Political Developments - January 2017

Kazakhstan started its term as non-permanent member of UN Security Council (UNSC) for 2017-18 on 1st January, 2017. Kazakhstan stated that promoting global nuclear disarmament will be its top priority. It called on all member states to rid the world of nuclear weapons by 100th anniversary of United Nations in 2045. On global extremism and terrorism, Kazakhstan called for establishment of a global anti-terrorist coalition under UN auspices. Singling out Afghanistan as a particular priority, Kazakhstan called for “broad, balanced, meaningful and result-oriented discussions” to help the country return to lasting peace and security. Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian state to be elected to UNSC.

Nine candidates including incumbent Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov have registered for election for President of Turkmenistan scheduled for 12th February, 2017. All remaining eight candidates have voiced support for President Berdymuhamedov’s policies. By a Constitutional amendment in 2016, Presidential term was extended from 5 to 7 years and age limit of 70 years removed for presidential candidates.
Rustam Emomali, the 29-year old son of Tajikistan’s president has been named as the mayor of Dushanbe replacing Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev  who has run the city for 19 years. Despite his youth, Emomali already holds the rank of ''General''. A referendum last year ensured changes to the constitution to lower the age for president to 30 from the current 35. This will allow Emomali to stand at the next presidential election scheduled for 2020. Emomali will be 33 when that election takes place.

A working group has been established by President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan under the Chairmanship of Marat Tazhin, who has been recalled from his assignment as Ambassador to Russia, to draft legal reforms to redistribute powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The move comes in the wake of death last September of Islam Karimov, president of Uzbekistan who had also been in power since 1989.

President-elect Donald Trump had a telephonic conversation with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 30th November, 2016, during which the two leaders spoke of their shared desire to improve regional partnership in Central Asia. Kazakh President’s Press Office said that Trump ''stressed that under the leadership of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country over the years of Independence had achieved fantastic success that can be called a ‘miracle’.” In its own readout of the call, Trump’s transition team did not use the word “miracle” but said that the leaders had “addressed the importance of strengthening regional partnerships.”

Indian origin businessman Sheikh Rafik Mohammed has been appointed a "major general" by Kyrgyzstan defence minister Ali Mirza. Mohammed, who belongs to Kerala and heads the Gammon Group was conferred with Kyrgyz nationality by former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. He served as an advisor to Bakiyev during 2005-10. Mohammed significantly contributed to attracting foreign investment to Kyrgyzstan by suggesting easy tax regimes.

Syrian Peace Talks organized by Russia, Turkey and Iran took place in Astana, Kazakhstan on 23rd-24th January, 2017. Talks included officials from Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United Nations. 14 militant groups participated and undertook negotiations with the Syrian government. The United States decided not to send a delegation from Washington on account of "inauguration of the new President and immediate demands of transition." US Ambassador to Kazakhstan represented the US government as an Observer. India welcomed the Talks and termed them as "encouraging" to end the brutal war.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev who was elected convincingly as President of Uzbekistan on 4th December, 2016, after the death of Islam Karimov on 1st September, 2016, was forced to reverse his decision to liberalize the visa policy for 27 countries announced on January 9, 2017. The scheme which was to come into force from April, 2017 has been put off by four years apparently due to opposition from security services. He has however been successful in his diplomatic outreach to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, both of which had clashed with Uzbekistan in the Karimov era over borders and water rights. Mirziyoyev sent delegations to both countries and received them in return.

President Almazbek Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan warmly welcomed strengthening of relations and harmonization of positions on delimitation and demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister and his Kyrgyz counterpart met in Osh to discuss this issue on 16-17 January, 2017. Length of Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border is 1,378 kms. About 324 kms still remain undemarcated.
Kazakhstan named Timur Suleimenov as its third minister of economy in less than one year. His predecessor Kuandyk Bishimbayev who served as economy minister from May to late December 2016 was arrested on corruption charges.

Kazakh President Nazarbayev met Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and several business leaders and discussed trade, economic, investment, energy, cultural and humanitarian bilateral cooperation as well as international issues during his visit to UAE on 15-16 January, 2017. He also attended the 10th World Future Energy Summit.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Kazakhstan on 22nd December, 2016 and Kyrgyzstan on 23rd December, 2016 and held discussions with Presidents Nazarbayev and Atambayev respectively. Discussions on cooperation in trade, business, transport, and agriculture as well as about the two regional groupings viz. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) took place.


January 28, 2017

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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.