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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: COVID gives domestic tourism a fillip

Kazakhs unable to travel abroad are discovering their country is full of nice places to vacation. But what’s good for the local economy is not always good for nature

July 19 — “With their spears and shields, the two men in chainmail guarding the nomad homestead were a menacing sight. There was nothing to worry about, though. “Welcome,” said one guard cheerfully, as they parted to clear a passage for visitors. A scene from ye olde Kazakhstan lay beyond. Young women in traditional dress, felt yurts, and heated beshbarmak – a dish of pasta squares and hunks of horsemeat – steaming invitingly on platters.” READ MORE:

Kazakhstan: A Developing Frontier Market with a Western-friendly Attitude

Kazakhstan has come a long way from being a Soviet-style economy and is becoming a Western-style economy, which includes appearing as attractive Western investors that want to diversify their portfolio in the COVID-19 world

July 22 — “In the COVID-19 era, investors are turning to untapped frontier markets for higher returns and new opportunities. One nation that fits this objective is the Republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia, as Nur-Sultan similarly aims to become a hub for Western investment as part of its own plans for economic development and diversification. The Republic of Kazakhstan’s geographical position means that it is a natural partner to bordering global powers Russia and China, particularly as the country’s location makes it the “buckle” of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia. However Nur-Sultan has more global ambitions: specifically to become one of the 30 most developed nations by 2050.” READ MORE:

'They Would Hang Me By The Arms': Hundreds Of Letters From Kazakh Prisons Describe Alleged Torture

Former inmates say victims who try to complain about torture in Kazakh prison face even harsher treatment at the hands of authorities

July 22 — “Former inmates at prisons in Kazakhstan are sharing harrowing details of what they describe as “torture” at the hands of their jailers. “An officer pulled me out of the cell and began strangling me as others looked on. Then he hit me repeatedly on the head and in my face,” said one former inmate of a prison in Almaty, whose name is being withheld out of concern for his safety.” READ MORE:


Kyrgyzstan: Controversial NGO Law Passes

Government accused of shrinking space for civil society with onerous legislation

July 19 — “Critics warn that a new law mandating tighter controls over NGOs risks damaging Kyrgyz both democracy and its international standing. The amendments, signed into law in early July, mean non-profit organisations must submit detailed annual statements on their sources of funding, amount of spending and any assets owned or used. These will be made publicly available on the tax office’s website, and failure to comply may mean the NGO is shut down.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan Misses Big Opportunity To Mend Ties With Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry says its offers to help Tajikistan to move the Afghan Kyrgyz to Kyrgyzstan for resettlement went unanswered and Tajik authorities did not inform Kyrgyzstan about the decision to return the group and their animals to Afghanistan

July 21 — “Relations between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan reached an all-time low at the end of April when the armed forces of the two countries battled over border issues. More than 50 people were killed and scores wounded, most of them Kyrgyz citizens. Attempts at reconciliation along their common border produced mixed results, and a visit to Tajikistan by Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov in late June did little to warm relations between the Central Asian neighbors despite talk by Japarov and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, about traditionally friendly ties.” READ MORE:

Kyrgyzstan: A Year On, Demand for Justice for Azimjon Askarov’s Death

Askarov was arrested in 2010 while documenting inter-ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan and had been unjustly held in prison for 10 years, serving a life sentence imposed after an unfair trial marred by torture and ill-treatment

July 23 — “Kyrgyzstan authorities have yet to conduct an independent investigation into the death in detention on July 25, 2020, of the human rights defender and journalist Azimjon Askarov, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan, and International Partnership for Human Rights said today.” READ MORE:


Coronavirus isn't an obstacle: Dushanbe to celebrate jubilee of Tajikistan’s Independence on grand scale

Tajik officials say the total number of coronavirus cases in the country has been 14,228 as of the evening of July 20, including 114 deaths, but many in Tajikistan say the real number is much higher

July 21 — “A big military parade will be held in Dousti Square in Dushanbe on the occasion of the 30th year of Tajikistan’s Independence, Colonel Faridoun Mahmadalizoda, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense told Asia-Plus in an interview. According to him, more than 15,000 soldiers and officers of the Dushanbe military garrison are being trained for the parade. A source within the Ministry of Culture says about 50,000 people will participate in a festive procession that will follow the military parade.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan: Afghan crisis serves as opportunity to show off military might

Central Asian leaders are engaged in a balancing act, showing they are content to live with the Taliban’s ascendancy in Afghanistan while signaling they will deal firmly with any trouble that might spill over

July 23 — “Unrest in Afghanistan has to date had barely any impact on neighbors in Central Asia, but regional leaders and Russia are nonetheless seizing upon ongoing developments as an opportunity to show off military prowess. On July 22, Tajikistan held its largest military readiness drill in its post-independence history. Around 100,000 servicemen and 130,000 reserve troops were mobilized to take part in an exercise dubbed Border-2021, as President Emomali Rahmon fretted about troubles to the south.” READ MORE:

Russia to help Tajikistan build outpost on Afghan border -report

Russia operates a military base in Tajikistan, whose government has expressed concern about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan

July 23 — “Russia will help its ally Tajikistan build a new outpost on the Tajik-Afghan border, a senior Russian diplomat said, amid worsening conflict in Afghanistan as U.S.-led troops withdraw after a 20-year intervention. “An intergovernmental agreement is now being prepared for signing on the provision of aid to Tajikistan for the construction of a border outpost,” Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told RIA news agency late on Thursday.” READ MORE:


Serdar Berdimuhamedov and Turkmenistan’s Digital Transformation

As the Turkmen president’s son continues his tour of top government positions, digitalization remains a critical priority for the regime

July 20 — “On February 12, 2021, Serdar Berdimuhamedov was given a number of top positions by his father, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The appointments ushered in the penultimate stage of a hereditary power transition that has been underway for several years now. Serdar was appointed the head of the Supreme Control Chamber, a member of the State Security Council, and more importantly the post of deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers (Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is the chairman), responsible for the implementation of the country’s digitalization policy and integration of innovative technologies in the economy, public governance and social spheres.” READ MORE:

Turkmenistan: Going for gold

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

July 20 — “Turkmenistan’s multibillion Awaza seaside resort does not see a lot of foreign guests, so the flurry anticipated for next month will be a welcome change. The government website has reported that the presidents of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Turkmenistan will convene for a three-way summit at the Caspian resort on August 6. Before that, Central Asian heads of state will meet there for a “consultative meeting.” This is the third such meeting in this format – the first was held in the Kazakh capital in 2018, and another in Tashkent in 2019.” READ MORE:

Doctor Demanding Justice Detained in Turkmenistan

Retaliation after Khursanai Ismatullaeva’s case is discussed in European Parliament

July 20 — “On July 16, police in Turkmenistan arrested a doctor whose unfair dismissal was raised during a human rights panel that I moderated that was held a day earlier by the European Parliament. Khursanai Ismatullaeva had worked at a neonatal clinic near Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital until she was fired in 2017. She has been fighting the dismissal since, in a case allegedly marred by irregularities.” READ MORE:


On The Road In Uzbekistan

A 2,500-kilometer road trip by Anzor Bukharsky, one of Central Asia's most beloved photographers and cultural commentators, offers a rare glimpse into everyday life on the backstreets and byways of Uzbekistan

July 18 — “These are some of the photographs made during a road trip throughout Uzbekistan in early summer 2021 by photographer Anzor Bukharsky. The Bukhara native is known for his affectionate photographs and sharp observations of Uzbek culture. Bukharsky made the epic journey to show two visiting Russian friends an Uzbekistan away from the tourist sites where, he says, the authorities have attempted to "improve everything with new bricks and tiles, or decorate with rubbish bins and plastic police booths." READ MORE:

Uzbekistan Conference Attracts Global Interest in Central Asia

President Mirziyoyev said that strengthening ties with neighbors is a top priority for Uzbekistan

July 20 — “Dreams of connecting landlocked Central Asia more closely to South Asia and the international trading system are coming into focus after a two-day conference last week in Tashkent, hosted by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Nearly 50 countries and more than 30 international organizations attended, including China, Russia, the United States, and the European Union. The gathering was perhaps the largest yet to promote economic integration. Still, experts caution that high-level engagements must translate into tangible investments in order to deliver economic benefits.” READ MORE:

Uzbekistan-Turkey: Pending the Outcomes of Strategic Relationships

The Uzbek-Turkish relations have experienced different twists and turns

July 22 — “Turkey and Uzbekistan have always been associated as two related nations. This association has become a stereotype in the minds of many researchers and politicians. The factor of historical, linguistic, cultural, and ethnic closeness of the two countries and peoples, as it were, a priori directed the analytical thought towards simple, clear, and even romantic conclusions that Turkey and Uzbekistan are destined for friendly relations and their cooperation will be guaranteed by the fundamental significance of this factor.” READ MORE:


‘Journalism is sacred work’: Afghanistan’s front line reporters

Afghanistan ranks as one of the world’s worst countries for journalism. Yet despite targeted killings and an uncertain future, reporters are not turning away from the profession

July 21 — “It was about 8am on a Monday morning in April 2018 when Bushra Seddique felt the multi-storey apartment building she was living in with her family in Kabul’s Shash Darak district shake. Smoke billowed from the street below. She barely had time to process what was happening as her father rushed the family out of the house, past the injured and the dead, but she remembers seeing journalists running, cameras in hand, towards the scene of the explosion.” READ MORE:

Afghanistan after the US withdrawal: The Taliban speak more moderately but their extremist rule hasn’t evolved in 20 years

All evidence suggests the Taliban still believe in restoring their old system of emirate, in which an unelected religious leader, or emir, was the ultimate decision-maker

July 22 — “The Taliban are rapidly gaining territory in Afghanistan as the United States withdraws its forces from the war-torn country. The militant group now holds at least one-third of Afghanistan’s 364 districts. For two decades the Afghan government has relied heavily on American military power to defend against the bloody insurgency of the Taliban, a radical Islamic organization that seized control of the country in 1996.” READ MORE:

Indian experts are wondering why New Delhi has been sidelined in Afghanistan. This is why

There’s a new Russia-Pakistan axis and Quad to tackle the Afghanistan crisis. India still doesn’t know what to do about them

July 22 — “Indian experts are struggling to understand how their country has suddenly become sidelined in Afghanistan. Regional processes are nowadays rapidly moving along a trajectory that doesn’t appear to be in alignment with India’s interests. Examples of this include the Pakistani-Russian rapprochement, particularly its manifestation through close political coordination on the Afghan peace process and improved economic-energy connectivity, as well as the US’ recent decision to establish a new quadrilateral framework between itself, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. Without understanding the reasons behind these developments, India will have difficulty formulating the appropriate policies for defending its interests.” READ MORE:


Afghanistan and Central Asia: What ‘Great Game’ Does Russia Need?

Moral duty is the only factor firmly embedded in Russian strategic culture that could serve as a reason for it to intervene if the Central Asian countries find themselves in scenarios which Russia considers a threat

July 19 — “It is a well-known fact that the concept of the “Great game” was invented by the English traveller and intelligence agent Arthur Connolly in the mid-19th century. Connolly met his demise in Bukhara in 1842, when he was beheaded by order of Emir Nasrullah, who correctly assessed the geopolitical position of his state in the framework of the nascent confrontation between Russia and Britain in the Middle East. However, the term “Great game” is now used to describe the entire web of relations in which the great powers are involved in Central Asia and Afghanistan. In a sense, the “Great game” is really a relic of an era when the rivalry of European empires took place amid the absence of competitors: ‘Eurocentric’ world politics, where the basic idea was that the spread of the imperial influence of St. Petersburg, London, Paris, Berlin or Vienna was synonymous with international relations.” READ MORE:

Despite Taliban Advances, Central Asia Eyes Trade Ties With South Asia

Reliable Central Asia-South Asia connectivity would benefit many countries

July 22 — “Central Asia has long advertised itself as the crossroads of the Eurasian continent -- a region that, with development, could be an important transit hub for shipping goods from east to west and from north to south. The Asian Development Bank’s Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) trade corridors and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have helped extend Central Asia’s east-west connectivity.” READ MORE:


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