Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 310 - (26/10/06)
Geography defeats ideology
Russia has moved to boost security ties with Kyrgyzstan in a perceived bid to
guarantee the loyalty of the Central Asian state, once considered to be among
Moscow's most trusted allies in that strategically important region. The Tulip
Revolution in March last year caused a frisson in relations for a while, but
both sides wish to restore them.
The Kyrgyz now espouse Western values in the wake of their revolution; while the
Russians, having flirted with them in the days of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, are
moving away from them at accelerating speed, as the emasculation of their
fledgling liberal-democracy shows. Nevertheless, the Kyrgyz and the Russians are
now finding common ground - albeit only metaphorically!
It is of vital importance that the two states have no common border. Kyrgyzstan
is separated from Russia to the west by the immensity of Kazakhstan, the size of
Western Europe no less. To the north and east it is protected by deserts and
vast mountain ranges. It has no need to be afraid of re-incorporation by Russia.
Nor does it.
To the south lies India, but across the vastness of the Himalayas! It was in the
third century BC in the Mauryagupta Empire in the Punjab that a brilliant
precursor of geopolitics, the chief minister of the state moreover, Kautilya,
enunciated the simple doctrine that neighbours are always enemies, but that
neighbours of those very neighbours, as long as they are not neighbours
themselves, are potential friends. Such is the case with Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
Moscow beefs up security ties with Bishkek
Russia and Kyrgyzstan held joint anti-terrorism exercises October 2-5 in Osh,
in southern Kyrgyzstan. Some 350 special force troops, combat vehicles,
artillery, Su-25 jetfighters, and Mi-8 helicopters took part in the manoeuvres.
Officially, the South-2006 exercises were aimed at practicing coordination of
combat units in a joint operation against suspected terrorists, the Kyrgyz
Defence Ministry said. The drill was also supposed to improve the combat skills
of military personnel operating in mountainous areas.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, Kyrgyz Prime
Minister Felix Kulov, and Kyrgyz Defence Minister Ismail Isakov attended the
exercises. During the drill, Isakov reiterated the role of the Collective
Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as a military-political institution.
"The CSTO was set up so that [members] can help one another in action
rather than dealing with military or terrorist threats on paper," he
Ivanov, a key player in Russian politics, the long-time friend of Putin since
their KGB days together and tipped as his likely successor in 2008, said that
the anti-terrorism exercises in Kyrgyzstan were designed to practice interaction
between special force units against a backdrop of increased activity by radical
Islamic groups in Central Asia. He urged the two countries to "effectively
join forces in countering terrorism and extremism."
Ivanov also said Russia was ready to provide military-technical assistance to
all its allies but did not want to force anyone to accept the aid. So far,
Russia has provided military equipment worth 15 million roubles (about
US$560,000) to Kyrgyzstan as part of their military cooperation agreements.
Ivanov praised military cooperation with Kyrgyzstan and said Russia would
continue to develop the Kant base. He assured Bishkek that Moscow is committed
to the facility, declaring, "We will continue making major investments in
the development of the Kant base."
In October 2003, Russia set up an airbase in Kant, about 20 miles west of the
Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. The base is supposed to enable Russian combat aircraft
to provide close air support for the ground units of CSTO member states.
The base is also seen as being capable of protecting Russia's economic interests
in Kyrgyzstan. For example, in 2002 Russia and Kyrgyzstan formed a $10 million
uranium joint venture. The venture's Kara-Baltinsk processing plant in
Kyrgyzstan is intended to process raw uranium from the Zarechnoye field in
southern Kazakstan, where reserves are estimated at 19,000 tons.
Economics remain a significant factor in Moscow's relationship with Kyrgyzstan.
At a summit meeting in Moscow on September 5, 2005, Russian President Vladimir
Putin and Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev agreed to boost economic
cooperation, including energy-sector projects and greater investment. Moscow
also agreed to restructure Kyrgyzstan's $184 million debt and extended the
repayment period up to 33 years.
During Bakiyev's official visit to Moscow in April 2006, Moscow and Bishkek
reiterated their allegiance to the bilateral friendship and cooperation treaty
of June 1992 and the "eternal friendship" declaration of July 2000.
Trade between Russia and Kyrgyzstan increased by some 20% in 2005, according to
official figures. Bilateral trade has nearly tripled since 2000 to reach $514
million last year. As Kyrgyzstan's top trade partner, Russia is responsible for
roughly one-third of Kyrgyzstan's total foreign trade turnover.
Kyrgyz authorities have indicated economic cooperation with Russia is a
government priority. Kyrgyzstan was particularly interested in Russian companies
assisting the construction of the Kambaratin-1 and Kambaratin-2 hydropower
In terms of security cooperation, Moscow and Bishkek have long pledged to combat
international terrorism within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization (SCO) and reiterated the importance of the Russian air base in Kant
as "an important factor of peace and stability in Central Asian
As one of the SCO founding members, Bishkek officially recognizes the regional
bloc as one of Kyrgyzstan's foreign policy priorities, Bakiyev announced last
June. The SCO is an important and efficient tool of confidence building in the
region, he noted (Interfax, June 13).
In the meantime, the Kyrgyz leadership has been careful to avoid giving any
impression that it is drifting toward Beijing. In September 2005, Bakiyev
announced in Moscow that there had been no contacts with China concerning the
alleged creation of a Chinese military base in Kyrgyzstan.
In addition, during the security drill in Kyrgyzstan, Russian Defense Minister
Ivanov dismissed rumors that Russia and China were planning an anti-Western
military alliance. He described Russia and China as "strategic
partners," adding that Moscow sought to develop bilateral cooperation with
China as well as multilateral ties within the SCO. This cooperation "does
not threaten other countries and does not aim at creating a new
military-political union in Eurasia," he said.
Subsequently, both Russia and Kyrgyzstan have been keen to avoid claims that
their security cooperation could have any anti-Western overtones.
But of course they would, wouldn't they?
Kyrgyz President regains political footing
On the domestic front the revolution is stabilising, so it would seem,
although the situation is still fraught.
Taking advantage of divisions within the opposition, President Bakiyev is
rapidly regaining his political footing after being knocked off balance by
accusations that the National Security Service planted drugs on a prominent
member of parliament.
In fact, damage-control measures undertaken by Bakiyev appear to have blunted
the opposition's political momentum - for the moment. Bakiyev critics had hoped
to use the recent scandal -- in which NSS agents were implicated in the set-up
of Omurbek Tekebayev, a former parliament speaker and still fierce critic of the
president -- to prompt a radical change in Bakiyev's reform course, or even to
force him from office. Tekebayev was arrested and briefly held in Poland on a
drug possession charge. The implication of the NSS in the affair prompted the
resignation of the service's chief, Busurmankul Tabaldiyev, and his deputy,
Janysh Bakiyev, who is also the president's brother.
The president appeared in the legislature on September 14th to head off a
parliamentary resolution calling for his resignation. In explaining his conduct,
he insisted that both Tabaldiyev and Janysh Bakiyev "had nothing to
do" with the set-up of Tekebayev, the AKIpress news agency reported. He
also appeared to open the way for their return to the security service, pending
the results of various official inquiries. "I agreed that until the end of
the investigation both of them have to be suspended from their work,"
Bakiyev said. He suggested that foreign agents might have put heroin in
Tekebayev's luggage in an effort to destabilize Kyrgyzstan.
In addition, Bakiyev adamantly denied accusations that he met in late July with
fugitive Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a meeting that would have violated
international agreements concerning extradition. "I have never seen him [Berezovsky]
and have never had any relations with him," Bakiyev said.
He voiced vigorous opposition to a parliamentary attempt to open its own
investigation into the Tekebayev affair. "Parliament should be a
parliament, and not an investigative or punitive body," Bakiyev said.
Meanwhile, the opposition continues to struggle. Radical opposition leaders and
their supporters tried to maintain the pressure on Bakiyev during a mass meeting
in Aksy, the scene of a bloody confrontation in 2002 between police and
protesters. The so-called kurultai adopted the type of resolution that the
national parliament so far has shied away from -- demanding that Bakiyev resign
unless he dismisses all his relatives from government posts, undertakes
far-reaching constitutional reform and gives an accounting of security troops'
behavior during the Aksy events.
One of the leading figures associated with the kurultai, Azimbek Beknazarov,
head of the Asaba Party, had vowed that 15,000 people would attend the meeting.
Journalists estimated only about 2,000 people actually showed up. The low
attendance appeared to undercut the significance of the meeting's resolution.
Since the Tekebayev scandal broke, radicals, including Beknazarov, have made
regime change their top priority. Moderates within the opposition, on the other
hand, believe the emphasis should be on promoting constitutional reform.
The opposition cause has not been helped by the fact that a witness, Nadir
Mamirov, who implicated Janysh Bakiyev in the Tekebayev affair, has subsequently
changed his story, and now denies that the president's brother ordered drugs to
be placed in the MPs luggage.
Observers say state-controlled media outlets, including Vecherny Bishkek and the
National TV Corp., have been used in an attempt to erode public support for the
opposition. For example, a September 16 commentary published in Vecherny Bishkek
quoted political analyst Imankadyr Rysaliev as warning that opposition leaders
were intent on destabilizing Kyrgyzstan. "If we follow political
extremists, this can lead to civic confrontation and blood," Rysaliev said.
Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations: harmonious now, but trouble looms
Converging interests have prompted Uzbek President Islam Karimov and his
Kyrgyz counterpart, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, to become political best buddies. But
their newfound alliance could prove short-lived, regional experts say.
Bakiyev travelled to Uzbekistan on October 3-4 for talks with Uzbek officials,
including Karimov, as well as a little sightseeing in Samarkand. After the
talks, Bakiyev indulged in hyperbole as he described the current state of
bilateral affairs, speaking of the "eternal friendship" of Kyrgyzstan
and Uzbekistan. "Uzbeks and Kyrgyz will never be separated," Bakiyev
told Uzbek television on October 4. "They should live together, as well as
grow and develop together."
While not inclined to make rapturous predictions about future cooperation,
Karimov was equally pleased with the outcome of Bakiyev's visit. The Uzbek
leader characterized the talks as a "fruitful exchange" taking place
within a "trustworthy atmosphere." He called attention to a joint
statement that reaffirmed both states' commitment to a 1996 friendship treaty,
and hailed the shared commitment to combating Islamic radicalism in Central
Asia. With Uzbek assistance, Bakiyev's administration in recent months has
cracked down on suspected Islamic radicals, especially in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Of course Karimov always seeks to characterise his domestic political opposition
as 'Islamic radicalism,' (ie terrorism), which for the innocent and
ill-informed, muddies the waters.
Uzbek state media outlets offered an unusually extensive and favourable coverage
of Bakiyev's visit. One Uzbek State TV broadcast commented: "For centuries,
the people of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have lived in friendship and agreement,
and contributed to each others' culture and art. Today too, the commonness of
history, culture and traditions, language and religion continues to serve as a
strong foundation for our cooperation."
The most significant outcome of Bakiyev's trip was a bilateral agreement lifting
visa requirements for citizens of both countries for travel between Kyrgyzstan
and Uzbekistan. In addition, Karimov and Bakiyev agreed to open a new
border-crossing point in the Ferghana Valley. For Karimov -- who has tried to
seal Uzbekistan off in the hopes of preventing the further penetration of
radical Islamic ideology -- opening the frontier to Kyrgyz nationals is the
ultimate sign of approval of the Bakiyev administration's efforts to root out
militants in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Citizens of both countries cheered the suspension of visa requirements.
Cross-border shuttle trading, a vital source of income for many in frontier
areas, has withered due to the Karimov administration's increasingly restrictive
policies. Uzbeks and Kyrgyz citizens interviewed expressed hope that visa-free
travel will greatly reduce instances of harassment and extortion at the border.
Kosimjon Hamrakulov, an Uzbek resident, told EurasiaNet: "I have many
relatives in Kyrgyzstan and it makes it easier for us to visit each other."
Less than 18 months ago, Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations were marked by acrimony
generated by Kyrgyzstan's acceptance of refugees who fled Uzbekistan in the
aftermath of the Andijan massacre. Bilateral antagonism dissipated, however,
with the growth of security cooperation. Domestic political factors played a
major role in prompting both Karimov and Bakiyev to set aside previous
differences and engage each other.
Both leaders have seemed eager to shore up outside political support for their
respective administrations. Bakiyev has faced considerable pressure throughout
2006 from political rivals in Bishkek. Karimov, meanwhile, remains obsessed with
the Islamic radical threat to his administration. He had long viewed southern
Kyrgyzstan as a haven for Islamic militants, and was quick to act on the
opportunity to work with Kyrgyz leaders to undertake a security sweep of the
area. In addition, Karimov's approval of visa-free travel may be designed to
relieve the building pressure on the Uzbek economy, which at present is
stagnating amid the government's efforts to tighten control over all aspects of
In extending an enthusiastic welcome to Bakiyev, Uzbek officials were also
seeking to send a message to another neighbour, Tajikistan: cooperate with us
and you will be rewarded. Uzbek-Tajik relations, chilly since the Islamic
radical threat first manifested itself in the late 1990s, have experienced a
frost in recent months.
Kyrgyz-Uzbek ties may be exceedingly harmonious now, but that may not be the
case for long. Bakiyev and Karimov, some political analysts point out, avoided
discussing the divisive issue of energy supplies.
Kyrgyz officials had hoped that increased security cooperation with Uzbekistan
would secure generous Uzbek export terms for natural gas needed for the
fast-approaching winter heating season. Members of the Karimov administration,
however, seem disinclined toward such generosity. One Uzbek official who
requested anonymity told EurasiaNet: "We should separate political issues
from economic issues. Uzbekistan cannot provide gas at reduced prices because it
would harm its own economy."
Uzbekistan intends to supply Kyrgyzstan with gas at US$55 per 1,000 cubic meters
(tcm) until the end of this year. But starting in January, the Uzbek government
is expected to seek a price of up to US$100/tcm.
Such a price hike would likely create a domestic crisis in Kyrgyzstan. According
to KyrgyzGas, a state company that imports Uzbek gas, Kyrgyzstan's demand is
projected to reach 900 million cubic meters of gas in 2007, roughly a 20 percent
increase over this year's consumption level. In addition, Kyrgyz Minister of
Finance Akylbek Japarov said recently that the country lacks the means to
subsidize gas prices for low-income consumers, who constitute a large segment of
the Kyrgyz population. Thus, Bakiyev's administration stands to face extreme
political pressure from his constituents, if Tashkent raises the export price as
The potential repercussions would also likely hurt Uzbekistan, as Kyrgyzstan
would undoubtedly try to ease a wintertime energy crunch by releasing large
volumes of water from reservoirs to generate extra electricity. Downstream areas
of Uzbekistan could experience ruinous flooding, and Uzbek farmers could well
find themselves without sufficient water for irrigation during the agricultural
Central Asia declares itself a nuclear weapons free zone
The five countries of Central Asia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have signed a treaty creating a nuclear weapons free
zone in their lands. Semipalatinsk, the former Soviet nuclear test site in
eastern Kazakstan, was the scene for the treaty's historic signing on September
8th, New Europe reported.
Under the treaty, the five countries have committed themselves to ban the
production, acquisition and deployment of nuclear weapons and their components.
The treaty does not prohibit the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
"This is our contribution to global security," Kazakstan' Foreign
Minister, Kasymzhomart Tokayev, said. "It will become an impetus for the
coordinated efforts of the world community in non-proliferation and prevention
of the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. It will
undoubtedly become an important step in the development of peaceful nuclear
Kyrgyz PM to pursue cooperation with Russian regions
The outlook for cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Russian regions is very
favourable, Kyrgyz Prime Minister, Felix Kulov, said, New Europe reported.
"We regard Russia as our number one partner in the economic, social and
cultural fields. Relations with the Yaroslavl, Moscow and Sverdlovsk regions and
the city of Moscow reinforce cooperation between the two countries.
Many Kyrgyz people are working in Moscow. They are sending home to their
relatives, remittances amounting to the republic's annual budget. We should not
underestimate that," Kulov said in Yaroslavl, where he arrived to celebrate
the 30th anniversary of the "Kyrgyzstan" state farm. Commenting on
whether he keeps in contact with former Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev Kulov
said: "We have no personal relations. As far as I know, Akayev lives and
works in Moscow and from time to time publishes articles in the press."
Kulov said that Akayev had been partly responsible for his imprisonment.
However, "I have no personal grudges or hard feelings towards him. It seems
that he was then facing a difficult situation. Personal relations should never
translate into big politics. I wish he lives through his years of life
respectably," he said.
Implementation of MoU with Iran discussed
Iranian Ambassador, Mohammad Reza Saburi, and Kyrgyz Minister of Finance and
Economic Affairs, Akylbek Japarov, on October 8th discussed ways to implement
the articles of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), Interfax News Agency
The MoU was signed at the eighth joint commission of Iran and Kyrgyzstan. At the
meeting, Japarov said that the high-ranking officials of the two countries are
willing to broaden bilateral economic and trade ties, according to a report
released by Iranian Embassy in Kyrgyzstan. He also said that his ministry will
spare no effort to fully implement the articles of Iran-Kyrgyzstan MoU. Turning
to the problems facing some Iranian tradesmen and industrialists currently
residing in Kyrgyzstan who attended the meeting, he underlined that they will be
solved as soon as possible. The Iranian ambassador to Bishkek expressed
satisfaction over the progressing trend of bilateral trade and economic and
commerce interactions between the two countries. The Eighth Iran-Kyrgyzstan
Joint Economic Commission was held in Tehran on August 19th-21st, 2006.
Bakiyev strengthens security ties with Karimov
Kyrgyz President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov,
have signed a joint statement after their negotiations in Tashkent on October
3rd that stresses their joint efforts at countering threats to regional
stability. The Kyrgyz president was in Uzbekistan till October 4th. It was noted
that the results of the visit of Bakiyev will have great value in the
development of Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations. The negotiations were held in spirit of
efficiency and mutual understanding, Interfax News Agency reported.
The two leaders also signed a treaty and a 2007-2011 programme on cooperation in
business, science and humanitarian affairs. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan pledged to
create conditions for bridging the gap between the two countries' laws and other
regulations in foreign trade, trade and business relations, the tax, customs and
tariff system, the environment, subsoil use, anti-monopoly policy and consumer
rights. The two nations also signed intergovernmental travel agreements and a
document on contacts between the governments. In addition, cooperation
agreements were signed between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz Prosecutor General Offices,
as well as the Uzbekturism national company and the Kyrgyz state committee for
tourism, sport and youth policy. The leaders of both countries have noted the
need to overcome the low level of activity in bilateral relations. Neither
Tashkent nor Bishkek have paid official visits to the other in ten years, the
two presidents said at a press conference after talks.
Addressing reporters after his talks with Karimov, Bakiev praised the current
state of bilateral ties. Bakiev said. "Both sides noted they were mutually
interested in bringing bilateral relations to new heights. They also emphasized
the need to enhance all aspects of their current cooperation."
Bakiev has been criticised in his country for not opposing the extradition of a
number of Uzbek refugees and asylum seekers wanted in their home country for
their alleged participation in last year's Andijan unrest. Kyrgyz rights
campaigners have criticised Bakiyev for strengthening security ties with
Uzbekistan, saying he is imitating Karimov's tough policy against banned Islamic
MINERALS & METALS
Another failure to sell Kara-Balta uranium plant
The tender to sell the state's 72.28 per cent stake in Kara-Balta Mining Works,
a major Soviet-era uranium-processing enterprise and one of Kyrgyzstan's biggest
industrial enterprises, failed to go ahead for the fourth time, the spokeswoman
for the State Property Committee Tatyana Nagavitsina, said, Interfax News Agency
The deadline for applications to bid in the tender was October 2nd. "The
members of the tender commission met on October 3th, did not even review the one
and only application, and decided to declare the tender invalid due to the
insufficient number of participants," Nagavitsina said.