Political Developments - October 2017

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s visit to Tashkent on 16th September was termed ‘’historic and ground-breaking’’ by both sides. This was 6th meeting between Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev with his Kazakh counterpart since the former assumed power last year. The leaders have conducted seven telephonic conversations during this period. Since beginning of the year, bilateral trade has grown 35%, communication between the two countries has intensified, and border collaboration issues solved on a systematic basis. The two sides approved 10 major contracts in trade, economy, culture and others. Most significant agreement was realization of a strategic vision for managing trans-boundary rivers. The leaders agreed to enhance cooperation in trade, economy, investment, water and agricultural issues, customs legislation, transit and transport, as well as military and culture.

Uzbek President paid the first visit by an Uzbek President to Kyrgyzstan after a gap of 17 years. The two sides signed an agreement on demarcating 85% (1,170 kilometers) of Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan border. To arrive at this agreement, border delimitation and demarcation bodies of both countries held 16 meetings after a gap of 8 years. Mirziyoyev stated that the Kambar-Ata hydropower station, which has been causing significant friction between the two countries, is needed for Uzbekistan as well. He even added that Tashkent is ready to participate in the project. Both countries reopened a crossing of their shared border that had been closed since political turmoil enveloped Kyrgyzstan in 2010. Mirziyoyev and Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev appeared to get along very well during the visit. Bilateral agreements worth $115 million were signed.

Kyrgyzstan accused Kazakhstan of interfering in its Oct. 15 Presidential election after Kazakh President met Kyrgyz opposition candidate, Omurbek Babanov in Kazakhstan and expressed readiness to work “with a new president in whom the Kyrgyz people will put their trust”. Kyrgyz foreign ministry said it viewed the meeting and Nazarbayev’s comments as an “attempt to influence the choice of people of Kyrgyzstan’’ and an expression of support for Babanov, one of main challengers to ruling party’s candidate. Kazakh foreign ministry expressed surprise over Bishkek’s reaction in a note of reply handed to Kyrgyz authorities. The ruling Social Democratic party is backing Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who stepped down as prime minister in order to run for presidency. Kyrgyz National Election Commission said that there was no violation in Nazarbayev’s meeting with Babanov.

Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Duishenbek Zilaliev was removed as head of state committee for organizing and holding the presidential election as he tried to influence some government officials to vote for the official candidate in the forthcoming Presidential election.

Tajik government is taking several actions to curb extremism and fundamentalism including forcing men to shave their beards; closing headscarf shops; outlawing Arabic-sounding names; and prohibiting production, import or export of religious books without permission, even though majority of population is Muslim. Obtaining a permit to set up a religious organization, publish a book on Islam or go on pilgrimage to Mecca is an arduous process. The 3,700 mosques in the country are heavily regulated by government, down to subject of weekly sermon. Using loudspeakers to broadcast call to prayer is no longer allowed. Children younger than 18 and women are not permitted to attend mosques. People under 40 are not allowed to go on haj.

Discussions on a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline between Presidents of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan took place in Baku. Turkmenistan has long been interested in the Project which involves construction of a 300-km pipeline along bottom of Caspian Sea to coast of Azerbaijan. It is considered to be optimal solution for delivery of Turkmen energy resources to European markets. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are in favor of the project while Russia and Iran strongly oppose it.

Russia and Kazakhstan signed a contract for delivery of 12 Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets. Contract will be implemented within three years.

After the sixth meeting of Syrian Peace Process in Astana, Kazakhstan, guarantor nations of the ceasefire — Russia, Turkey and Iran — announced creation of de-escalation zones in Syria that will be in force for at least six months. Participating countries stated that zones “are temporary measures that will initially last six months and will be automatically extended on the basis of consensus among guarantor countries.” Next Round of Talks will take place in October 2017.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met his Turkmen and Tajik counterparts in Ashgabat and discussed expanding trade relations and construction of a railway line linking the three countries.

In a meeting with Turkmen President in Ashgabat, Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain said that Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline is an important trade and transit corridor. He called for its timely completion for benefit of the region. He welcomed Turkmenistan’s offer to export 1,000MW of electricity to Pakistan through Afghanistan.

Pakistan President in talks with Tajik counterpart in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan invited Tajikistan to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) saying Pakistan offers excellent opportunities to Tajikistan for its imports and exports through the Gwadar port in Balochistan province. They discussed cooperation in energy, regional connectivity and trade. Pakistan president expressed the hope that legal process for Tajikistan's entry into Quadrilateral Traffic-in-Transit Agreement (QTTA) would provide Tajikistan a legal framework to access Pakistani seaports through CPEC. He said that Pakistan attaches great priority to timely completion of CASA-1000 (Central Asia South Asia) by 2018 and looked forward to importing electricity from Tajikistan. 

 

October 17, 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.