problem in Kyrgyzstan

June 15 — “A group of young digital specialists – supported by the ILO in Kyrgyzstan – was among the prize winners in a ‘Hackathon’ aimed at promoting children’s rights. Following a marathon 48-hour event involving 18 teams of information technology experts and their mentors, they designed an innovative application that has the potential to monitor the incidence of child labour in communities.” READ MORE: https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/06/15/kyrgyzstan-looking-for-digital-solutions-to-combat-child-labour/


Three Days Without Unprotected Sex — A Rule, Not The Norm For Returning Tajik Migrants

Authorities plan to set up medical booths at entry points, including airports, where blood samples for HIV will be drawn from Tajik migrants returning from Russia

June 9 — “Tajikistan is set to take strict new measures to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) that many believe have been brought to the country primarily by labor migrants returning from Russia.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-three-days-without-unprotected-sex-a-rule-not-the-norm-for-returning-migrants/29281608.html

Tajikistan’s Banned Islamic Party Claims Former Members Hit By ‘Wave Of Arrests’

The Tajik Supreme Court in 2015 outlawed the Islamic Renaissance Party, which was the only legally recognized Islamic party in Central Asia, as a “terrorist organization”

June 11 — “The Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) says it halted its activities in Tajikistan nearly three years ago, when it was outlawed by the Supreme Court. What hasn’t stopped, the Islam-rooted party claims, is the government’s persecution of its followers.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-s-banned-islamic-irpt-party–members-hit-by-wave-arrests/29283941.html

EBRD implementing projects in financial system of Tajikistan

The EBRD could help in stabilizing and rebuilding trust in the troubled banking sector in Tajikistan

June 14 — “The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will implement seven projects in the financial and banking system of Tajikistan in 2018. This was stated by the director of the EBRD in Central Asia, Neil McCain, at a meeting with the first deputy chairman of the national bank of Tajikistan, Jamoliddin Nuraliyev, in Dushanbe on June 13, Asia Plus reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/133505.html


Turkmenistan’s mommy issues

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

June 12 — “A headline in Turkmenistan’s state media declaring the bouncing health of the nation’s economy did more than just announce figures. It encapsulated the government’s entire gravity-denying policy-making ethos. “The results from January to May are testament to the stable development of the Turkmen economy,” read the header of an article that went on to reveal 6.2 percent growth over that period.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/turkmenistans-mommy-issues

Spinning Its Wheels: With Turkmenistan In A Skid, Berdymukhammedov Pedals On

Residents of Turkmenistan are facing price rises, unemployment estimated at more than 50 percent, and severe food shortages

June 13 — “Turkmenistan’s president proudly led 3,246 bicyclists as they pedaled to a Guinness world record on June 1, a few days before World Bicycle Day, which was established by the UN General Assembly on Ashgabat’s initiative.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-in-a-skid-berdymukhammedov-pedals-on/29289107.html

Queues for sugar formed again in front of Ashgabat state-run stores

Shortages of staple foods have become commonplace in the gas-rich Turkmenistan

June 14 — “Turkmenistan is still experiencing sugar deficit. A restriction of 1 kilo per person sold at 7 manats applies in state-run stores. Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report that queues have formed in front of retail outlets. In order to conceal the queues, sugar is sold exclusively from rear entrance of the stores (employee entrance).” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/06/queues-for-sugar-formed-again-in-front-of-ashgabat-state-run-stores/

Student In Turkey ‘Tricked Back’ To Turkmenistan And Imprisoned

The Prove They Are Alive campaign, a coalition of rights organizations, has documented 113 people who have “disappeared” after being taken into custody in Turkmenistan

June 15 — “Just six months ago, Omriuzak Omarkulyev was a successful university student in Turkey. Now he is in a Turkmen prison serving a long sentence. A citizen of Turkmenistan, Omarkulyev had founded a “community of Turkmen students” in Turkey while he was studying at Osmaniye Korkut Ata University.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/turlmenistan-turkey-student-omarkulyev-imprisoned/29292029.html


India, Uzbekistan to route their trade though Chabahar

The two countries aim to supplement their connectivity through the Chabahar port with the establishment of industrial parks and an investment zone in Uzbekistan

June 10 — “India and Uzbekistan are set to route their trade through the Iranian port of Chabahar as part of New Delhi’s growing engagement with resource-rich Central Asia.” READ MORE: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/india-uzbekistan-to-route-their-trade-though-chabahar/article24127666.ece

Investment hub to appear in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is committed to creating favorable conditions to attract foreign investments

June 13 — “Uzbekistan’s first investment hub will be created in the near future in the Fergana region of the country. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev got acquainted with investment projects that will be implemented in the Fergana region, the presidential press service said.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/133415.html

EU supports export of Uzbek food products to Europe, development of ties with Afghanistan

The EU will assist Uzbekistan in increasing the export of agricultural products to EU member states by developing a certification system for food products

June 14 — “The European Union (EU) intends to support a number of projects and initiatives of Uzbekistan, Uzbek media outlets reported referring to the results of the meeting of the Subcommittee on Economy, Trade and Investments “Uzbekistan-EU” held in Brussels.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/133502.html

Taking the U.S.-Uzbekistan relationship to the next level: Mirziyoyev’s historic visit

The recent successful visit of Uzbekistan’s president to the United States has helped to strengthen Uzbekistan’s role in the politics of Central Asia region and Afghanistan

June 14 — “President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s visit to Washington was historic, being the first official visit of an Uzbek president since 2002. Mirziyoyev’s reception, and the breadth and width of agreements signed, constitute an acknowledgement of the reform process in Uzbekistan, as well as of the country’s newfound regional role and in particular its constructive approach to resolving the problem of Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/19875-taking-the-u-s-uzbekistan-relationship-to-the-next-level-mirziyoyev-s-historic-visit


After the fight: Afghanistan as a strategic opportunity

While peace is not around the corner, it is time for Washington to begin to think about what comes after peace arrives in Afghanistan, a retired U.S. Army colonel says

June 12 — “For the first time in nearly 20 years, there is a serious interest in peace in Afghanistan. President Ghani and the Taliban leadership have published invitations, and there have been feelers from many Taliban leaders in the field to provincial authorities. Afghan religious leaders — the Ulema Council — have called on the Kabul government and the Taliban to stop fighting and begin negotiations.” READ MORE: http://thehill.com/opinion/international/391543-after-the-fight-afghanistan-as-a-strategic-opportunity

Abdullah Abdullah: ‘Nobody promised Afghanistan will be paradise in 2, 3 years’

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive on the situation in the war-torn country

June 13 — “On widespread corruption and human rights abuses in Afghanistan, the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, said: “Nobody had promised that Afghanistan will be paradise as a result of the two, three years of the unity government but we have promised to take steps, which we have done.” He admitted earlier this year that his National Unity Government (NUG) had failed to fulfill some of its commitments, leading to a loss of trust in the government.” READ MORE: http://www.dw.com/en/abdullah-abdullah-nobody-promised-afghanistan-will-be-paradise-in-2-3-years/a-44211801

A Grass-Roots Afghan Peace Movement Grows, Step by Step

Afghanistan’s most striking grass-roots movement for peace in recent years started with just eight people — and keeps growing

June 15 — “As they march for peace through Afghan villages laced with roadside bombs and bottomless heartache, their numbers keep growing. They come from all walks of life, ages 17 to 65. Among them is a high school student who went home to complete his final exams before rejoining the others; a poet who still carries in his chest one of the four bullets he was shot with; a bodybuilding champion who abandoned his gym and has lost 20 pounds of muscle on the journey.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/world/asia/afghanistan-peace-march-.html

Islamic State emboldened in Afghanistan

As the Islamic State’s arm in Afghanistan has now strengthened, its threat to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries to its north will much depend on the Taliban’s relationship with the militant group

June 16 — “From its establishment in September 2014, Islamic State’s arm in Afghanistan, its Khorasan province entity (IS-K), found itself the target of attacks by Afghan Taliban forces and strikes by the U.S. military in conjunction with the Afghan security forces.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/19882-islamic-state-emboldened-in-afghanistan


India Makes Waves, Courts Central Asia at the SCO Summit

India is taking efforts to expand its substantive engagement with wider Central Asia

June 12 — “Last week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) annual summit in Qingdao in China was the first SCO summit since the grouping’s expansion, when India and Pakistan were included as full members at the Astana summit in Kazakhstan last year.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/india-makes-waves-courts-central-asia-at-the-sco-summit/

The Next Great Game: The Clash over Central Asia

To keep China’s ambitions in check, the Central Asian states are seeking mutually beneficial relations with all major powers, including Russia

June 13 — “Xi Jinping seemed uncharacteristically sanguine after his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sino-Russian relations are at their “best time in history,” the Chinese leader boldly proclaimed after a two-day state visit to Russia last year. Indeed, though China and Russia make a strong team when it comes to counterbalancing the United States, their apparent unity betrays fierce competition over a region that both countries have long regarded as their natural sphere of influence: Central Asia.” READ MORE: http://harvardpolitics.com/world/the-next-great-game-the-clash-over-central-asia/

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.

View more articles fromTCA