Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 308 - (29/08/06)
Revolutions are disturbing affairs. They are after all inter
alia civil wars. Afterwards everyone who is not a fanatic wants stability and
Kyrgyzstan is no exception after its Tulip Revolution which happened early last
year. It was a violent affair at first with much rioting and looting. But things
then settled down in most of the country.
The Uzbek diaspora in Kyrgyzstan is now the main destabilizing force in the
Kyrgyz body politic. It numbers between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people (estimates
differ), being the second largest ethnic group in the country. It is
concentrated in the southern province of Osh on the Uzbek border.
The local Uzbeks there are by no means reconciled to the Tulip Revolution which
was the outcome of political developments to the north, played out in the
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev knows this very well and is trying to counter-act
Addressing The 5th Kurultai or Congress of the Kyrgyz Peoples that took place in
Bishkek on August 5: "The year that passed is proof that the people remains
monolithic no matter what the ordeal may be. There were copious attempts to use
the ethnic issue for political destabilization." The organizers claimed an
attendance in excess of 750 delegates - representatives of ethnic diasporas,
state officials, correspondents, and activists of non-governmental
The president wouldn't elaborate on his statement, but observers were left in no
doubt that it was a reference to leaders of the Uzbek diaspora in the southern
part of Kyrgyzstan. This assumption is indirectly confirmed by the fact that
delegates of the Centre of Uzbek National Culture were not given the floor at
the Kurultai. Their requests to address the forum were ignored.
Leaders of the Centre of Uzbek National Culture claim that not even an appeal in
the written form signed by the Centre president and vice-president helped them.
The appeal was submitted to the Kurultai presidium - to no avail.
Regional security to the fore
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev last year secured a deal over the future
of the U.S. military deployment at Manas, to the east of Bishkek, near the
Chinese border. The Americans had been admitted by his predecessor, President
Akayev, after 9:11 with the war in Afghanistan.
The base is no doubt used for more than one purpose - to keep an eye on the
whole of Central Asia and Northern China, not just Afghanistan. There are over
1,000 personnel there, now of even greater value since the Americans were
obliged to evacuate their base in Uzbekistan by the end of last year.
Bakiyev is also rapidly consolidating a regional reputation for security against
terrorism and extremism. He is doing so primarily through his contacts with
Uzbekistan, and, by broadening his definition of potential security threats, he
is maximizing assistance from China and other regional players.
The Kyrgyz-Uzbek axis
Bakiyev met his vital regional counterpart, Uzbek President Islam Karimov,
for the first time in October 2005 at the Central Asian Cooperation Organization
summit in St. Petersburg. Those bilateral talks took place amid a prolonged
crisis between the two states. Although both presidents pledged to cooperate on
security and energy-supply issues, little has been achieved since that meeting.
Kyrgyzstan is dependent on Uzbek gas supplies in winter and therefore is
interested in having positive relations with Uzbekistan. Roughly a year ago
Uzbekistan unilaterally cancelled natural gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan. This
caused a severe energy crisis in Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz government was forced
to purchase gas from Kazakhstan at higher prices.
Uzbekistan has also accused Bishkek of allowing terrorist organizations to train
inside Kyrgyzstan. Indeed, Tashkent pointed the finger at Kyrgyzstan during the
turmoil in its eastern province at Andijan in the Ferghana valley in May last
year, from which many fled to Osh.
On July 24 Bakiyev, however, met Karimov in Moscow during a meeting of heads of
state from members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which appears to
have been a more fruitful occasion. They considered the potential threat posed
by religious extremists, particularly the Islamist movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
Both linked violence in Tashkent with more recent events in Jalalabad, when the
Kyrgyz security service coordinated a response to a group of religious
extremists. Bakiyev believes that both countries have taken a consistently
resolute stance against terrorism and that they wish to expand cooperation
through multilateral routes such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),
as well as bilaterally.
"I had the full backing of Uzbek President Karimov, namely on the fight
against destabilizing factors in Central Asia on the whole. And in the future,
we will coordinate our actions in the fight against international terrorism and
religious extremism. Unfortunately sometimes there are forces that would like to
use Islam for a totally different purpose. I think here we have serious and
painstaking work ahead of us," explained Bakiyev.
He certainly played to Karimov's long-standing security concerns regarding
Hizb-ut-Tahrir, but made little distinction between this group and the wider
task of combating terrorists operating in the region.
Visit to Tashkent could clinch matters
Recognizing Karimov's need for friends in the region, and that a regional
state with good relations with Tashkent may be useful to Washington as a way of
continuing to maintain some support, influence, and interests in Uzbekistan,
Bakiyev agreed to pay an official state visit to Tashkent later this year.
Presidential talks were quickly followed with action upon Bakiyev's return home,
as Lieutenant-General Busurmankul Tabaldiyev, head of the Kyrgyz National
Security Service, met his Uzbek counterpart, Colonel-General Rustam Inoyatov, in
the Uzbek town of Fergana. The meeting, held on July 25, explored further
Kyrgyz-Uzbek cooperation and various methods of combating international
terrorism, religious extremism, drugs, and organized crime.
Bishkek's security relations with Tashkent now seem stable, and both sides use
the language of enhancing practical cooperation. Bakiyev's backing for Karimov,
combined with adopting Karimov-friendly expressions condemning Hizb-ut-Tahrir,
invites closer relations with Uzbekistan. Intelligence cooperation will be the
key for tracking and monitoring militants operating in the Fergana Valley, but
it is often only mooted at presidential levels rather than implemented.
Bakiyev's timing and motives for playing the security card with Karimov may, in
fact, be rooted in his recognition of the lack of success so far in achieving
full intelligence cooperation among Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
The Chinese card
China is also a focal point in Bakiyev's security calculations. Kyrgyz
Defense Ministry officials met their Chinese counterparts in Bishkek on July 27,
discussing issues relating to stepping up the training of Kyrgyz officers in
Chinese military training facilities (24.kg, July 27). China is not simply
offering generic military and security cooperation to the Central Asian states;
instead, it pursues very specific areas within which it offers intense training
and assistance. Tajikistan, for example, is set to receive much more help from
Chinese border guard specialists and this is likely to be reflected in the
bilateral arrangements for Kyrgyzstan.
Moreover, China has used Uzbekistan to foster regional cooperation in
anti-narcotics trafficking. Chen Xiaojin and Dai Suykuy, officials from the
Chinese embassy in Uzbekistan, recently visited the Surkhondaryo region's
interior directorate, with the aim of providing forensic equipment. The Chinese
delegation discussed the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan through Tajikistan
and into Uzbekistan, and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security agreed to
assist the interior directorates of the region and Denov district to set up a
drug-testing laboratory (Postda, July 22). This follows a pattern of Chinese
assistance to one country in the region, presented as a means of expanding to a
But there is always the US
On July 25 General John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, visited
Kyrgyzstan to attend a seminar held for the armed forces of the countries that
participated in the Regional Cooperation-2006 exercise, which was designed to
improve emergency response to natural disasters. He met with Lieutenant-General
Ismail Isakov, the Kyrgyz defence minister, hearing first hand how US security
assistance has improved elements of the Kyrgyz armed forces. Abizaid expressed
gratitude to the Kyrgyz leadership "for understanding the important role
played by the anti-terrorist coalition's airbase at Manas."
Future U.S.-Kyrgyz military cooperation will focus on improving the
infrastructure of the Ministry of Defence special forces and in improving the
material and technical equipment of the Kyrgyz Defence Ministry's centre for
training sergeants. On the sidelines of the seminar held in connection with the
Regional Cooperation-2006 exercise, Isakov offered Kyrgyz help for training
Afghan military personnel during a meeting with General Abdorrahim Wardak,
Afghanistan's defence minister. Wardag praised the significant role played by
Kyrgyzstan in fighting international terrorism. He singled out the Manas base
and its part in supplying humanitarian aid and assistance in combating terrorism
and maintaining peace through this airbase.
Bishkek can promote greater regional efforts, politically and in practical
terms, to assist the Afghan government as it builds its own security forces.
This is an emerging element in the task of engaging Central Asian states,
linking their future stability with an understanding that they also need to
assist Afghanistan. Bakiyev wants American, Turkish, British, as well as NATO
assistance for his military and security forces. But he equally benefits from
Chinese help, which he would like to keep low key.
The following is a thoughtful piece on this vital topic by a close observer of
Kyrgyz-Uzbek security relations: similar problems,
By Erica Marat
Recently revived security ties between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan risk becoming
yet another pompous declaration made by leaders of both states on regional
security, fighting terrorism, religious extremism, and drug trafficking. The
experience of the past year shows that political climates in both countries have
rather different circumstances for the rise of religious extremism and
terrorism. Therefore, both states are likely to pursue bilateral cooperation
with differing goals.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov is concerned with suppressing political opposition
at home and abroad, while Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev must assure that
energy supplies from Uzbekistan are not interrupted as the winter approaches.
Despite their incompatible interests, "fighting religious extremism and
terrorism" poses an opportunity for both presidents to resume bilateral
Kyrgyzstan's and Uzbekistan's official interpretations of what constitutes
Islamic terrorism have little in common. Islamic extremism represents a threat
to both states, but in different capacities. For Uzbekistan, religious groups
such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan pose a threat to the political
regime's continuity. Many such groups are also enmeshed in drug trafficking. Any
outbreak of violence instigated by extremists threatens the legitimacy of the
In Kyrgyzstan, in contrast, violent clashes between terrorist groups and the
Kyrgyz military, such as the one on May 12, indicate the weakness of the
security sector, but have limited implications on the functioning of the entire
state. The more peaceful religious movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir attracts mainly young
people, but it is far from being a threat to the political regime's integrity.
Therefore, while the rise of extremism and terrorism in Uzbekistan is closely
linked to the suppressive policies of the Uzbek government, in Kyrgyzstan
illegal religious organization spread due to religious illiteracy and
unemployment among the population.
The means chosen by both states in fighting violent non-state actors are
different as well. Kyrgyz security structures, although weaker than their Uzbek
counterparts, have a more transparent approach to fighting terrorist groups
compared with Uzbekistan. Local mass media outlets are often critical towards
the Kyrgyz security structures' inefficient responses in dealing with outbreaks
of armed groups. Such public criticism of government actions is unthinkable in
Uzbekistan, which has been isolated from the international community since the
Andijan massacre on May 13-14, 2005.
Boosting ties with Uzbekistan could potentially affect the democratic climate in
Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek risks cooperating with an authoritarian political regime
that seeks to persecute its own political dissidents on neighbouring
territories. Unlike the hundreds of Andijan refugees who fled to Kyrgyzstan in
May 2005, individuals or small groups of dissidents from Uzbekistan are more
likely to be maltreated away from the attention of international or local human
Kyrgyzstan has become a hub for numerous Uzbek political asylum-seekers,
refugees, and members of banned religious groups, mainly from eastern Uzbek
cities. Recently, ten Uzbek citizens were detained in southern Kyrgyzstan,
including Gulmira Maksudova, the daughter of Akram Yuldashev, an Uzbek spiritual
leader from the banned religious organization Akramiya. All detainees are
currently held at the Osh branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and
Maksudova has applied for political asylum in Kyrgyzstan (Nezavisimaya gazeta,
It remains to be seen if Bishkek repatriates Maksudova to Uzbekistan or grants
her political asylum. The case of the Andijan refugees in May 2005 showed that
the Kyrgyz government is not able to freely comply with international
regulations on refugees due to pressure from Uzbekistan. The UN High
Commissioner for Refugees insisted that all Andijan residents who fled to
Kyrgyzstan in May 2005 were to be granted refugee status, but Uzbekistan claimed
that bilateral agreements with the Kyrgyz government require repatriation of
Stability good for increasing tourist flow, visits up
Kyrgyz Secretary of State, Adakhan Madumarov, said recently that the flow of
tourists to the country is linked with stability in Kyrgyzstan. "The number
of people on the banks of Issyk Kul lake is four or five times higher than
expected," the state secretary said, Interfax News Agency reported.
"No one, including myself, imagined that the influx of tourists would be so
high. Early May forecasts of a difficult 2006 holiday season were false,"
Madumarov said. "More tourists from CIS member states provided for such an
influx. Kyrgyzstan has a future, the prospects are there for all to see,"
"It is better to spend holidays in Kyrgyzstan than in France, Italy or
island resorts," Russia's State Duma Vice Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who
is spending his holiday on the shores of Issyk Kul, said. "Another positive
fact is that the Russian language is an official language in Kyrgyzstan and
Kyrgyz citizens socialise in Russian. There may be alienation felt in some CIS
countries, but there is nothing of the kind in Kyrgyzstan. Good natured people,
hospitality and the native language attract people here," Zhirinovsky said.