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uzbekistan

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  UZBEKISTAN

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
447,400

Population
25,155,064

Principal
ethnic groups

Uzbeks 71.4%
Russians 8.3%
Tajiks 4.7%
Kazaks 4.1%

Capital
Tashkent

Currency
Uzbek Sum

President
Islam Karimov

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Background:
Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1925. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Independent since 1991, the country seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves. Current concerns include insurgency by Islamic militants based in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, a non-convertible currency, and the curtailment of human rights and democratisation.

Update No: 260 - (29/08/02)

President Islam Karimov is making the most of the new opportunities opening up for his country in the post 9:11 world. It is being courted by statesmen, diplomats and businessmen from across the globe, from the US, the EU and Japan. A front-line state in the unfolding Afghan drama, Uzbekistan is back where it used to be in the days of the old Silk Road, a pivotal player in East-West relations, a key broker between the West and Asia.

US on side
That Uzbekistan has a strategic partnership, ratified by treaty, with the US is very well known. It played a major role in facilitating the brilliant military effort of the US in Afghanistan last year.
Rumsfeld came to Tashkent to arrange cooperation across the board; forward bases and airfields and the like are being exchanged for military training and weaponry.
The US is providing US$160m in assistance for the economy with no strings attached, plus US$25m for procurement of military equipment. The Uzbeks in effect are de facto associate members of NATO now, a key ally at one end of the Turkic chain of states, along with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, while Turkey is at the other.

Opening to Japan
Karimov is keen to diversify the new world interest in matters Uzbek. He went to Tokyo in late July and signed 14 documents including two priority ones.
One concerns strategic relations between Russia and the two signatories, the other Japanese support for economic reforms in Uzbekistan. Japan has extended humanitarian aid alone in excess of US$150m to Uzbekistan in the last five to six years.
Japan has played a positive role in dealing with the problem of the drying up of the Aral Sea. Its concern with environmental issues generally is well appreciated by the Uzbeks. Its standing in the country is particularly high. Indeed, the ambition of the Uzbeks is to achieve what the Japanese have done - a Western standard of living starting from an Asian base.

The threat remains
The routing of al-Qaeda and Taleban, which is not yet complete, is by no means the end of the matter for Uzbekistan. It has a formidable opponent in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is still operating and may even have been strengthened of late. The US in the course of the Afghan fighting, killed its leader Jomu Namangani, evidently in March, and many of his followers during the campaign. But he headed the comparatively less dangerous wing of the organisation, specialising in drug running and other contraband trade. The more militant political wing under Tohir Yuldashev remains operational It too, aims at the overthrow of the Karimov regime.
IMU may still have 3-7,000 effectives, even while 5-7,000 languish behind bars in Uzbekistan. It is by no means a defunct affair and gains new recruits all the time right across Central Asia.
Still IMU is not large enough to threaten to topple the regime by itself. The most it can aspire to is to carry out sabotage and acts of terrorism. It very nearly succeeded in assassinating Karimov on one occasion, killing his chauffeur.
But there is another group altogether that could prove even more formidable in the long run, the Hizbut-ut-Takrir, which is committed to non-violence and pacific methods. It is making inroads among the young and cannot fail to strike an echo among many Uzbeks, who would admire its moderate Muslim approach.
Actually, IMU and Hizbut-ut-Takrit complement each other, IMU posing threats which make the regime clamp down even more, so breeding more recruits for Hizbut- ut-Takrir, some frustrated veterans of which switch over to the more violent tactics of IMU. The opposition looks set to grow.
But then this suits the regime, justifying its methods to the West and the US in particular; the dialectic of dissent and repression has a lot of mileage left in it in Uzbekistan.

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FOREIGN LOANS & AID

US inks 9 grants for Tashkent

The US administration has signed nine grant agreements in Tashkent with the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Management of Uzbekistan, as well as a number of Uzbek companies and institutes, RIA Novosti has reported. 
The agreements envisages the allocation of grants totalling more than US$3m for preparation of technical and economic assessment (TEA) and other assistance in the modernisation of telecommunications and communication channels of the Uzbekistan Railways state joint-stock company, development of TEA for the project of electrification of the railway sections Marokand-Navoi, Navoi-Uchkuduk, Navoi-Bukhara and Kukhar-Karshi. 
Also, the grants will be used for the development of TEAS for the project of rehabilitation of the Amu-Bukhra irrigation system (US$525,000) as well as demonstration projects for the introduction of water-saving technology, modernisation of postal service and others. 

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MINERALS & METALS

Dutch Bate BV clinches Navoi contract

The Dutch-based global group Bateman BV, parent company of South Africa's Bateman Minerals, has been awarded a US$197.8m contact to revamp and modernise a gold-recovery complex for the Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Kombinat in the Republic of Uzbekistan, Net Bridge reported recently.
East Rand-based Batman Minerals will execute the project. The complex will involve the No. 3 Hydrometallurgical plant where a flotation process will be introduced and the expansion of mining facilities at the Kokpatas and Daugystau gold deposits in the Kyzylkum desert.
The proposed complex will process five million tonnes per year of ore to produce 20 tonnes of gold. The project will be funded by a structured finance package facilitated by Bateman.
Export-credit agencies in the US (EXIM), South Africa (ECIC), Israel (IFTRIC) and Germany (HERMES) will insure 85 per cent of the total contract value with the remainder being funded by a commercial loan facilitated by Bateman. The lump-sum project has two components covering the provision of the process package for the Uchkuduk plant and the associated equipment for all three sites.
The process package primarily covers the flotation and bio-oxidation circuits. Bateman will supply the flotation technology to recover gold-containing sulphides into flotation concentrate which will be directed to the bio-oxidation circuit.
The contract is expected to become effective by October 2002 with the first deliveries to site commencing six months later and work completed in two years. The commissioning of the plant is scheduled towards the end of 2006.

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