News Digest

Sep 27, 2020

Media Digest

Sep 27, 2020


Biweekly CAW Media Digest.
The Digest provides updates on
the most recent developments in Central Asia.
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The European Union has made a pledge of 21.75 million euros as part of its expansion of the Border Management Program in Central Asia to Afghanistan. BOMCA has given over 40 million euros over the last 17 years as part of combating cross-border organized crime, human trafficking, and terrorism, and the program is aimed at promoting connectivity and trade potential as part of the EU - Central Asia Cooperation Strategy.
All five Central Asian heads of state recorded statements for the United Nations General Assembly. Subjects included COVID-19, climate change and the Aral Sea, Afghanistan, and reform.
Head of Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the European Union Aigul Kuspan breaks down domestic reforms and Kazakh cooperation with the EU. The opinion piece foregrounds Kazakhstan's role in trade and regional development while also discussing efforts to fight COVID-19.
While private citizens have expressed anger and dismay at Chinese persecution of Uyghurs, the Central Asian states have remained silent on the issue. This tacit support stems from a dependence on China's economic as well as an interest in maintaining the security status-quo of troublesome border regions.
This piece examines Russian-Chinese interaction in Central Asia while positing that economic cooperation is not as robust as it would seem. Imbalances between China and Russia lead to differing economic and political objectives, while the Central Asian states themselves improving at playing outsiders against each other.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan focused on COVID-19 solidarity rather than the BRI. Loans related to the project are not foreign aid, and the damage to Central Asian economies caused by COVID-19 have made it even more difficult for debtor states to pay what they owe.
The World correspondent Mary Kay Magistad speaks with Kazakhs about reactions to Chinese investment and targeting of Muslim minorities within China. Individuals and the Kazakh government are caught between soliciting much-needed economic aid while also preserving sovereignty, and citizens additionally have to overcome state-censorship regarding Chinese actions.
Trans-Eurasian container rail routes are expanding and drawing the Caspian littoral further from Russia and closer to China. Turkmenistani officials claim that a new route can complete trips in 12-15 days, making it one of the most effective paths for Chinese trade.
A CABAR report looks at the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan (TAT) railway project, and posits that the route could eventually compete with China's BRI. Both Central Asian countries are interested in bypassing Uzbekistan for transport and communications, but progress has been halting. It is additionally unclear whether Uzbekistan will forego former obstructionist objectives as part of its regional outreach.
Uzbek scientists are working to create a domestically-produced vaccine. This contradicts earlier comments made by Uzbek officials, but the effort speaks to a fear of being dependent on foreign support like as the Russian "Sputnik V" vaccine. Chinese companies have also proposed cooperation in conducting clinical trials.
13 Uzbek human rights activists have signed a letter calling for caution in repatriating Gulnara Karimova's $131 million back to Uzbekistan. These funds were confiscated under Swiss law as part of money laundering charges targeting the daughter of former Uzbek President Islam Karimov, but there is a high possibility that the returned sum will simply disappear into the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats.
A leaked video appears to show Kyrgyz politician Marat Amankulov telling Russian politicians that Kyrgyz independence was a mistake. Backlash has been swift, and the controversy is a last-minute complication that Mr. Amankulov's pro-government Birimdik party will have to overcome before the upcoming Kyrgyz parliamentary elections.
Religious freedom advocates in Uzbekistan highlight the inadequacies of new legislation aimed at ending the ban on religious clothing in public. The ban was part of a long-running crackdown under Islam Karimov intended to crack down on perceived Islamic terror, and current President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has made an effort to liberalize attitudes towards displays of faith. However, critics say that "there's not much difference between the draft law and the current law."
A new DC-based non-profit, The Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs will launch on September 28th. The Society is dedicated to fostering academic exchange between Central Asia and the rest of the world, and the organization will routinely hold events as well as soliciting publications from local and international scholars of the region.

CAW Team