Political Developments - January 2019

A crowd of about 150 people gathered near Chinese Embassy in Bishkek for a protest. The crowd asked Chinese government to explain why it had arrested ethnic Kyrgyz and was holding them in internment camps; they also demanded that the Kyrgyz government expel any Chinese found to be staying in the country illegally. President Jeenbekov’s comments that ethnic Kyrgyz of China are citizens of China and that Kyrgyzstan could not intervene in their domestic matters have hugely disappointed large segments of population of the country. Some people see loans and investment under BRI as predatory, reminiscent of the controversial Sino-Kyrgyz border demarcation process that involved Kyrgyzstan handing over 1,250 square kilometers of land to China in 2002. These protests appear to be building on a wider base of grievances than just the human rights concerns for co-ethnics across the border. 

Jihadi Groups in Central Asian Countries i.e. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uyghurs are actively engaging in ideological education of children and youth to work towards developing the “Islamic Caliphate.” As per latest reports, more than 10,000 citizens from these countries and Uyghurs from China’s northwest are fighting on side of ISIS.

Three men in Kazakhstan received long prison sentences on terrorism charges at the end of an ill-tempered trial that supporters of the accused said was unjust and politically motivated. Rights campaigners have spiritedly argued that real cause for this and concurrent trials was the defendants’ criticism of President Nazarbayev. Prosecutors sought to link defendants to would-be jihadis through tortuous circumstantial evidence.

Sweden has charged three men with preparing an extremist attack, and three others for financing the Islamic State (IS) group. Three suspects allegedly acquired large quantities of chemicals and other equipment "to kill and harm other people." All six men, who are reportedly from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, are charged with sending money abroad that was eventually forwarded to IS. 

Kazakhstan has proposed to hold a meeting of Russia, US, EU and Chinese leaders on international security issues in 2019 in Kazakh capital of Astana. EU termed the suggestion as "quite well-timed for the global community."

Kyrgyz President Jeenbekov and former Kyrgyz President Atambayev are involved in a fracas. Jeenbekov charged that Atambayev was trying to turn him into a puppet, to discredit him as a person.  Atambayev accuses Jeenbekov of arranging arrests of his closest allies to put on “a show” that "a fight against corruption is under way".

2019 might be last year for Emomali Rahmon as President of Tajikistan. He appears to have been grooming his son Rustam Emomali to succeed him. Next presidential election will be in 2020. In early 2018, Tajik parliament lowered age of eligibility to run for presidency to 30 from 35. Rustam Emomali is 31.

President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon has stated that beginning of international decade of action "Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028", launch of first unit of Rogun hydropower plant and reciprocal state visits of Presidents of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are three important events of 2018.

Turkmenistan, where Facebook and Whatsapp are banned, launched its first messaging app. The privately developed app will “allow exchange of messages, files, photos and videos.”

UN adopted a special resolution titled “Enlightenment and Religious Tolerance” initiated in Uzbek President Mirziyoyev’s Address to the UN in 2017. Main objectives of Uzbek proposal were to ensure universal access to education, elimination of illiteracy and ignorance. The resolution is designed to promote establishment of tolerance and mutual respect, ensuring religious freedom, protecting rights of believers, and preventing discrimination.

Several ministers and senior officials in Turkmenistan have been recently dismissed or reprimanded. Deputy Prime Minister overseeing industry portfolio was dismissed. Industry and Textiles Ministers were also removed. Two deputy prime ministers received formal rebukes.

Former Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov, took office as new Secretary General of Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Norov will be in office until end of 2021. 


January 21, 2019

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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.