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 Opens Astana International Financial Center In Hopes To Become Eurasian Finance Hub

The Astana International Financial Center, the brainchild of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, will be opened on July 5

June 26 — “At first glance, Kazakhstan’s new financial center is an exercise in ambition. Built out of the infrastructure of a futuristic, Epcot Center-like World Expo venue, the Astana International Financial Center at least doesn’t have to put in new wiring. It has everything. It wants to be everything, too.” READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2018/06/26/kazakhstan-launches-astana-international-financial-center-in-hopes-to-be-eurasian-finance-hub/#46b2db3e7f73

Even the Ghost of a Possible Protest Spooks Kazakhstan

The efforts of Mukhtar Ablyazov, an arch-enemy of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, to orchestrate protests in Kazakhstan from abroad have so far had feeble results

June 26 — “Dozens of people were detained across Kazakhstan on June 23 as Astana sought to abort a planned protest called for by the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), an opposition party banned as an extremist group by the Kazakh government in early March.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/even-the-ghost-of-a-possible-protest-spooks-kazakhstan/

Why All The Worry In Kazakhstan?

Authorities in Kazakhstan have shown they are unwilling to allow even small manifestations of discontent

June 27 — “Any Kazakh official with a microphone in front of them would say President Nursultan Nazarbaev enjoys widespread popularity. They are not wrong. Most Kazakhs appear to support the first and only president the country has known since independence, upon whom parliament bestowed the title of “Leader of the Nation” in 2010.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-why-all-the-worry-in-kazakhstan-/29323651.html

Kazakhstan faces oil production concerns

Kazakhstan’s largest oilfield, Kashagan, would produce some 200,000 bpd in H2 2018, and then possibly 300,000 bpd by year-end

June 27 — “Kazakhstan currently produces 1.8 million barrels of oil per day and does not plan to reduce its production in spite of its obligations to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).” READ MORE: https://www.neweurope.eu/article/kazakhstan-faces-oil-production-concerns/


Kyrgyzstan: government asks citizens help pay off state debts

Kyrgyz civic activists put forward an idea that the $1.7 billion state debt to the largest creditor, China, could be paid off by the population if each citizen donates $707.3, but the idea had no supporters

June 24 — “The Government of Kyrgyzstan will open a special account for funds coming from the fight against corruption. According to the Government Decree, signed by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Muhammedkaly Abylgaziev on June 22, the account in the treasury system will be distributed exclusively over decisions of the Government. The second account will be open to citizens wishing to help the state to pay off its debts. Such a proposal came from the Parliament deputies.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19913-kyrgyzstan-government-asks-citizens-help-pay-off-state-debts

Report highlights plight of Kyrgyz forced laborers in Kazakhstan

About 150,000 Kyrgyz citizens were registered in Kazakhstan at the end of last year, and many of them had their labor rights violated by local employers who often retain their passports and illegally threaten to deduct wages

June 27 — “A detailed report by an international human rights organization has documentedhow migrants from Kyrgyzstan searching for work in neighboring Kazakhstan are frequently falling prey to forced labor and have become targets of mounting discrimination.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/report-highlights-plight-of-kyrgyz-forced-laborers-in-kazakhstan

Kyrgyzstan: President addresses the Parliament and nation

Observers say that President Jeenbekov did not offer any radically new idea to reform the state, and that he should move from words to deeds

June 28 — “On June 27, at the end of the Parliament’s spring session, the President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov addressed the Parliament and the people outlining priorities of the country’s development.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19933-kyrgyzstan-president-addresses-the-parliament-and-nation

Official: 150 Kyrgyz Citizens Killed In Syria Fighting Alongside IS

An estimated total of 850 Kyrgyz citizens joined Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria in recent years

June 28 — “A senior Kyrgyz official says 150 Kyrgyz nationals have been killed in Syria fighting on the side of Islamic militants since the beginning of the civil war in the Middle Eastern country in 2011.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/official-150-kyrgyz-citizens-killed-in-syria-fighting-alongside-is/29325374.html


Nurek: Tajikistan’s aging king of dams

A photographer’s report on the hydropower plant that meets around 70 percent of Tajikistan’s electricity needs

June 25 — “After countless turns in the hilly highway running south of Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, the waters of Nurek reservoir materialize in a burst of dull apatite blue. Until the gigantic Roghun dam is completed, the hydroelectric plant at this location will remain the largest power-producing facility of its type in the entire region.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/nurek-tajikistans-aging-king-of-dams

China, Tajikistan launch $200m mining venture

China remains the largest investor in Tajikistan’s economy and infrastructure, and holds the largest part of the country’s foreign debt

June 25 — “China and Tajikistan embarked on a new $200 million gold and antimony mining venture Sunday, the Tajik presidential press service said, as Beijing expands its hold over the impoverished Central Asian country’s mineral resources. On Sunday a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a mine that is expected to produce its first gold and antimony in 2020.” READ MORE: https://nation.com.pk/25-Jun-2018/china-tajikistan-launch-200m-mining-venture

What’s Stands in the Way of Tajikistan’s Development? Basically Everything

Tajikistan suffers from bad governance structures and rampant corruption

June 28 — “What stands in the way of Tajikistan’s development? Unsurprisingly for regional observers, the answer is “an awful lot.” A new World Bank report — a “Systematic Country Diagnostic” — assesses the impediments to Dushanbe achieving its ambitious National Development Strategy 2030 (NDS 2030) which was laid out in 2016. The NDS 2030, the World Bank notes, requires $118 billion to be fully implemented and targets raising the population’s living standards as the country’s ultimate goal.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/whats-stands-in-the-way-of-tajikistans-development-basically-everything/


Father of Omruzak Omarkuliev, a student activist sentenced to 20 years in prison, dies

Turkmenistan remains a dangerous place for its own citizens — especially if authorities suspect anyone of any dissent or free behavior

June 22 — “Shirinbai, Omruzak Omarkuliev’s father, died in late May. Next week his relatives will hold a memorial service to commemorate 40 days after his death. Omruzak Omarkuliev is a Turkmen student who did a course of study in Turkey and established a student association of fellow Turkmens.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/06/father-of-omruzak-omarkuliev-a-student-activist-sentenced-to-20-years-in-prison-dies/

Turkmenistan: Report of Inquiry to German Cybersecurity Firm

Human Rights Watch suspects that the Turkmen government seeks a German company’s technology for monitoring and blocking mobile and satellite communications, which would also enable the government to block internet access

June 25 — “German technology companies should publicly disclose whether they are considering sales to the Turkmenistan government, Human Rights Watch said today. They should also reveal what steps they have taken to assess whether any technology sold is likely to be used by the government to block websites and carry out surveillance in violation of human rights.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/25/turkmenistan-report-inquiry-german-cybersecurity-firm

Turkmenistan: What’s left of rights?

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

June 26 — “A highly unusual document landed a prominent spot on the website of Turkmenistan’s state news agency this week. The recently appointed government’s ombudsperson unveiled the nation’s maiden annual digest on human rights, an issue normally alien to Turkmen officials.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/turkmenistan-whats-left-of-rights


Defense Attorney Meets With Gulnara Karimova, Indicates She Is Open To ‘Concessions’

Lawyer of the elder daughter of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov met with his client in late April after having had virtually no access to her for more than a year

June 24 — “Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov, is alive but not doing so well in a prison outside Tashkent, according to her Geneva-based defense attorney. And while the former jet-setting presidential daughter rejects accusations of financial wrongdoing lodged against her at home and abroad, she is willing to make some concessions if a reasonable solution to her legal problems can be reached.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-gulnara-karimova-defense-lawyer-concessions-corruption-mirziyoev/29316295.html

Uzbekistan offers Russia ten sites for NPP construction

A nuclear power plant will allow Uzbekistan to move away from strong dependence on hydrocarbon fuel and provide cheap energy to the population and the economy

June 25 — “Uzbekistan offered Russia ten sites across the country for the construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP). This was stated by head of the department for strategic development of the Uzbek national company, Uzbekenergo, Eso Sadullayev, Podrobno.uz reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/133918.html

Uzbek Mural Cover-Up: Half-Naked Angel Gets Conservative Makeover

The half-naked angel was covered up because officials deemed the image wasn’t compatible with Uzbek moral standards

June 26 — “For decades, residents of the eastern Uzbek city of Kokand could expect to see an angel — a scantily clad one, at that, with her white wings spread and a strategically placed necklace covering her breasts. But that image, part of a Soviet-era fresco called East Meets West, which adorns a wall of the local theater, has been destroyed.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbek-mural-cover-up-half-naked-angel-gets-conservative-makeover/29321884.html

U.S. is main investor in Uzbek economy this year

The recent visit of Uzbekistan’s president to the United States seems to have yielded economic results

June 27 — “The United States ranked first among the countries in investing in Uzbekistan’s economy in the first quarter of 2018, according to the Central Bank. The main flow (92 percent) of investments in the first quarter of 2018 falls on such countries as the U.S. (28 percent), China (10 percent), Great Britain (10 percent), British Virgin Islands (8 percent), United Arab Emirates (6 percent ), Russia (6 percent), Turkey (5 percent), Malaysia (4 percent), Switzerland (4 percent), Germany (4 percent), Netherlands (4 percent), Singapore (3 percent) and the Republic of Korea (2 percent),” the bank’s report said.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/134031.html


Feasts, Hugs, And Selfies: A Tantalizing Glimpse Of Possible Afghan Peace

Analysts say the opportunity created by the successful, yet brief, ceasefire between the Afghan government forces and the Taliban needs to be seized upon

June 24 — “Several thousand scruffy Taliban fighters streamed into the Afghan capital on motorcycles and in overcrowded cars, waving the militant group’s white flags. But they came not as combatants, but as civilians taking advantage of a cease-fire that saw them celebrate the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr alongside sworn enemies with feasts, hugs, and selfies.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-taliban-cease-fire-peace-process-selfies/29316598.html

What Lies Beneath the Enduring Stalemate in Afghanistan

The stalemate in Afghanistan endures, with the Afghan government continuing to control the country’s urban areas while the Taliban command large areas of the countryside

June 27 — “Almost 17 years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency rages on with no end in sight. And despite the launch last summer of a new strategy and a considerable ramp-up in air power, the United States appears no closer to breaking the stalemate, in which the central government in Kabul continues to control Afghanistan’s urban areas and the Taliban exerts influence over wide swaths of the countryside.” READ MORE: https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/what-lies-beneath-enduring-stalemate-afghanistan?id=87179e919a&e=600669d279&uuid=18314fba-d5da-4b9b-af91-77909a5aff6f&utm_source=Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=3381a89803-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_06_27_12_31&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_87179e919a-3381a89803-53490981&mc_cid=3381a89803&mc_eid=[UNIQID]

There’s momentum for peace in Afghanistan. Here’s how to use it.

Candace Rondeaux, a former Washington Post correspondent and former resident of Kabul, shares her opinion on how to achieve peace in Afghanistan

June 28 — “Starting June 15, the world witnessed a not-so-minor miracle: a three-day cessation of violence across Afghanistan. Taliban fighters, young and old, crossed battle lines to embrace their erstwhile adversaries in the Afghan security forces. A small contingent of determined citizen peace activists from the embattled southern province of Helmand braved sweltering summer heat and the trials of the Ramadan fast to deliver a message about the country’s deep thirst for peace.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/06/28/theres-momentum-for-peace-in-afghanistan-heres-how-to-use-it/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d1ca7fe45ede

Taliban resumption of fighting should not bury Afghanistan’s peace process

The recent ceasefire between the Kabul government and the Taliban has signaled the existence of opportunities for a successful peace process in Afghanistan

June 29 — “A day after Taliban fighters stunned the world with photographs of themselves embracing and celebrating Eid with personnel of the Afghan security forces, the Taliban leadership announced its decision not to extend the ceasefire. This dashed the hopes of millions of Afghans who were looking forward to a respite from the war.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/19938-taliban-resumption-of-fighting-should-not-bury-afghanistan-s-peace-process


Russian Government Approves Draft Convention on Legal Status of Caspian Sea

The Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea is expected to be signed later this year by the five Caspian littoral states—Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran

June 27 — “Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree, on June 21, approving the Draft Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. And he encouraged President Vladimir Putin to ultimately sign the Convention (Pravo.gov.ru, June 22). Even though the complete official text of the Convention is yet to be revealed, major Russian news agencies, including Interfax and state-owned TASS, have provided summaries of the key provisions of the document.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/russian-government-approves-draft-convention-on-legal-status-of-caspian-sea/

Central Asia is the new economic battleground for the US, China and Russia

Central Asia is at the centre of two new initiatives for regional economic integration by China and Russia — the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union — that run against a longstanding economic vision of the US

June 29 — “As the threat of a trade war escalates between the US and China, all the talk has centred on the tariffs that each side might impose on the other. But another important battleground is in Central Asia where both are fighting for strategic control.” READ MORE: http://theconversation.com/central-asia-is-the-new-economic-battleground-for-the-us-china-and-russia-98263

Sergey Kwan