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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

Can Kazakhstan’s China-backed financial hub boost belt and road funding?

The new stock exchange in the Kazakh capital is backed by Shanghai and Nasdaq exchanges and Goldman Sachs, among others

Oct 6 — “One of the primary goals of the Chinese-backed Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), the newly established regional financial zone in Kazakhstan’s capital, is to boost funding for projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, its transcontinental infrastructure strategy, the governor of the zone said in an interview.” READ MORE: https://www.scmp.com/economy/global-economy/article/3031744/can-kazakhstans-china-backed-financial-hub-boost-belt-and

Kazakhstan: President voices frustration over problems in Nur-Sultan

Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan, the brainchild of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev, seems to be not well designed considering how cold it gets in winter

Oct 9 — ““Tokayev has criticized Nursultan’s appearance.” This gag from Kazakhstan Twitter neatly encapsulates the latest chapter of the country’s political transition. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev caused a minor sensation on October 8 by launching a broadside at the shortcomings of the capital, Nur-Sultan.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-president-voices-frustration-over-problems-in-nur-sultan

Kazakhstan Adopts Open Skies Policy To Diversify Domestic Airline Industry

Open skies is expected to make Kazakhstan’s domestic aviation market competitive and see a drop in ticket prices

Oct 9 — “Beibut Atamkulov, Kazakhstan’s minister of industry and infrastructure development, announced Monday that the government has agreed to pilot an “open skies” aviation policy, which will promote the ease of access to and rules for national airports for foreign airlines.” READ MORE: https://caspiannews.com/news-detail/kazakhstan-adopts-open-skies-policy-to-diversify-domestic-airline-industry-2019-10-8-11/

Kazakhstan on the right path to strengthen its civil society

The growth of citizen activity in Kazakhstan is pushing the authorities towards a more active dialogue with civil society NGOs

Oct 10 — “Europe’s largest annual human rights conference was held in Warsaw, Poland during 16-27 September. This year the event brought together 57 OSCE participating states, hundreds of international experts, civil society representatives and human rights activists to take stock of how states fulfil their obligations on human rights and fundamental freedoms. The latest civil society challenges and current political situation in Kazakhstan were discussed at a side event, organized by Kazakh civil society NGOs, on 26 September during the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw.” READ MORE: https://www.brusselstimes.com/opinion/72784/kazakhstan-on-the-right-path-to-strengthen-its-civil-society/

KYRGYZSTAN

Chinese investors in Kyrgyzstan work to soften their image

Sinophobia runs deep in many parts of Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan

Oct 4 — “When Wang Tong-chuang first moved to Kyrgyzstan in 2007, Chinese nationals like him were a prime target for the police. “Police would aggressively check our visas and work permits every time I went out,” the Bishkek-based businessman told Eurasianet. Attitudes among the rest of the public were little better.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/chinese-investors-in-kyrgyzstan-work-to-soften-their-image

Sexual Harassment in Kyrgyzstan: Should UNESCO Weigh In?

A sex scandal erupted at Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University in Bishkek, being the only incident of sexual harassment at a higher education institution in Kyrgyzstan that has gotten national attention

Oct 9 — “Sexual harassment is a global problem that includes higher education. While universities throughout the world experience sexual harassment, not every university addresses the problem on its campus. Even if addressed, there may be no prompt or proper response to the problem. While UNESCO as an organization would clearly stand against sexual harassment, the institution may also need to pay attention to abuses where it has lent the credibility of its name.” READ MORE: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/world-view/sexual-harassment-kyrgyzstan-should-unesco-weigh

Yurts, Eagle Hunters and Rugged Solitude in Kyrgyzstan

The country's nomadic culture which attracts foreign visitors is at the heart of its hospitality

Oct 12 — “From the top of the pass, we looked down on summer pastures shimmering with haze. Cloud shadows drifted like wandering states across the valley. Far off in the west, the grasslands tipped into empty reaches of sky. To the south stood the ramparts of the Trans-Alai mountains, a spur of the Pamirs, armored with snow. A rickety truck pulled up. Ropes held a precarious cargo in place, the baggage of nomads: tents and carpets, yurt poles and felt rolls, trunks and cast-iron stoves, and two boys with baby lambs in their laps.” READ MORE: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/yurts-eagle-hunters-solitude-in-kyrgyzstan

TAJIKISTAN

Silver Lining? Tajikistan Defends Controversial Decision To Give Mine To China

Chinese companies operating in Central Asia often bring in the majority of their workers from China, leaving many locals upset that such foreign investments aren't helping the local economy by hiring natives

Oct 4 — “Tajik authorities are defending their decision to give a Chinese company the rights to develop a major silver mine in a move seen by some as great for Beijing but providing unknown benefits to Dushanbe. After less than 30 minutes of debate, the Tajik parliament on October 1 approved a contract signed by the state Committee on Investments and State Property and China’s Kashgar Xinyi Dadi Mining Investment Company in June to develop the Yakjilva silver deposit in the remote eastern district of Murghob.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/silver-lining-tajikistan-defends-controversial-decision-to-give-mine-to-china/30199786.html

Interfaith marriages in Tajikistan: all is possible if you are in love

Different religions should not become the obstacles to marriage, as religious scholars and representatives of clergy say

Oct 8 — “Galina’s husband, ethnic Tajik, forbade her to celebrate Easter, and the family was on the verge of breakdown. Later, the mullah advised Khurshed not to impose his religion on his wife and accept her as she is. Khurshed and Galina have been married for over 20 years. In the 90s, when the mass labor migration of Tajiks to Russia began, Khurshed Avazov and his classmate left to work in Siberia.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/intereligious-marriages-in-tajikistan-all-is-possible-if-you-are-in-love/

Why is Tajikistan pawing migrant laborers’ cash?

The Tajik central bank says it wants to improve efficiency in the remittance transfers system

Oct 10 — “The National Bank of Tajikistan announced last week that it had taken over management of migrant labor remittances flowing into the country, which amounted to about $2.5 billion last year. The NBT, the country’s central bank, argued that setting up a so-called national processing center for remittances would improve efficiency in the money transfer system, boost transparency and help stabilize Tajikistan’s financial system.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/why-is-tajikistan-pawing-migrant-laborers-cash

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: A weak constitution

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

Oct 8 — “These are turbulent times for Turkmenistan’s ruling elite. In a scene reminiscent of his eccentric late predecessor’s theatrics, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov last week fired his long-serving Interior Minister Isgender Mulikov. The scene was shown in an extended edition of the Watan Habarlary evening news bulletin on October 1.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-a-weak-constitution

Turkmenistan tightens control over VPN applications

About a month ago the Cyber security service was set up in Turkmenistan. Since that time Internet users have been experiencing problems with VPN applications

Oct 8 — “Over the past month some of the most popular VPN applications have been blocked in Turkmenistan. The applications, which were used by local residents to bypass Internet censorship, had been blocked off before. However, it took quite a while from the moment a working VPN was identified and disseminated among residents until it was blocked.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2019/10/turkmenistan-tightens-control-over-vpn-applications/

School teachers and university instructors obliged to study the books authored by the President

Themes and chapters of the books authored by the President can be discussed at the exams as main or additional questions

Oct 10 — “Turkmenistan’s educators have been forced to read the books authored by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. They are obliged to familiarize themselves with all recently-published writings by the head of state. The teaching staff are obliged to communicate the content and the gist of the writings authored by Turkmenistan’s most prominent writer to schoolchildren and students of secondary vocational and higher educational establishments.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2019/10/school-teachers-and-university-instructors-obliged-to-study-the-books-authored-by-the-president/

UZBEKISTAN

Where Freedoms Are Expanding—Slowly

Uzbekistan has long been one of the world’s most repressive societies. But a new president appears to be loosening the state’s grip, little by little

Oct 5 — “A little more than a year ago, I stood among a crush of reporters shouting questions at President Donald Trump and his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in the Oval Office, and asked Mirziyoyev what his White House meeting would ultimately mean for the Uzbek people. His reply was a standard one: The visit, he said, showed that Uzbekistan’s voice mattered in international affairs—but then, acknowledging my reporting as an Uzbek American journalist, he added wryly, “Come back to Uzbekistan.” READ MORE: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/10/uzbekistan-freedom-slowly-expanding/599446/

Not So Fast: Will Uzbekistan Join the Eurasian Economic Union?

In Russian framing, the Uzbek decision to join the EAEU has already been made. But Tashkent is still exploring its options

Oct 7 — “On October 2, following her meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Valentina Matviyenko, chairwoman of the Russian Parliament’s Federation Council, announced that Uzbekistan was working on the issue of joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) at Mirziyoyev’s instruction. Although it was clarified later that Uzbekistan is merely exploring the option of joining the EAEU, in the words of Matviyenko, Uzbekistan’s accession was a fait accompli as she expressed her hope about Uzbekistan’s accession without delay.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2019/10/not-so-fast-will-uzbekistan-join-the-eurasian-economic-union/

Uzbek Teachers Get Tough Assignment: 'Remove Their Hijabs, But Don't Hurt Their Feelings'

Uzbek educational officials are increasingly tightening the measures against the hijab, or female head scarf, and Islamic symbols at schools and other public places

Oct 9 — “Teachers in Uzbekistan's Tashkent region have been instructed to stand outside schools every morning to demand female students remove their head scarves before entering the building. The new, unofficial government order is part of a large-scale crackdown on clothes or a physical appearance -- particularly long or bushy beards -- deemed by the authorities to be too Islamic.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbek-teachers-get-tough-assignment-remove-their-hijabs-but-don-t-hurt-their-feelings-/30208276.html

AFGHANISTAN

The ‘India Question’ in Afghanistan

India has long courted the government in Kabul, and Islamabad views this potential relationship with alarm

Oct 6 — “India welcomed the cancellation of U.S.-Afghan Taliban peace talks in Doha. In an expression of support for Kabul, which was ostracized from the talks, New Delhi asserted that any future process on the issue must include “all the sections of the Afghan society including the legitimately elected government.” On the face of it, India reiterated a long-standing position of supporting Kabul against the Pakistan-sponsored Taliban. But what makes this position interesting is the fact that India’s relations with Kabul have undergone a shift since 2014.” READ MORE: https://www.lawfareblog.com/india-question-afghanistan

We’re not winning the drug war in Afghanistan. The Taliban is | Opinion

The Taliban reaps huge profits from protecting the opium trade, and Afghan poppy farmers say they earn far more than they do growing legal crops

Oct 7 — “The canceled “Afghanistan peace plan” and Camp David meeting of the United States and Taliban leaders ignored Afghanistan’s opium and heroin production, which leads the world. It funds their terrorist activities against us and around the globe. Now the United States has a chance to get it right.” READ MORE: https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article235892727.html

'Ample Opportunities' For Fraud Bedevil Afghan Presidential Election

Observers say new rules introduced to combat election fraud — computerized voter lists and biometric voter verification — prevented large-scale ballot stuffing but opened the process to new forms of manipulation

Oct 9 — “Nangarhar is the second-most-deadly province for civilians in all of Afghanistan, where the world's deadliest conflict rages on in its 18th year. And the remote majestic mountains in that eastern province are the stronghold of extremist Islamic State (IS) fighters -- making the region a magnet for deadly militant bombings and U.S. air strikes. Oddly enough, Nangarhar achieved the implausible feat of attracting the second-highest number of total votes in the war-torn country's September 28 presidential election, according to Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC).” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/ample-opportunities-for-fraud-bedevil-afghan-presidential-election/30208231.html

WORLD

Why Is Anti-Chinese Sentiment on the Rise in Central Asia?

Central Asia could become a spoiler for all of Beijing’s big Belt and Road ambitions

Oct 8 — “On October 1, thousands of Chinese diaspora scattered across Central Asia and beyond celebrated their National Day with flag-raising ceremonies and parades. In China, these celebrations included a large military parade, showcasing new weapons and the country’s latest technology. But beyond China’s borders, amid these choreographed projections of national unity, the festival atmosphere has been disrupted by re-emerging, widespread anti-Chinese sentiment among the Central Asians.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2019/10/why-is-anti-chinese-sentiment-on-the-rise-in-central-asia/

Strategies for combating international terrorism in Central Asia

Central Asian states are facing serious menaces to their security from various challenges like drug trafficking, water disputes, religious fundamentalism and expansion of terrorist and takfiri groups such as ISIS

Oct 10 — “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia has been cast as the site of a new “great game”. Central Asia has been largely influenced by international developments and the emergence of persistent sources of instability and tension in other parts of the world, including the Middle East and North Africa. Some states in the region have succeeded in expanding their relationships with other actors. For example, Kazakhstan has tried to advance its goals by participating in important international issues and designing appropriate policies. Although Kazakhstan has succeeded in this path, most of the countries in the region face major challenges.” READ MORE: https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2019/10/10/strategies-for-combating-international-terrorism-in-central-asia/

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