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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: Activist punished for being rude about ruling party

Although President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev came to power in 2019 amid promises of ushering in an era of new political freedoms, there are still many red lines that politically minded people are unable to cross

June 22 — “An activist in Kazakhstan has received a sentence of three years of limited freedom for insulting the country’s governing party. As a result of the June 22 verdict handed down by an Almaty court, Alnur Ilyashev will dodge time in prison, but he will have to obtain permission from police if he wants to relocate and will be required to perform 300 hours of community service spread over three years. He will also be banned from engaging in any political activities for five years.” READ MORE:

Corona-crisis in Kazakhstan: Has the Government Coped with the Consequences of the Pandemic?

Despite numerous difficulties and shortcomings of the policy pursued by Kazakhstan to reduce the risks of the spread of the virus, the state has done and continues to do quite a lot

June 24 — “Former head of the representative office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Kazakhstan, Melita Vujnovich, now holding the same position in Russia, mentioned on April 15[1] that “Kazakhstan has made significant progress” in the first month of the pandemic, noting also that the country had sufficient potential for this progress. On the air of the Russian federal television channel in the evening show with Solovyov, she confirmed the same idea, which immediately caused a flurry of bewilderment in Kazakhstan itself. Against the background of dozens of video messages from doctors about the lack of protective equipment, crowded halls of banks and fights in the lines of desperate people who want to receive social benefits, human rights violations during the quarantine period, the assessment of the state’s efforts to resolve the current socio-economic and epidemiological situation raises many questions.” READ MORE:

Nazarbayev in Perspective. Early Days – The Beginning of Nazarbayev’s Journey and the Birth of Kazakhstan

The unique character of Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who became the founding president of modern Kazakhstan, has been the subject of increased interest from both domestic and foreign researchers looking to better understand this period. On July 6, the Elbasy (the National Leader) turns 80

June 25 — “The collapse of one of the superpowers of the 20th century, the Soviet Union, at the end of the twentieth century, became a cataclysm that had far-reaching consequences. Like other former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan received a rare chance to break away and in 1991, they took the chance. The hope for a better future was also lined with uncertainty. Fear and pessimism about the future of the country was also a common sentiment at the time. During such a turbulent time, the personality of the leader who took the reigns of leadership in the country was of tremendous importance.” READ MORE:


The China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Transport Corridor Stretches Further Into China

The transport corridor is in use and has great potential, but the middle section through Kyrgyzstan still transports cargo via trucks and not railcars

June 22 — “China continues to diversify its land transportation options, and the Central Asian states are proactive players willing to tap into the opportunity to become connected to world transportation and trade routes at Beijing’s behest. On June 5, 2020, the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan transportation corridor was extended farther into China. A cargo train from China’s Lanzhou, in Gansu province, for the first time moved goods to Tashkent.” READ MORE:

Kyrgyzstan: Atambayev gets 11 years for crime boss release

The former president also faces another trial with even more serious charges

June 23 — “Kyrgyzstan’s former president Almazbek Atambayev has been sentenced to 11 years and two months in prison for his alleged complicity in abetting the unlawful release of a convicted mobster in 2013. Atambayev had refused to attend his own trial, dismissing the entire process as a sham. The June 23 verdict represents the culmination of just one of the trials facing the former president, whose precipitous downfall has been caused by a rancorous falling-out with his successor and one-time protégé Sooronbai Jeenbekov.” READ MORE:

Kyrgyzstan draft legislation empowers government to block ‘false information’ online

The new legislation could be used to create a new government agency to censor media

June 25 — “Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbay Jeenbekov should reject recently proposed legislation that would mark a serious step toward curtailing press freedom in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Today, the country’s parliament held the second and third readings of proposed legislation called “On Manipulating Information” and passed it by a vote of 79 to 10, according to media reportsExternal link. If signed by Jeenbekov, it will go into effect, according to those reports.” READ MORE:


How to Improve Air Quality in the Capital of Tajikistan?

Currently, the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, is among the twenty worst cities in the Asia-Pacific region for its air quality

June 19 — “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution in cities and rural areas in 2016, has led to 4.2 million cases of premature death worldwide. The burden of air pollution is disproportionately high for the populations of low- and middle-income countries. Of the 4.2 million cases of premature death, 91% are in these countries. The data of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows[2] that air pollution cost the world economy 0.3% of GDP in 2015, and the cost on social support due to this fact was another 6% of global GDP.” READ MORE:

World Bank critical of Tajikistan's telecom sector

Tajikistan’s mobile sector has been on a strong growth path for over a decade. It continues to be the standout feature of the country’s telecom industry

June 22 — “Just released, this edition of Paul Budde Communication’s focus report on Tajikistan outlines the major developments and key aspects in the telecoms markets. Read the full report: Of all the former Soviet republics, Tajikistan’s telecommunications infrastructure was arguably the least developed. With a telecom network that was near total collapse, the government had the daunting task of bringing it up to modern standards. Despite the launch of 4G/LTE services, the overall the telecom sector has continued to struggle. Tajikistan still has one of the lowest fixed-line penetrations in the Asian region and one of the lowest broadband levels of broadband penetration.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan intensifies and broadens war on journalists

A state TV program accuses reporters of working in league with would-be extremists

June 24 — “Tajikistan’s war on independent journalists is reaching a new pitch, not just growing in intensity, but also taking on new forms. This week, state television broadcast a three-part series focusing on the regime’s perceived enemies. Two episodes were devoted to government bête noire Muhiddin Kabiri, an exiled opposition politician who leads the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, or IRPT, and his alleged but undocumented subversive activities.” READ MORE:


Turkmenistan: Birthday boy blows off Putin

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

June 23 — “It might be a trivial question to pose, but how many pairs of glasses and checked shirts does Turkmenistan’s president actually own? Back in April 2019, Turkmenistan-watchers were greeted by the surprising sight of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov wearing spectacles. The development was worthy of note if only because the cult of personality erected around Berdymukhamedov is so strongly contingent on the myth of his intense physical fitness.” READ MORE:

Perspectives | Lift the national security waiver on Turkmenistan

Two top officials at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom say Washington must stop giving Turkmenistan’s dictator a free pass

June 24 — “The government of Turkmenistan is one of the most repressive regimes in the world, and it deserves no special treatment from the United States. Instead, the U.S. government should hold Turkmenistan accountable for its many violations of human rights and religious freedom by lifting its national security waiver.” READ MORE:

Turkmenistan’s special services tighten control over a human rights activist ahead of Berdymukhammedov’s birthday

Prior to the President’s birthday Turkmen activists residing abroad intend to hold demonstrations in Turkey, US and Northern Cyprus

June 26 — “In the run-up to significant dates the control over the Turkmen residents who, due to their active citizenship, cause concern of the special services is tightened. A well-known human rights defender Natalya Shabunts told “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” that officers of the National Security Ministries have been taking turns to be on the lookout at her apartment block for two weeks in a row. Some of them keep vigil in the car whereas others are on the lookout in her apartment block.” READ MORE:


Uzbekistan dam collapse was a disaster waiting to happen

The tragic failure of the Sardoba dam has sparked fresh debate around water conflicts and the need for cooperation between countries in Central Asia

June 23 — “At 5.55 am on May 1, after five days of severe storms, a dam wall at the Sardoba reservoir in the region of Sirdaryo, Uzbekistan, collapsed and water poured through a breach onto cotton fields and villages. To reduce water pressure on the walls of the reservoir and prevent further collapse of dam walls, its gates were opened. Water spilled into the Southern Golodnostepsky Canal and its offshoots, with the intention of sending it to the Aydar-Arnasay lakes – a wetland of international ecological importance. The capacity of the canal was overwhelmed, and the flood expanded.” READ MORE:

Uzbekistan: COVID-19 Tests Agricultural Sector To the Limit

The agricultural sector of Uzbekistan employs 44 per cent of national workforce, this sphere makes 17.6 per cent of the national GDP

June 23 — “According to the State Statistical Committee for 2018, wheat as well as vegetables and fruit prevail among agricultural produce. In 2019, cotton and food commodities amounted to less than 10 per cent in the structure of exports of Uzbekistan. The head of Gulom Polvon farm in Dzharkurgan district of Surkhandarya region cannot reach the khokim of the district for two months already. According to Malika Aliboeva, 88 hectares of land cultivated by her family for 22 years can now be seized.” READ MORE:

Uzbekistan is offering $3,000 to anyone who gets the coronavirus during a visit to the country

Uzbekistan is reopening to travelers, and it's giving any visitor who gets infected $3,000

June 25 — “Uzbekistan is confident travelers won't get the coronavirus when they visit. Over 33 million people live in the country, but with its swift lockdown approach, the country had just 19 reported coronavirus-related deaths. In fact, it's so confident that the country launched the "Safe Travel Guaranteed" campaign, which offers visitors $3,000 if they get infected with the virus while traveling in Uzbekistan.” READ MORE:


Both Medicine and Poison: The Paradox of Support to Afghanistan

A rapid shift in US policy could mean a catastrophic end to intl support, but business as normal is also perilous, writes Kate Clark

June 21 — “Why, after almost two decades of massive international aid, are greater numbers of Afghans living in poverty than in the aftermath of the Taliban's fall? Why has the vision of Afghanistan laid out in the 2001 Bonn Agreement and 2004 Constitution of a multi-ethnic, fully representative, democratic government failed in practice?” READ MORE:

Keeping a Bad Deal at All Costs: US Moral Failure in Afghanistan

U.S. policy toward Afghanistan has been short-sighted and ill-conceived for decades

June 24 — “With the UN’s revelation that the Taliban haven’t broken ties with al-Qaeda, the United States’ dismal performance in the so-called peace talks is on full display. Throughout the negotiations, U.S. officials assured lawmakers and the American public that they would never compromise national security. The Taliban would have to end their entanglement with Osama bin Laden’s legacy organization to win the coveted U.S. troop withdrawal. This was the United States’ red line.” READ MORE:

China and Afghanistan Join Hands against COVID-19 in Strengthened Belt and Road International Cooperation

The Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan says that with its unique geographical position and rich resources, Afghanistan has great potential to participate in regional economic cooperation

June 25 — “While COVID-19 continues spreading around the world, world economies all face huge challenges. A few days ago, China successfully held the High-Level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, foreign minister and ministerial officials from 25 countries, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner joined the discussion on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with solidarity, promoting economic and social recovery and jointly building a community of shared future for mankind.” READ MORE:


India Needs a “China Strategy” in Central Asia

India can play a formidable role in balancing Beijing in the Central Asian region

June 19 — “As China continues to increase its strategic footprint in the Central Asian region, Mackinder’s Heartland theory resonates quite significantly. China aims to develop its power projection capabilities by deepening its influence in Central Asia. If it remains uncontested and unbalanced-against, the Northeast Asian state may continue treading closer towards its hegemonic ambitions. India must thus play a formidable role in reviving its Connect Central Asia Policy to check China’s growing strategic interests in the region. India has often been on the receiving end of China’s assertiveness in the Indian Ocean. In order to deter future aggressive actions from Beijing in its geographical neighborhood, India must forge stronger relations with China’s neighbors.” READ MORE:

The Sino-American Competition Is Coming to Central Asia

By dint of their geographic position, the Central Asian states have the potential to serve as critical connectors between China and the global economy

June 20 — “A new era of strategic competition is unfolding between Washington and Beijing. Relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been on a downward trajectory for the past decade, propelled by increasingly divergent views of the global order. Even so, the bilateral relationship as a whole has witnessed a dramatic deterioration over the past two years driven by a host of issues, among them, growing resistance to unfair Chinese trade and investment practices, Beijing’s increasingly aggressive territorial claims in the South China Sea, and mounting awareness of the Chinese government’s campaign of systematic repression against its Uighur Muslim minority.” READ MORE:


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