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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

Kyrgyzstan opens up to Kazakhstan’s tourists. In theory

Foreign tourism destinations are notionally opening up for Kazakh tourists

Aug 24 — “After months of tight restrictions on who could enter the country, Kyrgyzstan has opened its borders to dozens of nations, apparently in the hope of salvaging what remains of the tourist season. The government’s coronavirus crisis coordinating committee on August 21 published a list of 31 countries deemed to have a stable epidemiological situation and that are therefore deemed eligible for inward travel. The list includes Russia, which has experienced the world’s fourth-largest outbreak in absolute terms and has been recording anywhere between 4,800 and 5,300 new cases per day since the start of August.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-opens-up-to-kazakhstans-tourists-in-theory

Difficulties of Transition to Distance Learning: the Case of Kazakhstan

The distance learning format was planned to be carried out in accordance with several directions: television lessons, Internet platforms, as well as in the format of transferring assignments through Kazpost or by hand on paper

Aug 26 — “Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the education system is undergoing drastic changes, and the country’s digitalization reform in recent years is being tested for quality. Following the results of conducting trial online classes throughout the country in April 2020, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan decided to abandon online streaming education due to the extreme congestion of the wireless network and the inability to ensure uninterrupted operation of the Internet to go live for two and a half million children throughout the country.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/difficulties-of-transition-to-distance-learning-the-case-of-kazakhstan/

Kazakhstan’s historic action made a safer world for all

After gaining its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan abandoned the world’s fourth most destructive nuclear weapons arsenal inherited from the Soviet Union, and on August 29, 1991, it closed the largest Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site

Aug 28 — “Hindsight and history have shown the terrifying and tragic effects of nuclear weapons testing, especially when controlled conditions go awry, and in light of the far more powerful and destructive nuclear weapons that exist today. A few countries, though, have gone the extra mile and actually taken proactive steps to rid the world of nuclear weapons and they notably include Kazakhstan. On 2 December 2009, the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 29 August the International Day against Nuclear Tests.” READ MORE: https://www.eureporter.co/frontpage/2020/08/28/kazakhstans-historic-action-made-a-safer-world-for-all/?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=eb51943df5a267f5f60d0d02e727113b499ce6c7-1598603510-0-AQs_qYPV0YntETNy_f1YsA3ckmVFQ_7ELTW6L8TvJJIra1r30EMJVWzm9kLwzaNSxO2QB1u5shDfxN3dcgCjNqkNjBYUf3mDwl0aOwkg6JlkeWRdrIKAacnID9Nn06G_ccMi4H-nIEFPpB0j-pOSt6E5k_hGAjsJ5R-DF-jkpzDTPHUkkIxVF9X5sHOPIR5fQ24146W3mvz7459YIRnmHuPxUymsXwZF-lsJ8Nfbub3NACyPVGxJ5riiECWXiap0R3ygFghKZvCrnB9miAe170XtN0NyfgD07No6LwOKnkLyHiZ2ldMNMxgsRGdEWczEGmpc-u-SaoYDd3SIRFSoTheOA2s31CkqtpLaJvts6mGCdCuUv90qksShNe64M90cqg

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan: Thin-skinned authorities hauling in commentators for questioning

Journalists and Facebook users are being regularly summoned by law enforcement authorities

Aug 21 — “A journalist in southern Kyrgyzstan has been summoned for police questioning in what he says was a reprisal for writing critically about local authorities. Bekmamat Abdumalik uulu, a reporter for AKIpress news agency, has said that police in the Aksy district of the Jalal-Abad region failed to offer an explanation for their summons when he turned up at the precinct on August 19.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-thin-skinned-authorities-hauling-in-commentators-for-questioning

Even Two Decades After Massive Cyanide Spill, Kyrgyz Poisoning Victims Get Scant Compensation

None of Kyrgyzstan’s governments appears to have been trying very hard to compensate the people of Barskoon

Aug 22 — “More than 22 years after a deadly cyanide spill contaminated a remote mountain river of Kyrgyzstan, a Bishkek court has ruled in the case of more than two dozen residents of the northeastern village of Barskoon thought to have been poisoned by a transport accident near the Canadian-Kyrgyz gold-mining operation. The court ordered on August 10 that the surviving plaintiffs each receive 400,000 soms (about $5,700) for being poisoned after the 1998 accident on a road leading to the Kumtor gold mine, which dumped nearly a ton of cyanide into the river that runs through their village.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-kumtor-cyanide-spill-compensation-gold-mining/30797137.html

Kyrgyzstan: Election season starts with a surprise exclusion

Kyrgyz parties have to pass a 7 percent vote threshold to enter parliament

Aug 25 — “Campaigning for Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary elections has not even begun yet, but the contest has already witnessed a surprise upset. The Central Election Commission, or CEC, decided on August 25 to deny registration to the Kyrgyzstan Party, a loyal and pliant partner in the current ruling coalition. Making the move even more dramatic was the fact that the CEC had appeared late on August 24 to take the party’s side in a squabble with rival parties over alleged late submission of documents for the vote.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-election-season-starts-with-a-surprise-exclusion

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan: President Rahmon confirms new run for office

This scotches speculation his son was poised to take over

Aug 26 — “Tajikistan’s president has ended speculation that he might step down this year to allow his son to take power with an announcement that he is running in October’s election. Emomali Rahmon was nominated as a presidential candidate on August 26 at a congress of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan. Contrary to its name, the federation is not known to be genuinely involved in any union activity and appears only once every few years for the purpose of nominating Rahmon as a presidential candidate.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-president-rahmon-confirms-new-run-for-office

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon to Seek Fifth Term

Rahmon, one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, will seek a fifth term as Tajik president, setting rumors of a familial succession aside for now

Aug 27 — “Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon is officially running for office, again, ending speculation that he would step aside in favor of letting his son, Rustam Emomali, run for the top spot. Over his more than 28 years in power, Rahmon has carefully arranged the Tajik political arena to his benefit.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/tajik-president-emomali-rahmon-to-seek-fifth-term/

Silver Lining of Pandemic: Redefining Civil Society in Tajikistan

Non-governmental organizations, mass media, community groups and initiatives have emerged amidst lockdown as actors actively engaged in assisting the population and addressing the crisis

Aug 27 — “The civil society matters in Tajikistan have little or no discussion; some even wonder if there is one in the country. Who do we call the civil society representatives, and what should be their role in social and political developments? Non-governmental organizations, mass media, community groups and initiatives have emerged amidst lockdown as actors actively engaged in assisting the population and addressing the crisis. This has provoked considerable rethinking and enhancing of the civil society’s role in times of both epidemiological and economic crisis.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/silver-lining-of-pandemic-redefining-civil-society-in-tajikistan/

TURKMENISTAN

Iran welcomes gas trade with Turkmenistan: NIGC head

Turkmenistan currently exports its natural gas to only one buyer, China, and badly needs to diversify its export destinations

Aug 24 — ““During the ICA ruling we expressed our interest to continue the import of Turkmenistan’s gas,” Montazar Torbati said on Monday on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony of several major plans on the gas sector. The official expressed hope that the two sides can resume their energy ties. Iran and Turkmenistan had a dispute over gas trades, which was addressed by the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) earlier this year.” READ MORE: https://en.mehrnews.com/news/162689/Iran-welcomes-gas-trade-with-Turkmenistan-NIGC-head

Turkmenistan: Come fly away with me

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

Aug 25 — “Work on overhauling Turkmenistan’s constitution is proceeding at full steam. “Overhauling” may be overstating matters, however. Lengthy state news agency accounts about the amendments are notably lacking in granular detail about what is happening, or why the changes are being implemented. It is only stated that the reforms will serve the interests of the “democratic development of Turkmenistan” and of maintaining a “balance between the interests of the state, society and citizens." READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-come-fly-away-with-me

Staff of Turkmenabat’s kindergartens urged to submit applications certifying they are willing to be mobilized in a cotton-harvesting campaign

Forced labor involving employees of government-paid organizations remains widespread in Turkmenistan’s cotton industry

Aug 27 — “Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report that Lebap velayat is getting ready to launch the cotton-harvesting campaign. Principals of Turkmenabat’s kindergartens have been obliged to collect applications from their employees which certify they are willing to be mobilized in the cotton-harvesting campaign.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/08/staff-of-turkmenabats-kindergartens-urged-to-submit-applications-certifying-they-are-willing-to-be-mobilized-in-a-cotton-harvesting-campaign/

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan: Restrictions Remain In Draft New Religion Law

Uzbekistan is taking steps to gradually ease the strict regulations regarding human rights and religious freedoms

Aug 26 — “Uzbekistan’s draft new Religion Law – which officials have promised for several years – maintains many of the restrictions in the current Religion Law, Forum 18 notes. In defiance of Uzbekistan’s international human rights commitments, it would – if adopted in its current form – continue to ban all exercise of freedom of religion without state permission, ban teaching about religion without state permission, continue the compulsory prior censorship of all printed and electronic materials about religion and ban sharing of faith.” READ MORE: https://www.eurasiareview.com/26082020-uzbekistan-restrictions-remain-in-draft-new-religion-law/

Uzbekistan: Charities resist government monopolization of social protection

Critics of the government’s charities ban suspect there is politics at play, not just a desire to stem potential fraud

Aug 26 — “In the early weeks of August, Akida Mokhirova followed a morning routine. She would fling open the window and take in a deep breath of clean mountain air. It is this ritual that she thanks for her improving health. A few weeks earlier, Mokhirova was diagnosed with COVID-19. Mokhirova, 36, lives in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. For her recovery, she was sent for rehabilitation at a spot in the foothills of the Ferghana region. She believes she contracted the coronavirus while traveling the country doing charity work.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-charities-resist-government-monopolization-of-social-protection

My Small, Slim Uzbek Wedding: Couples Rush To Marry As Coronavirus Lockdown Cuts Costs

Civil registry officers around the country say they've received an unprecedented high volume of applications since the government gave the green light for small wedding parties on August 15

Aug 26 — “When the Uzbek government recently eased its coronavirus restrictions and allowed wedding parties to be held -- though for just 30 people -- thousands of couples rushed to the registry offices for marriage licenses. Videos obtained by RFE/RL show large crowds lining up at registry offices in Samarkand's Qushrabot and Kattaqurghon districts, defying the risk of coronavirus that has infected nearly 40,000 and killed hundreds in Central Asia's most-populous nation.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbek-wedding-couples-rush-to-marry-coronavirus-lockdown-cuts-costs-/30803357.html

AFGHANISTAN

China pushes Pakistan to open trade routes with Afghanistan

Beijing wants to extend Belt and Road by readying export paths to India

Aug 24 — “As peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban progress, China is pushing Pakistan to open its five key border crossings with Afghanistan to allow bilateral and transit trade and the resumption of Afghan exports to India. Afghanistan is a landlocked country and relies on Pakistani land routes and seaports to conduct international trade. The two countries share 18 crossing points, of which the most commonly used are Torkham in Pakistan's northwest and Chaman in its southwest. The border points were closed by Pakistan in March to limit the spread of coronavirus.” READ MORE: https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Belt-and-Road/China-pushes-Pakistan-to-open-trade-routes-with-Afghanistan

A slide into war and chaos

Four decades of civil war and poor governance – made worse by foreign intervention – have left Afghanistan a classic failed state

Aug 25 — “The Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion and 10-year domination of Afghanistan started the country’s descent into poverty and lawlessness. The country still has not found peace. People have lost faith in institutions, tend to only trust persons from their own tribe, and the nation’s attitude is now more xenophobic than in the past.” READ MORE: https://www.dandc.eu/en/article/afghanistans-dire-conditions-poverty-conflict-and-lawlessness-trace-their-roots-soviet

The Rise Of Mullah Yaqoob, The Taliban's New Military Chief

Mullah Yaqoob's appointment as military chief was part of the militant group's biggest leadership reshuffle in years

Aug 27 — “Mohammad Yaqoob was virtually unknown five years ago when the Taliban disclosed the mysterious death of his father and its founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar. The Taliban acknowledged that its spiritual leader had been dead for more than two years, soon after Afghan intelligence said he had died of illness in 2013 at a hospital in neighboring Pakistan, from which the reclusive, one-eyed leader had commanded the insurgency in Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/the-rise-of-mullah-yaqoob-the-taliban-new-military-chief/30805362.html

WORLD

Explained Ideas: How India can force China to settle the border issue amicably

The size of the Indian market provides considerable leverage but using it would require India’s consumers as well as firms to pay higher prices for some time

Aug 28 — “After the loss of lives of Indian soldiers at Galwan, there have been calls for the boycott of Chinese goods. Counter views have been expressed that the Indian economy is so dependent on China that the costs of taking steps to stop imports would be disproportionately higher for India as most manufacturing in India is dependent on global supply chains where China has a leading role.” READ MORE: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/india-china-border-dispute-6572920/

Energy deals in South China Sea are off limits if Russia wants strong China ties

China-Russia relations have benefited from having a common rival in the US and shared positions on many global issues. However, Russia’s interest in oil exploration in the South China Sea is a potential flash point

Aug 28 — “Russia and China have drawn close in recent years, striking agreement on almost all key issues of global concern: be it global governance, climate change, the world economy, or politics and geostrategic intricacies. Some experts have even called their relationship a quasi-alliance, especially in light of Russia’s assistance in helping China establish an early-warning anti-missile system.” READ MORE: https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3099105/energy-deals-south-china-sea-are-limits-if-russia-wants-strong

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