Political Developments - April 2017

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan paid his first visit to Russia after being elected to this position, on 4-5 April, 2017. 16 bilateral agreements, contracts and other documents including a US$12-billion package of deals on implementation of major investment projects and US$3.8 billion in trade and economic spheres were signed during the visit. Documents signed included a framework agreement on joint financing of investment projects, joint manufacturing of agricultural machinery as well as supply of Uzbek fruits and vegetables worth US$ 612 million to Russia and of Russian oil to Uzbekistan. Gazprom signed a contract for purchase of 4 bcm of natural gas per year from Uzbekistan totaling US$2.5 billion. That translates into US$125 per 1,000 cubic meters which is quite paltry. Mirziyoyev met President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Talks with Putin focused on "key aspects of bilateral relations." The two leaders "outlined steps towards further development of mutually beneficial cooperation in political, trade-and-economic, cultural-and-humanitarian and research spheres." Talks with Medvedev covered cooperation in energy, industry and agriculture sectors, joint investments and infrastructure projects.

It was agreed to create a clearer and more formal process for Uzbeks to resettle in Russia for short-term work contracts. This represents a historic step for Uzbekistan, which has never formally recognized the existence of labor migration.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow paid a visit to Kazakhstan on 18-19 April during which the two Presidents signed a strategic partnership treaty that Kazakhstan’s president said will resolve all border disputes between the two countries. Nazarbayev called the accord the “beginning of a new stage of development.” Nazarbayev awarded Berdimuhamedow with the state order of friendship. Eight documents including agreements on border demarcation, intergovernmental commission, mutual protection of classified information, and cooperation between foreign ministries were signed. An agreement on combatting illegal money laundering and financing of terrorism was also signed.

President Nazarbayev paid an official visit to Azerbaijan on 3rd April, 2017. The agenda focused on trade. Dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan loomed large, albeit behind the scenes. Kazakhstan is seen in Yerevan as hostile to Armenia, which is embarrassing as Armenia and Kazakhstan are treaty allies in Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). At a joint appearance, Aliyev suggested that Kazakhstan had signed on to Azerbaijan's version of the Karabakh conflict. Nazarbayev avoided any categorical statements about Karabakh and said that Kazakhstan supports warm relations with Azerbaijan as well as with Armenia and Georgia. Focus of the visit though, was on trade: Nazarbayev said that current volume of trade, US$140 million per year, could be increased to US$500 million "in the short term." On transcontinental trade, Nazarbayev spoke of the Chinese "One Belt, One Road" initiative and Aliyev lauded the soon-to-open Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway that will connect Caspian Sea with Turkish and European railway systems. 

President Nazarbayev has declared that Kazakhs who join Islamic State (IS) terrorist group will be deprived of their citizenship. He said that it is necessary to take such measures to ensure that people do not join the ranks of terrorists. He said 500- 600 people from Kazakhstan and approximately 5,000 from states of former Soviet Union have joined the terrorist organisation.

Akbarzhon Jalilov, a 22-year old suicide bomber from Kyrgyzstan was identified as perpetrator of blast on St Petersburg metro that killed 14 people on 3rd April, 2017. This makes it the first major terror attack carried out in Russia by someone from Central Asia, and is a worrying sign for Russian authorities. Jalilov is a native of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan and moved to Russia six years ago and obtained Russian citizenship. He was behind both the bomb explosion and a second explosive device found at a nearby train station which was 'deactivated'. Abror Azimov, also from Central Asia who was held in Moscow has been charged with training Jalilov to carry out the attack.

An increasing number of female officials, teachers and students have started wearing Atlas and other traditional dresses following recommendation by Tajik government. President Emomali Rahmon and his government have campaigned against Arab-style head and face coverings like the hijab as part of a crackdown that has also included forced beard shavings. The establishment claims that over a thousand Tajiks have joined Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and points to “foreign” Islamic clothing as “a sign of radicalization.”

 

April 30, 2017

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About the Author

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar belongs to the Indian Foreign Service and has acquitted his responsibilities in the diplomatic service for 34 years. He was Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia and has worked in senior diplomatic positions in Indian Embassies/Missions in Washington DC, Brussels, Moscow, Geneva, Tehran, Dhaka and Bangkok and also at Headquarters in India. He negotiated for India in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and in negotiations for India-EU, India-ASEAN and India-Thailand Free Trade Agreements.

He contributed significantly to strengthening strategic ties and promoting cultural cooperation between India and USA, EU, Russia and other countries.Ambassador Sajjanhar worked as head of National Foundation for Communal Harmony to promote amity and understanding between different religions, faiths and beliefs. Ambassador Sajjanhar has been decorated by Governments of Kazakhstan and Latvia with their National Awards and by Universal Peace Federation with Title of ''Ambassador of Peace.'' Currently Ambassador Sajjanhar is President of Institute of Global Studies, New Delhi. He writes, travels and speaks extensively on issues relating to international relations, foreign policy and themes of contemporary relevance and significance. He appears widely on TV panel discussions. Ambassador Sajjanhar is interested in reading, music and travelling. His wife Madhu is an economist and an educationist. They have a son and a daughter both of who are accomplished singers. Their son passed out of Yale University and their daughter is pursuing her PhD at University of Minnesota.