TCA: Weekly Digest of Central Asia

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.


What’s in Kazakhstan’s 2025 Development Plan?

On the road to 2050, Kazakhstan aims to diversify its economy and develop new industries

March 23 — “The government of Kazakhstan recently released its National Development Plan Through 2025, which complements the government’s primary objective of becoming one of the world’s 30 most developed nations by 2050. Overall, the plan is a continuation of Nur-Sultan’s current strategy of economic diversification, which includes heavily investing in technology; increasing exports of manufactured goods; and the development of “new” industries like transport and logistics, aerospace services, engineering, information and communications technology (ICT), and even medical tourism.” READ MORE:

Kazakhstan adopts new accreditation requirements that journalists fear will promote censorship

Kazakh authorities should revise new amendments to the country’s journalist accreditation policies to ensure they do not restrict the freedom of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said

March 23 — “On March 11, the Ministry of Information and Social Development adopted amendments to the 2013 Rules of Accreditation of Journalists, which include a requirement for journalists to work with a loosely defined “host” when covering government events, according to news reports and Tamara Kaleyeva, head of the Kazakh press freedom group Adil Soz, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.” READ MORE:

British Inquest Says Grandson Of Ex-Kazakh President Nazarbaev Died Of Natural Causes, Cocaine Addiction

Aisultan Nazarbaev, 29, had battled addiction for some years. He had also made several public accusations of corruption against his family, which had raised suspicions that his death might be the result of foul play

March 24 — “А British coroner has concluded that Aisultan Nazarbaev, a grandson of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, died of natural causes last year, as a result of a cocaine addiction. The finding, announced March 24, was expected to tamp down persistent suspicions about the circumstances leading up to his death. He was found unconscious in a London park on August 16, 2020.” READ MORE:


Kyrgyzstan: Non-Transparent Amnesty and Pardon Procedure in the Country

Some human rights defenders and lawyers in Kyrgyzstan state about high level of corruption in the amnesty and pardon procedure

March 23 — “Last autumn, the then prime minister Sadyr Zhaparov (the president of Kyrgyzstan since January 11) promoted the discussion of low quality performance of the law enforcement bodies, big number of wrongly convicted persons and persons whose prison term is incommensurate with the crime committed, as well as high corruption rate for the right to be released from prison.” READ MORE:

China polishes its image in Central Asia through the soft power of language

School donations that come with compulsory Chinese lessons help Beijing to convert younger generations to its politics

March 23 — “From the moment they push the Chinese lion door knob to enter, children at Bishkek’s school No. 95 leave Kyrgyzstan and enter a little slice of China. All of the signs and posters feature Chinese symbols, quotes by the Chinese philosopher Confucius are framed next to those by Kyrgyz poets, and all of the appliances have been made in China – from lights to fire extinguishers, security cameras and sport supplies.” READ MORE:

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan agree on power swap to restore reservoir levels

The reservoir of Kyrgyzstan’s Toktogul hydropower plant has not seen levels this low since the early 2010s

March 25 — “Water at a key hydropower-generating facility in Kyrgyzstan has dropped to levels unseen for more than a decade, requiring a makeshift arrangement to import electricity from neighboring Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan’s Energy and Industry Ministry said in a statement on March 25 that the countries have struck a deal on the mutual delivery of up to 750 million kilowatt hours of electricity at nominal rates.” READ MORE:


Why Are Food Prices Growing in Tajikistan?

Although the coronavirus panic in Tajikistan has passed a long time ago, food prices continue to rise

March 23 — “Throughout 2020, food prices in Tajikistan grew rapidly, complicating the socio-economic situation of the country. In this article, we will try to understand how the rise in prices affect the population of Tajikistan, consider the main reasons for the rise in food prices, analyze solutions and figure out what to expect from 2021. Last year, Tajikistan was in the list[1] of the 20 countries with the highest food prices relative to average income (along with Haiti and 18 African countries). According to the United Nations (UN), a Tajik citizen needs to spend about 13% of his daily earnings on one plate of simple food, which, for example, is 12.4% more than in New York.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan president pulls disappearing act over holiday season

What makes Rahmon’s disappearance all very odd is that he is a particular devotee of the Nowruz spring equinox feast

March 23 — “The president of Tajikistan appears to have taken an inordinately long leave of absence, and at a time of year when he is normally out and about in public. If Emomali Rahmon, a 68-year-old not known especially for his love of healthy living, does not resurface soon, worries will mount. Going by the presidential administration press service’s own photographic evidence, the last time that Rahmon was verifiably spotted in the presence of anybody not inside his own government was on March 5.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan: The shame that perpetuates child sexual abuse

Fear of public judgement often keeps victims from speaking up

March 25 — “When Suraya returned home after an extended absence, her change of appearance was immediately noticeable. For eight months, the 13-year-old had been staying at her grandmother’s home, nursing her through a period of illness. “My mother-in-law insisted on doing an ultrasound,” Suraya’s mother told Eurasianet. “The results showed that she was pregnant and was due to give birth within one week.” READ MORE:


Joint Report of “Turkmen News” and “Chronicles of Turkmenistan”: Cotton production in Turkmenistan: Use of Forced Labor in a Dysfunctional System

The functioning of the Turkmen cotton production system is marred by the pursuit of fictitious numbers, the lack of transparency in reporting, the arbitrary corrupt behavior of officials on the ground, and the lack of opportunity for farmers to stand up for their rights

March 23 — “The two exile Turkmen organisations, Turkmen.News and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, today issued their joint report “Review of the Use of Forced Labor in Turkmenistan During the 2020 Cotton Harvest”. As a basis for their report, they carried out monitoring in four of the five regions of Turkmenistan — Ahal, Dashoguz, Lebap, and Mary.” READ MORE:

Turkmenistan: Internet welcome, or no VPNs allowed here

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

March 23 — “In a repeat of events last year, parts of Turkmenistan have been struck by powerful and destructive winds. RFE/RL’s Turkmen service, Radio Azatlyk, reported on March 22 that several towns in eastern Lebap province had been without power and communications since the calamity late last week. Videos posted to YouTube showed roofs being blown off an apartment block in Turkmenabat. Azatlyk notes that the authorities repeated their passive policy from 2020 by failing to inform the public of the possible impending disaster.” READ MORE:

Don’t Look Disheveled In Turkmenistan Or You Just Might Be Sent To Work On A State Farm

Rampant unemployment, rising food prices, and a lack of government support have pushed many Turkmen to the brink of poverty in recent years

March 24 — “Police in southeastern Turkmenistan have been seen randomly detaining people who look disheveled or are wearing old clothes. Stopped on the streets, they are accused of begging or being homeless and are taken away by police, eyewitnesses told RFE/RL correspondents. A police source told RFE/RL the authorities have sent some of the detainees to toil as a “free workforce” on state-owned farms.” READ MORE:


BORDERLEX: EU edging closer to granting Uzbekistan GSP Plus trade status

Uzbekistan applied to benefit from the EU’s ‘GSP Plus’ scheme in June 2020. This status gives poor countries that commit to implementing 27 international labour, environment and human rights conventions extra import duty reductions than those already granted on a no-strings-attached basis under its General System of Preferences to all developing countries

March 19 — “It’s been a long journey for Uzbekistan. The Central Asian country remains one of the world’s most closed and politically repressive countries, but it embarked on a new journey in 2016 after the passing away of Islam Karimov, a particularly cruel dictator. The five-year reform process might also lead the country to finally enjoy better trading terms with the European Union. Uzbekistan has long been known for resorting systematically to forced labour and child labour on its cotton fields. That policy has been dropped and sustained efforts, in cooperation with the International Labour Organisation, to eradicate the practice, has led to results.” READ MORE:

New Uzbek Opposition Party Runs Into The Same Wall As Its Predecessors

The Truth and Progress Party is the latest in a long line of opposition parties that simply wants to operate legally in Uzbekistan

March 24 — “There was a huge turnout on the outskirts of the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, on March 12 for a meeting of activists of the newly formed Truth and Progress Party. Unfortunately, many of those who came did not have good intentions. Established just four days earlier, the opposition party members meeting in the Kibray district of Tashkent Province were also joined by a large crowd of outsiders who came to disrupt the event.” READ MORE:

‘Feels Like A Sham’: Uzbek President Pledges Help For Jobless Youth, Foists Burden On Small Businesses

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has controversially demanded that businesses create jobs for young people as part of an ambitious plan to tackle widespread unemployment

March 25 — “Uzbekistan’s government is touting an ambitious plan to create at least half a million new jobs this year for unemployed young people through a project called Every Entrepreneur Is Support For Youth. It’s a top-down scheme that requires private businesspeople to do the heavy lifting. Backed by President Shavkat Mirziyoev in a speech to a youth forum in December, the project obliges every entrepreneur in the country to hire at least one active job-seeker between the ages of 18 and 30.” READ MORE:


Untangling Taliban’s Ties With Al-Qaeda ‘Extremely Difficult’

Observers say the terrorist network remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency, with Al-Qaeda figures serving as military advisers, explosives experts, and instructors on their extremist interpretation of Islam

March 19 — “Afghan special forces stormed an isolated mudbrick house in a Taliban-controlled district of Ghazni Province in October, killing six suspected militants — including Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, the No. 2 figure in the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. The Egyptian national, also known as Abu Muhsin al-Masri, was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list for conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens. Just weeks later, Afghan forces killed another senior Al-Qaeda leader named Mohammad Hanif in a Taliban-controlled district of the southwestern Farah Province.” READ MORE:

Silk and Saffron: Regenerating Afghanistan

Grown together, saffron and mulberry trees can provide year-round income for Afghan farmers

March 22 — “For thousands of years Afghanistan has been a cornerstone of the global economy. Situated at a major crossroads of east-west trade routes, since the first century BCE, the silk road established Afghanistan as a hub of commerce, facilitating the exchange of goods and ideas from across the globe. Even two thousand years ago, Chinese silk, Persian silver, and Roman gold would flow through the country on their way to market in distant lands. Sadly, in recent decades Afghanistan’s once thriving economy has been ravaged by factional violence and armed conflict. Yet since the worst of the country’s violence in the late nineties, glimmers of hope have shone through.” READ MORE:

Afghan Leader Demands Iranian Oil in Exchange for River Water

Iranian officials are reported to be complaining that Afghanistan’s damming of rivers has reduced water flow to their country

March 24 — “Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Wednesday that his country is committed to give Iran its due share of water under a decades-long bilateral treaty but he stressed that Tehran will have to pay for any additional requirements. “We will honor our commitments. However, anything beyond the stipulated quota would require discussions,” Ghani said in a televised speech after inaugurating the newly built Kamal Khan Dam in southwestern Nimroz border province.” READ MORE:


Analysis | Can Central Asian gas exporters rely on China?

China hopes to reduce energy imports and cut emissions, raising questions about the need for additional gas from Central Asia

March 24 — “Central Asia’s natural gas producers have only one eager buyer: China. And though China has a growing appetite, it has signaled intentions to source more energy domestically. What does this mean for Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan? A little over a decade ago, China produced enough gas to meet its own demands. These days, it imports about 42 percent of its needs. Central Asia supplies about a third of China’s total gas imports and 15 percent of demand. The rest travels through pipelines from Myanmar (3 percent of total imports) and Russia (3 percent of imports and rising) – or by sea as liquified natural gas, which accounts for over two-thirds of imports. (China will soon be the world’s largest LNG importer.)” READ MORE:

Kremlin’s ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’ in Action: Tools, Strengths, Intermediary Results

From an ideological point of view, for Moscow, winning the “vaccine race” has acquired meaning comparable to other famous Soviet-era endeavors, such as the “Space Race” or the pursuit of a nuclear weapon

March 25 — “Russian media contends that the domestically manufactured Sputnik V—a COVID-19 vaccine developed last year by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology—is the world’s second-most highly approved inoculation against the novel coronavirus (Vzglyad, March 5). In truth, official data on the effectiveness of the Russian-manufactured vaccine is inconclusive, save for a single article published in the medical journal The Lancet, on February 2, suggesting the efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6 percent after the first dose. Nonetheless, a growing number of countries are eager to acquire the vaccine.” READ MORE:

“The Times Of Central Asia”