Weekly Digest of Central Asia May 27-June 3

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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

Assessing Kazakhstan’s new campaign to attract capital

Some experts believe Kazakhstan’s new privatization drive is another attempt to fill the dwindling reserves in the state coffers rather than an effort contributing to structural economic reform

May 27 — “Following the so-called People’s IPO campaign, which is now widely considered to have been disappointing, a new “privatisation” scheme has been announced by the Kazakh government earlier this year. But as time goes by and timing remains uncertain, many insiders and sideliners start casting doubts on whether either domestic or foreign investors see any point of purchasing stock in companies due to remain out of their control.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18094-assessing-kazakhstan-s-new-campaign-to-attract-capital

Miners will be lured to Kazakhstan, despite the risks

Last week’s Mining and Metallurgy Forum in Astana showed what Kazakhstan had to offer and what steps the government was taking to attract investment

May 29 — “With confidence seeping back into the global mining sector it’s inevitable that companies will once again start to look at exploring for new reserves, and most likely come to some uncomfortable realizations. The choice facing both major and junior mining companies is increasingly bifurcated; either work in relatively risk-free countries and chase expensive and dwindling deposits, or go to frontier markets and take on uncertain regulatory environments, challenging conditions and quite often corrupt officials.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-column-russell-mining-kazakhstan-idUSKBN18P1PS

Kazakhstan Is Preparing to Effectively Ban Political Opposition

The new law that would ban independent candidates to run for presidency is believed by many to be targeted at Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive tycoon and longtime opponent to President Nazarbayev

May 30 — “Political opposition never got much of a look in in authoritarian Kazakhstan, where the same man has been in power for over a quarter of a century, but a draft law being considered by the country’s rubber stamp parliament is set to make matters even more predictable.” READ MORE: https://globalvoices.org/2017/05/30/kazakhstan-is-preparing-to-effectively-ban-political-opposition/

Kazakhstan and Portugal: prospects for the development of bilateral relations

The Charge d’affaires of Portugal in Kazakhstan speaks on the state and prospects of political, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries

May 30 — “More than 7,000 km of road separate Astana from Lisbon, one capital situated in the heart of the Eurasian landmass, the other at its westernmost tip, facing the Atlantic Ocean. As it would be expected in such circumstances, relations between the two countries, throughout history, have been very limited.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/05/kazakhstan-and-portugal-prospects-for-the-development-of-bilateral-relations/

“Russian Railways” plans to develop route from China to Europe bypassing Kazakhstan

Cargo delivery from China to Russia through Kazakhstan takes 20-21 days and through Mongolia it takes about 14 days

May 31 — “Cargo transportation from China to Europe not through the territory of Kazakhstan, but through Mongolia will reduce costs by 15-20%. In response to growing demand, “Russian Railways” works on cargo transportation between China and Europe through Mongolia to attract small and medium shippers using China-Europe route, as some large shippers, for instance, the Chinese giants of e-commerce already deliver cargoes through Mongolia.” READ MORE: http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/201crussian-railways201d-plans-to-develop-route-from-china-to-europe-bypassing-kazakhstan

Kazakhstan: Oil Output to Go Up Despite OPEC Pledges

Kazakhstan is in no position to cut crude production as the country has to return huge investments in the development of its giant Kashagan oilfield

June 1 — “Kazakhstan’s energy officials are continuing to officially confirm to the public what is already widely known by now — that they have no intention to stick by pledges on oil output curbs. While committed to seeing cuts across the board among OPEC and non-OPEC members, Kazakhstan has cited rising productivity at its Kashagan field as cause for bucking the trend.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83806

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan greatly dependent on migrant labor

With Kyrgyzstan’s entry to the Eurasian Economic Union, conditions for Kyrgyz labor migrants in Russia have improved but many problems still remain

May 28 — “Kyrgyzstan has updated the historical maximum for remittances from Russia. In the first three months of 2017, labor migrants from Kyrgyzstan working in Russia transferred $433 million to their homeland, which is 67% more than in the same period in 2016, the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan said.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18096-kyrgyzstan-tajikistan-greatly-dependent-on-migrant-labor

Kyrgyzstan: Parliament Seeks to Limit Election Observation

Rights activists say the new observation rules would open the way to election fraud in the upcoming presidential poll this October

May 31 — “Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan are on the verge of passing legislation that would greatly limit the rights of independent monitors at the upcoming presidential election in October. The rules would limit international and local nongovernmental organizations to just one representative per polling station.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83776

Kyrgyzstan presents investment opportunities to UAE business

UAE is mainly interested in cooperation with Kyrgyzstan in tourism and import of water and ecologically clean agricultural products

June 1 — “For 25 years, since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kyrgyzstan and the United Arab Emirates, not a single serious joint project has been implemented, although there is great potential for cooperation, President of Kyrgyzstan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry Marat Sharshekeev said at the Kyrgyzstan-UAE business forum held in Bishkek last week.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18119-kyrgyzstan-presents-investment-opportunities-to-uae-business

Kyrgyzstan: Lawmaker Proposes Stripping Reporter of Citizenship

In the recent time independent media in Kyrgyzstan have experienced increased government pressure

June 1 — “A lawmaker in Kyrgyzstan has devised a new threat for journalists whose writing is not the public’s liking — stripping them of their citizenship. The response was heard in parliament on June 1 in response to Ulugbek Babakulov’s recent report on signs of an apparent surge of intolerant nationalist sentiments among Kyrgyz internet users.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83816

TAJIKISTAN

Iran Courts Tajikistan

It is quite natural that Iran and Tajikistan seek closer ties, as the two ancient nations share a common culture and language

May 31 — “What does Tehran’s focus on building relations with Dushanbe mean for Central Asia?” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/05/iran-courts-tajikistan/

Tajikistan: Authorities File Charges Against Jailed Lawyer’s Relatives

Tajik authorities continue persecuting the lawyer of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, who has been sentenced to 25 years in jail on ‘politically motivated’ charges of fraud and forging documents

May 31 — “Authorities in Tajikistan have piled the pressure on jailed lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov by filing criminal charges against his sister and brother. Yorov’s sister, Hosiyat, told EurasiaNet.org that she and another brother, Jamshed, learned on May 29 that they face accusations of inciting the violent overthrow of the government.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83771

Tehran, Dushanbe mull over stronger rail ties

Tehran and Dushanbe call for activation of Tajikistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-Iran corridor to transit two million tons of goods per year

May 31 — “An official at Iran’s Railway Company said Iran’s aluminum powder and crude oil will be soon exported to Tajikistan via railroad. At meeting with Tajikistan’s Ambassador to Tehran Emomzoda Nematullo, Deputy Managing Director of Iran Railway Company Ebrahim Mohammadi called for activation of Tajikistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-Iran corridor to transit two million tons of goods per year.” READ MORE: http://en.mehrnews.com/news/125678/Tehran-Dushanbe-mull-over-stronger-rail-ties

Russia holds military exercises in Tajikistan — but why not with CSTO?

EurasiaNet.org analyzes Russia’s efforts to increase its military influence in Central Asia and involve Uzbekistan in this sphere of influence

June 2 — “Russia and several of its allies, including Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, are conducting joint military exercises this week in Tajikistan. These sorts of exercises have become routine in recent years, but there is an intriguing difference this time.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18126-russia-holds-military-exercises-in-tajikistan-but-why-not-with-csto

TURKMENISTAN

TAPI partners plan to meet in Dubai, review project progress

The pipeline project to deliver Turkmen gas to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan has faced obstacles, also due to insecurity in the war-torn Afghanistan

May 31 — “The four-nation consortium, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), will be meeting in Dubai in June to review progress on the multi-billion dollars gas pipeline project and work on its financial close.” READ MORE: http://www.brecorder.com/2017/05/31/351443/tapi-partners-plan-to-meet-in-dubai-review-project-progress/

Turkmen gas has potential for transfer via Turkey

In the future, Turkmenistan would be able to pump its natural gas through the Southern Gas Corridor to Europe via the Caspian Sea and Turkey, which will be a much-needed alternative gas export route for Ashgabat

May 31 — “Once the Southern Gas Corridor is commissioned, other gas sources like those from Turkmenistan can avail transfer to other markets via Turkey, head of the transit petroleum pipelines department at Turkey’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources said on Tuesday.” READ MORE: http://www.yenisafak.com/en/economy/turkmen-gas-has-potential-for-transfer-via-turkey-2691799

Turkmenistan seeks to supply more gas to China in 2017

China is now the only buyer of Turkmen natural gas, after gas supplies stopped to Iran and Russia

June 1 — “Turkmenistan plans to increase the natural gas export volume to China up to 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) this year from 35 bcm in 2016, Chief Executive of state gas company Turkmengas Myrat Archayev told Reuters on May 31.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/114065.html

Turkmenistan’s agricultural sector overregulated by the state, needs economic freedom

In Turkmenistan, the government decides what crops should be grown by farmers, prevents them from selling the yield, buys harvested crops at low prices, and imposes penalties for failure to fulfill the plan

June 1 — “In late May, for the second time in recent months, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov criticized Deputy Prime Minister overseeing agriculture Esenmyrat Orazgeldiev and highlighted that reforms in the country’s agricultural sector were being implemented at an extremely low pace, the Chronicles of Turkmenistan independent website reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18117-turkmenistan-s-agricultural-sector-overregulated-by-the-state-needs-economic-freedom

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan bans video games over ‘distorting values’

Many social-media users in Uzbekistan condemn the ban and ridicule it as being a ‘foolish’ move

May 30 — “Uzbekistan has banned a long list of computer games deemed to be “distorting values” and “threatening stability”. The list includes several violent games but also global hits like Grand Theft Auto and innocuous classics like The Sims.” READ MORE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40089679

Uzbekistan: Mr. Mirziyoyev Going to Washington

With the new heads of state both in Tashkent and Washington, the US and Uzbekistan have a chance to give a boost to bilateral political and economic ties

May 30 — “The leader of Uzbekistan’s next major official foreign visit will reportedly be to the United States. Uznews.uz cited a press officer for President Shavkat Mirziyoyev as saying the trip is planned for September.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83746

Uzbekistan’s foreign minister names barriers to foreign investment in the country

The new Uzbek leadership is taking measures to liberalize the economy and attract more foreign investment in the country

May 30 — “From September 2016 to May this year, Uzbekistan signed over 320 trade and investment agreements and contracts with foreign partners for a total amount exceeding US $44 billion, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov told the Senate of the Uzbek parliament on May 27, the Jahon Information Agency reported.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18106-uzbekistan-s-foreign-minister-names-barriers-to-foreign-investment-in-the-country

Uzbekistan-GM venture abandons dollars for domestic car sales

The move puts an end to a decade-long practice under which cars produced in Uzbekistan were sold for dollars which Uzbek citizens had to buy on the black market

June 1 — “GM Uzbekistan, a joint venture between General Motors and Uzbek state firm UzAvtosanoat, has begun selling all its cars in the Central Asian nation in local currency terms, but using an exchange rate far weaker than the official one.” READ MORE: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-uzbekistan-gm-currency-idUSKBN18S4YO

AFGHANISTAN

Turkey presses Afghanistan to hand over control of Gulenist schools

Many believe the deal allows Afghanistan’s vice-president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has been accused of abducting and torturing a political rival, to seek exile in Turkey in return for the schools’ closure

May 31 — “Afghan authorities have drafted a deal giving the Turkish government control of more than a dozen schools in Afghanistan affiliated with the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/31/turkey-pressures-afghanistan-to-close-elite-schools-fetullah-gulen

Afghanistan’s Front Line

The May 31 bombing in Kabul again showed the intensifying fighting between government forces and the Taliban, which resorts to large-scale and bloody terror acts to achieve it goal of coming to power

June 1 — “On the morning of May 31, a giant plume of smoke spread across the sky above the Arg, the 19th century Kabul fortress that houses the Afghan President’s office and residence.” READ MORE: http://time.com/4800800/afghanistan-is-the-front-line/

Is Afghanistan a Lost Cause?

Patrick J. Buchanan, the author of ‘Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever’, warns that after investing in Afghanistan hundreds of billions and 2,000 U.S. lives in the 15 years, the US is further from victory than it has ever been

June 1 — “‘We are there and we are committed’ was the regular retort of Secretary of State Dean Rusk during the war in Vietnam. Whatever you may think of our decision to go in, Rusk was saying, if we walk away, the United States loses the first war in its history, with all that means for Southeast Asia and America’s position in the world.” READ MORE: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/buchanan/is-afghanistan-a-lost-cause/

Afghanistan: From Soviet Occupation to American ‘Liberation’ – OpEd

Analyst asks: if Afghanistan was an occupied country during the years of Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1988 then how did it become a free country after the American occupation of Afghanistan since 2001-onward?

June 3 — “During the election campaign of 2008 before he was elected as the president, Barack Obama made an artificial distinction between the “just war” in Afghanistan and the unjust war in Iraq.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasiareview.com/03062017-afghanistan-from-soviet-occupation-to-american-liberation-oped/

WORLD

Caspian Sea dispute: where solutions jump ahead of problems

At the bottom of the dispute is the question whether or not the Caspian waters should be seen as a lake or a sea, which determines the division of its huge hydrocarbon resources between the littoral states

June 1 — “A fair division of the Caspian seabed including exploitation rights has been subject to debate for a quarter of a century now, with time and again the governments of littoral states — Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Russia — assuring that they were on the brink of clinching a comprehensive agreement.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18120-caspian-sea-dispute-where-solutions-jump-ahead-of-problems

Central Asia gets closer, boosts trade

The China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center is a bright example of China’s Belt and Road Initiative becoming a reality

June 1 — “Horgos city of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in Northwest China is fast emerging as a strategic location economically, riding opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative. Horgos is near the border with Kazakhstan. And beyond are other central Asian countries.” READ MORE: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2017-06/01/content_29569120.htm

Is China Becoming the World’s Most Likeable Superpower?

As Washington has somewhat chilled its relations with the European Union, China is taking efforts to stengthen political and economic ties with Europe

June 2 — “Public diplomacy is perception. Remarkably—and, unthinkably, as recently as one year ago—today China seems to be the world’s most likeable superpower. Compare Donald Trump’s recent visit to Europe with that of Premier Li Keqiang, China’s second-in-command.” READ MORE: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/06/china-jinping-trump-america-first-keqiang/529014/

Sergey Kwan

TCA