Political Developments - August 2018

The five littoral States of Caspian Sea – Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan - agreed in principle on 12th August, 2018 to share the potentially huge oil and gas resources of the sea, paving way for more energy exploration and pipeline projects. However, delimitation of the seabed - which has caused the most disputes - will require additional agreements between these countries. Alongside the Draft Convention on Legal Status of Caspian Sea, the countries established an extensive negotiating framework. Establishment of a reliable legal framework will expand cooperation between the five countries. The Convention bestows a special legal status to this body of water - it is neither a sea, nor a lake. The Agreement also reduces the possibility of NATO presence, as only these five countries will have a right to military presence in the Caspian.

The Caspian seabed contains 50 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic meters of gas in proven or probable reserves. This is worth several trillion dollars; with further exploration, it could turn out to be much more.

For more than 20 years these countries have argued how to divide the riches of the Caspian Sea. While some countries have pressed ahead with large offshore projects such as Kashagan oil field off Kazakhstan’s coast, disagreement over the sea’s legal status has prevented several other projects from being implemented. 15-mile-wide territorial waters have been established whose borders become state frontiers.

In negotiations with post-Soviet nations, Iran had insisted on either splitting the sea into five equal parts or jointly developing all of its resources. Other countries did not agree to these proposals. Iran is arguably the loser under such an arrangement, as it has shortest border on the Caspian (13%). That has seemingly led Tehran to resist any deal recognizing the Caspian as a sea.

Classifying it as a lake would mean that the resources should be divided equally among the five countries. The sea designation means the five countries should draw lines extending from their shores to the midway point with littoral neighbors. Key to resolving the dispute was whether the body of water should be considered a sea or a lake under international law.

Kazakhstan appears to be the biggest winner under the "sea" definition, since more than half of Caspian's hydrocarbon wealth is said to lie in Kazakhstan's sector.

Archeologists working in remote mountains in East Kazakhstan have discovered a ‘golden man’ mummy dating back to 8th-7th centuries B.C. Anthropologists say the mound is a burial place of a young man aged 17-18 years, 165-170 centimeters tall. All burial items are well-preserved making it possible to reconstruct his garments and appearance. The treasure, which features over 3,000 valuable objects, belonged to elite members of the Saka people.

A first-of-its-kind courtroom testimony in Kazakhstan corroborated allegations that China has built a network of internment camps in western China where Muslim minorities are held without charge for “reeducation.” An ethnic Kazakh Chinese national said she was forced to work at a camp where around 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs were being held for indoctrination. Public resentment against China has grown as more accounts emerge of Chinese-Kazakhs and Kazakh nationals being sent to “political re-education camps,” a euphemism for prisons in China’s Xinjiang region.

Tajik authorities say at least 1,200 people have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the extremist militant group Islamic State (IS) since 2014.

IS claimed the deadly July 29 attack on 7 Western cyclists in Tajikistan, 4 of whom were killed, although government has said that the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) was behind the assault. IRPT rejected the government's charge as "shameless and illogical." Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Tajik Ambassador to protest accusations that Iran was partly responsible for the attack.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are holding discussion on introducing SilkViza - a Central Asian Schengen zone. The idea was mooted by Dariga Nazarbayeva, Chairman of Kazakh Senate Committee on International Relations, Defense and Security in a meeting with deputies of Uzbek Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Economic Relations, Investments and Tourism.


August 31, 2018

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About the Author

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar

Former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia; President, Institute of Global Studies and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre

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.