Political Developments - September 2018

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited Turkey and held several Meetings with his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The two leaders also held a joint press conference. In his speech, Erdoğan said that meetings were productive and five agreements were concluded. During the Turkey-Kazakhstan Investment Forum in Ankara, more than 20 documents worth approximately US$2 billion were signed. Nazarbayev congratulated Erdoğan for adopting the Presidential system. He recalled that bilateral trade was US$1.9 billion last year which they were aiming to raise to US$5 billion in near future. Agreements on defence, economy and agriculture were signed between the two governments. The two countries inked 22 agreements totaling around US$1.7 billion in various sectors including machinery, chemistry, food, transportation and mining. Turkish investments in Kazakhstan reached US$3.2 billion and after Russia and China, Turkey comes third in the number of foreign companies in Kazakhstan. Current regional issues were also discussed.

Trial of a woman Sayragul who had worked in an indoctrination camp in China’s western region of Xinjiang has put fate of minority Muslims under spotlight of international media. Beijing’s attempts to suppress flow of information about its over-policed Xinjiang province – where security forces are locking up, among others, ethnic Kazakhs visiting or returning to China from Kazakhstan – has come into focus after a Kazakh court ruled against deportation of Sayragul to China. Sayragul made a plea during trial not to be handed over to China, claiming she could face the death penalty for revealing existence of political “re-education camps” for ethnic Kazakhs in the country. 

International Atomic Energy Agency and Russia signed an implementing agreement on transportation of low-enriched uranium (LEU) and equipment necessary for functioning of IAEA’s LEU Bank in Kazakhstan. IAEA will bear costs of acquisition, delivery, and maintenance of LEU. It will also bear costs of importing and exporting LEU and costs of payment of taxes, duties and charges. Kazakhstan will bear costs associated with direct storage of IAEA’s LEU, including payment of electricity and heating supply fees etc.

Kazakhstan sentenced a man to three years in prison for inciting hatred on social media after he took a swipe at President Nazarbayev and called for forcible overthrow of government by distributing leaflets.

Human Rights Watch has said that at least 258 people in Kyrgyzstan have been convicted of possessing extremist material since 2010. More than 500 new cases were initiated in past three years. The law has been amended twice to make it harsher, first by outlawing mere possession rather than distribution and then by setting mandatory minimum sentences. Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic Uzbeks have been marginalised by successive governments since inter-ethnic clashes in 2010. They are under-represented in, and frequently intimidated by, the security services.

Head of anti-Terrorism Centre in Commonwealth of Independent States warned that Daesh was planning to establish a “caliphate” in Central Asian countries. In a meeting of counter-terrorism chiefs of security and intelligence services of CIS, he said that Daesh militants “are also trying to activate sleeper cells” in the area.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has relaxed restrictions on religious freedoms as part of his campaign of liberal economic and political reforms. An Uzbek imam has however been sacked after urging Mirziyoyev to lift a ban on personal religious symbols such as women’s hijabs and beards for men. This reflects limits of newly-proclaimed tolerance in the country.

Sharp disagreement has appeared between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey over a network of schools that Turkey views as havens for state sabotage and even terrorism. Kyrgyzstan is reluctant to succumb, even in face of increasingly strident demands from Ankara. For Kyrgyzstan, as alarming as push to take over so-called ‘’Gulenist’’ schools, is a reported list of 13 arch-Gulenists the Turks supposedly handed to local authorities; Ankara is said to have demanded their extradition immediately. 

Tajikistan stated that it has decided to indefinitely postpone building the railroad linking it with Turkmenistan via Afghanistan. It said the plan is no longer feasible because of improvement in ties with Uzbekistan. This took Turkmenistan by surprise. Stretch of railroad linking Turkmenistan and Afghanistan was opened in 2016. Turkmenistan had hoped that 88-kilometer line would be extended east to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are likely to jointly build a satellite. This will provide services not only to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan but also to other countries in the region. It is proposed to build five satellites for remote sensing. 

600 Uzbekistani troops joined 17,000 Tajikistani soldiers and practiced anti-terrorism operations in Tajikistan, 200 miles north of Dushanbe. Troops used not only light weaponry but unmanned aerial vehicles, tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and mortars.

Kazakhstan announced that citizens of 128 countries, including India, China, Iran and other Persian Gulf countries, will be able to enter Kazakhstan without having to apply for a visa before arrival. Currently, citizens of 64 countries are eligible to enter Kazakhstan without a visa. Kazakhstan is implementing long-term program ‘’Digital Kazakhstan’’ to develop tourism infrastructure and attract foreign tourists.

China has officially handed over a Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation (SAC) Y-8F200W mid-size transport aircraft to Kazakhstan, marking the first time the platform has been acquired by a member of former Soviet Union.

Former Ambassador of Kazakhstan to China stated that there is a rush to learn the Chinese language and 14,000 Kazakhs are now studying in China. Trade between Kazakhstan and China has almost reached US$100 billion. China is Kazakhstan's second-largest trading partner, export destination and source of imports. Several Chinese organizations have extended loans of over US$40 billion to Kazakhstan, making it Kazakhstan's biggest lender. China-Europe freight trains passed Kazakhstan 1,800 times in 2017, a 50% rise over previous year. In addition, the two countries boosted cultural exchanges, with five Confucius Institutes established in Kazakhstan and five Kazakhstan language and culture centers launched in China. China and Kazakhstan have started currency swaps and settlement.

Convicted pedophiles in Kazakhstan are facing chemical castration after the government provided funding for 2000 injections. The process uses anaphrodisiac drugs to reduce the offender’s libido and sexual activity. Unlike surgical castration, chemical castration does not remove organs, nor is it a form of sterilisation. 


September 30, 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.