Political Developments - July 2018

President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov said that strengthening friendly and fraternal relations with neighboring countries - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan is a priority of Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy. He noted that development of all-round ties with its strategic partner - Russia will remain an unchanged priority in foreign policy. He added that Kyrgyzstan has raised the strategic level of cooperation with its closest neighbor - People's Republic of China. In future, Kyrgyzstan will develop multilateral relations with Turkey, Japan, Korea, USA, European Union countries and the Arab world.

Kyrgyzstan is growing increasingly wary of China as details of a corruption case involving a project linked to Beijing are revealed. Scandal over a USD386 million contract handed to a Chinese company in 2013, has led to arrest of two former Kyrgyz prime ministers which points to risks facing Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Kyrgyzstan is heavily indebted to China and is now working to rebalance its diplomacy, moving closer to its neighbors. Concern with China extends beyond the scandal. Bishkek's city council recently rejected a proposal to expand China's embassy. While decision was later reversed, it was embarrassing for China and Kyrgyz authorities.

A detailed report by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has documented how migrants from Kyrgyzstan searching for work in neighboring Kazakhstan frequently fall prey to forced labor and become targets of mounting discrimination. The report urges Kazakhstan to clamp down on practices enabling slave labor such as employers retaining passports, illegally threatening to deduct wages and take additional measures to stop trafficking of persons.

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was Chief Guest at inauguration of Astana Investment Financial Centre (AIFC). In their meeting, Sheikh Mohammad and President Nazarbayev discussed avenues to further expand bilateral cooperation. Renewable energy and establishing a knowledge-based economy were identified as areas with rich potential for enhancing bilateral investment. Development of AIFC is expected to create a competitive, efficient and transparent financial market in Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the wider region. Creation of AIFC is an attempt by Kazakhstan to steer the nation away from excess reliance on raw commodities like oil and gas.

Kazakhstan and Japan will implement seven joint projects, including in areas of nuclear energy, transport and water supply, worth approximately USD2 billion. Japan is one of Kazakhstan’s key strategic partners in East Asia. Ten joint large-scale projects were implemented for a total amount of more than USD1.1 billion.

Legal status of Caspian Sea, which has been the subject of a dispute among Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran since early 1990s, is likely to be determined at next meeting of heads of Central Asian states in Astana. Without this document it becomes difficult to talk about active economic cooperation.

Uzbekistan has introduced an electronic visa system as well as a scheme allowing free five-day transit visa for 101 nationalities. This will further improve the simplified procedures that were introduced earlier this year. This will significantly ease travel of Indian tourists to Uzbekistan.

City councillors in Kyrgyzstan’s capital voted in an impromptu session to dismiss the mayor, thereby ejecting the final high-ranking ally of former President Almazbek Atambayev from office. This marks yet another defeat in the ongoing, behind-the-scenes battle for influence taking place between Atambayev and his successor Sooronbay Jeenbekov. Most significant aspect of this development is Atambayev’s definitive loss of influence over SDPK, the party he was instrumental in creating.

Turkmenistan has imposed an age limit of 40 years below which people will not be allowed to go out of the country. This limit has been imposed ostensibly as there are not enough people in the country to engage in productive work. Earlier the age limit was 30 years.


July 18, 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.