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 seeks sweet spot in US-China-Russia power game

Kazakhstan is right in the middle of the battle for regional hegemony between Russia, China, and the US

Sep 4 — “Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of four other countries surrounding the Caspian Sea came together in mid-August to divvy up the world’s largest inland body of water and its potentially enormous oil and natural gas reserves. They met in Aktau, a strategic Kazakh port town, and signed a deal to settle a two-decade-long dispute over those resources.” READ MORE: https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Asia-Insight/Kazakhstan-seeks-sweet-spot-in-US-China-Russia-power-game

New financial oasis shines in Kazakh capital

Kazakhstan’s Astana International Financial Center has adopted the experience of the UAE, China, the US and Singapore

Sep 6 — “A little more than two months ago, the first Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) was opened in the capital of Kazakhstan. So far, 55 participants have registered at the center, but Kazakhstan authorities believe over 500 companies will participate by 2020 in the AIFC. But how feasible is such a plan?” READ MORE: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1118611.shtml

Kazakhstan: Devaluation deflates a dispirited population

The new fall of the Kazakh tenge against the US dollar has again hit the pockets and purchasing power of ordinary Kazakhstanis

Sep 7 — “When Almaty resident Alina Seitova first made plans to tour Europe, Kazakhstan’s currency, the tenge, was in far better shape. Following the tenge’s recent slide, that trip has been put off – “until better times,” Seitova told Eurasianet. “I saved up for months for this trip, so my daughter and I could go for what would, possibly, be the best holiday of my life. We will just have to buy dollars and tighten our belts. The experts are saying the tenge may fall even further,” Seitova said.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20223-kazakhstan-devaluation-deflates-a-dispirited-population

EU supports Kazakh programme to educate Afghan women

Since 2010, Kazakhstan has been running a project of educating 1,000 Afghans in peaceful professions such as engineers, doctors, agricultural specialists and nurses

Sep 7 — “EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini on Wednesday (5 September) announced a new €2 million programme that will train and educate Afghan women in Kazakhstan. Mogherini announced the EU contribution via a video message to the regional “Empowering Women in Afghanistan” conference in Astana.” READ MORE: https://www.euractiv.com/section/central-europe/news/eu-supports-kazakh-programme-to-educate-afghan-women/


Kyrgyzstan and Turkey commit to boosting economic cooperation

During his visit, President Erdogan urged Turkish businesspeople to invest in Kyrgyzstan

Sep 3 — “Political partnership between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey has been strengthening for many years and has reached a high level. It is time now to give a new impetus to the development of economic cooperation between the two countries, Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said at the Kyrgyz-Turkish investment forum held in Bishkek on September 2.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20204-kyrgyzstan-and-turkey-commit-to-boosting-economic-cooperation

Erdogan visit delights some in Kyrgyzstan, annoys others

During his visit to Kyrgyzstan, the Turkish president pressed on Bishkek to do more to squeeze out followers of his foe, Fethullah Gulen

Sep 3 — “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made both friends and enemies during a visit to Kyrgyzstan that opened with a meeting with host head of state Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Erdogan’s encounter with Jeenbekov was the first between the two nations’ leaders since former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev railed against Turkey in a characteristically unguarded rant in 2016. The source of Atambayev’s ire on that occasion was Turkey’s demand that Kyrgyzstan close schools and educational institutions linked to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric whom Ankara accuses of masterminding a failed coup in 2016.” READ MORE: https://www.eurasianet.org/erdogan-visit-delights-some-in-kyrgyzstan-annoys-others

Orban first Hungarian PM to visit Kyrgyzstan, wants more business with Central Asia’s Turkic nations

Hungary is ready to open a new chapter in cooperation with Kyrgyzstan and other Turkic nations of Central Asia, as Hungarians consider themselves as descendants of Attila, of Hun-Turkic origin, and that Hungarian is a relative of Turkic languages

Sep 5 — “Hungary has opened a $65mn credit line to support partnerships between Hungarian and Kyrgyz businesses in Kyrgyzstan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto said in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek on September 4. His announcement came following a meeting between Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov.” READ MORE: http://www.intellinews.com/orban-first-hungarian-pm-to-visit-kyrgyzstan-wants-more-business-with-central-asia-s-turkic-nations-147953/


Kyrgyzstan’s Lake Issyk-Kul is still a secret, especially to most of the English-speaking world

Sep 7 — “Think of Kyrgyzstan and the first thing that comes to mind is probably not tourism. The small, poor, mountainous former Soviet nation is often ignored by the rest of the world, so much so that even Mother Nature seems to overlook it — it is the farthest country from the ocean in the world, and all its rivers flow into closed systems instead of the sea. But if you visit Kyrgyzstan — and believe me, you must — be sure to pack your swimsuit.” READ MORE: https://www.ozy.com/good-sht/the-best-tourist-destination-youve-never-heard-of-honest/88667


Qatar-Tajikistan ties to witness major boost: Minister

Tajikistan has of late been courting rich Arab countries in its efforts to attract much-needed investments in the poor country’s economy

Sep 2 — “Minister of Economy and Commerce H E Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani has noted that the economic and investment relations between Qatar and Tajikistan are expected to grow significantly in the coming years as both sides are working closely to boost the bilateral cooperation in several promising sectors of both the economies, including trade, investment, civil aviation and tourism.” READ MORE: https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/02/09/2018/Qatar-Tajikistan-ties-to-witness-major-boost-Minister

Transforming Tajikistan: how the Rahmon regime turned religion into a site of struggle

A review of Transforming Tajikistan: State-building and Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia by Helene Thibault — a new book that focuses on Tajik society’s turn to Islam as a means of coping with disorder

Sep 4 — “Back in 2011, I met Mahmadali, a 38-year-old truck driver, on the outskirts of Dushanbe. He sported a clean-shaven face. Shortly after returning from Russia to his dingy Soviet-era apartment in Tajikistan’s capital city a few days earlier, Mahmadali had been stopped by police, taken to the local station, accused of being a “Wahhabi” (read: extremist) and threatened with repercussions if he did not shave off his beard.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/edward-lemon/transforming-tajikistan-islam

Iran factor seen in Tajikistan’s stranded trucks

The worsened political relations between Tajikistan and Iran have taken their toll on the economic side of bilateral relationship

Sep 5 — “For the last two weeks, around 50 trucks traveling to or from Tajikistan have lain stranded on the northern and southern borders of Turkmenistan in a standoff that defies immediate explanation. The trucks traveling from Tajikistan are carrying aluminum, produced at the country’s giant Talco plant, to Turkey. The cargo coming in the other direction comprises mainly textiles. It is not clear why Turkmenistan should have barred Tajik vehicles from crossing its territory. In fact, senior transportation officials in Dushanbe have told Eurasianet on condition of anonymity that one working suspicion is that the blockade may have been instigated by Iran, which shares a long border with Turkmenistan.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20215-iran-factor-seen-in-tajikistan-s-stranded-trucks


Turkmenistan: Transport tumult

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

Sep 4 — “Cotton-picking season is underway in Turkmenistan. The exile-run Chronicles of Turkmenistan claimed the campaign began on August 15 and that the first people sent to work in the fields were employees of state schools, hospitals, prisons, factories and banks, among others. State media outlet Golden Age, however, said that the large-scale cotton harvest would only begin on September 5.” READ MORE: https://www.eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-transport-tumult

Turkmenistan’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which received a $3 billion government loan for the construction of motorway, seeks additional investments in Austria

As the country faces an economic downturn, Turkmenistan badly needs foreign investment for its large-scale infrastructure projects

Sep 6 — “On 5 September the Turkmen-Austrian Investment and Partnership Forumwas opened in Vienna with members of Turkmenistan’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs in attendance. It is reported that the key goal of the event are the prospects of investment cooperation and the implementation of infrastructure projects” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/09/turkmenistans-union-of-industrialists-and-entrepreneurs-which-received-a-3-billion-government-loan-for-the-construction-of-motorway-seeks-additional-investments-in-austria/

President: Turkmenistan to ensure stable and reliable supply of energy resources for foreign consumers

The export of energy resources — mainly natural gas — remains the main source of hard-currency revenues for Turkmenistan

Sep 6 — “To ensure stable and reliable supply of energy resources for foreign consumers is one of Turkmenistan’s priority goals, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said in his message to the participants of the international exhibition-conference entitled “Main Directions for the Development of the Energy Industry of Turkmenistan” which opened Sept. 6.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/casia/turkmenistan/2948517.html


Uzbekistan detains conservative bloggers

Critics of government policies on Islam still remain in a dangerous position in Uzbekistan

Sep 3 — “Authorities in Uzbekistan have in the last few days reportedly arrested four online writers, all of whom came to prominence for their Islamic and conservative views. Adham Olimov, Ziyavuddin Rahmon, Otabek Usmanov and Miraziz Ahmedov were all detained in varying circumstances between August 28 and September 2.” READ MORE: https://www.eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-detains-conservative-bloggers


The new Uzbek government of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is slowly liberalizing the draconian Tashkent population-control regulations left over from the Soviet era

Sep 4 — “Shukhrat Latipov, 25, needs to renew a special permit called a propiska every six months just to work in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Without that, he risks expulsion to his hometown, Navoi, 300 miles northwest of Tashkent. This isn’t some George Orwell story: For Uzbek citizens not born in the capital, this is the reality. But change is in the air, and without it, Latipov wouldn’t even be in Tashkent.” READ MORE: https://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/as-china-caps-city-populations-its-neighbor-rolls-out-the-red-carpet/88684

New M’sian, Uzbekistan gov’ts set for good bilateral cooperation, including in O&G

Oil and gas sector is the main area of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Malaysia

Sep 6 — “With both Malaysia and Uzbekistan’s new political eras in full gear, their existing bilateral relations can be further elevated with expansion in economy, trade and investment, fuelled by the presence of Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) in the oil and gas (O&G) sectors.” READ MORE: https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/441906

Uzbekistan Creates State Blockchain Development Fund

In a move to support the blockchain and crypto industries in Uzbekistan, President Mirziyoyev has approved legislative initiatives that will integrate blockchain into different public areas in the near future

Sep 7 — “Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev has ordered the establishment of a state blockchain development fund called the “Digital Trust”, according to a document published on official government website Sunday, September 2. The fund’s aim is to integrate blockchain into various government projects including healthcare, education, and cultural areas. The organization will also be responsible for international investment in the Uzbek digital economy.” READ MORE: https://cointelegraph.com/news/uzbekistan-creates-state-blockchain-development-fund


Suicide Bombings, Arab Fighters, And Pakistani Asset: Jalaluddin Haqqani’s Legacy

Experts say that the far-reaching legacy of Haqqani, whose death at the age of 72 was announced on September 4, is secure and that neither his network’s military might nor strategy are likely to be affected by his death

Sep 4 — “Elderly, ill, and partially paralyzed, the founder of one of Afghanistan’s most notorious and brazen extremist organizations had been out of the insurgency game for years. But Jalaluddin Haqqani leaves behind a legacy of deadly violence that threatens to live on for decades.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/jalaluddin-haqqani-s-deadly-legacy-continues-to-shape-the-war-in-afghanistan/29471611.html

Former JPMorgan Banker Sets Up Fund in…Afghanistan

The 46-year-old ex-JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker is sure there are really good opportunities for companies to grow in Afghanistan

Sep 4 — “In a four-story building guarded by men with Kalashnikov rifles near a dusty intersection in Kabul, Felix von Schubert speaks enthusiastically about the investing opportunities in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been locked in a bloody conflict for 17 years.” READ MORE: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-04/graveyard-of-the-bankers-an-investor-s-journey-into-afghanistan

Is Beijing deploying PLA troops in Afghanistan?

China seeks to strengthen Afghanistan’s borders with Pakistan and Tajikistan, which may be used as transit routes allowing drugs, weapons, and militants to enter China’s Xinjiang region

Sep 6 — “A recent South China Morning Post report citing unnamed sources claimed that China will be stationing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in northern Afghanistan to boost counter-terrorism efforts. The unit would be stationed in the Wakhan Corridor, a thin strip of land between Pakistan and Tajikistan connecting Afghanistan to the Chinese province of Xinjiang.” READ MORE: http://www.atimes.com/is-china-deploying-pla-troops-in-afghanistan/

Here’s the blueprint for Erik Prince’s $5 billion plan to privatize the Afghanistan war

In an exclusive interview with Military Times, Prince shared details about his proposed plan and why he believes a small footprint of private military contractors may be able to accomplish what hundreds of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops over the last 17 years could not

Sep 6 — “Blackwater founder Erik Prince thinks the time is right to try a new approach in Afghanistan, one that he says will reduce war spending to a sliver of its current levels, get most troops home and eliminate Pakistan’s influence on U.S. policy there: Let him run it.” READ MORE: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/09/05/heres-the-blueprint-for-erik-princes-5-billion-plan-to-privatize-the-afghanistan-war/


Why Russia and China Are Expanding Their Roles in Afghanistan

The shared threat of an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan will drive Pakistan and Russia into a closer partnership, while China will try to establish a limited and localized military presence in Afghanistan

Sep 5 — “As the great powers deepen their presence in South Asia, all eyes are on Afghanistan. A year has passed since U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his Afghan war strategy in August 2017, seeking to break the stalemate in America’s longest-running conflict. But the Taliban’s sustained assault on the city of Ghazni demonstrates that the addition of a few thousand U.S. troops under operations Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel has failed to decisively swing the pendulum in Kabul’s favor.” READ MORE: https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/why-russia-and-china-are-expanding-their-roles-afghanistan?id=87179e919a&e=600669d279&uuid=6cfc844d-890a-4e64-8e02-6660619851f7&utm_source=Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=c78924db81-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_09_05_12_30&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_87179e919a-c78924db81-53490981&mc_cid=c78924db81&mc_eid=[UNIQID]

Moscow Prepares Vostok 2018 as Sino-Russian Strategic Exercise

Russia’s Vostok 2018 exercise will involve military forces from Mongolia and China, and will be the largest such maneuvers since the Soviet–Warsaw Pact Zapad 1981

Sep 5 — “The culmination of the combat training year in Russia’s Armed Forces results in an annual operational-strategic military exercise involving air, land and sea elements to test forces in one of four theaters: these are the rotating Kavkaz (“Caucasus”), Tsentr (“Center”), Zapad (“West”) and Vostok (“East”) exercises. Similar to the others, the every-four-years Vostok drills use complex scenarios to test Russia’s military capabilities in its eastern strategic direction.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/moscow-prepares-vostok-2018-as-sino-russian-strategic-exercise/

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.

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