Books on Uzbekistan
Update No: 308 - (29/08/06)
President Islam Karimov is a grim dictator, who is quite
sanguine about having his enemies boiled alive. He is in the mould of the old
Central Asian autocrats, totally ruthless and repressive.
Uzbekistan spent half of last year as an international outcast after security
forces cruelly put down an uprising in Andijan in the Ferghana Valley on May 13
as a result of which, according to independent estimates, between 700 and 1500
people died. Tashkent categorically refused to allow an independent
investigation of the events in Andijan and soon after demanded the closure of
the American military base on its territory.
The Uzbek regime fell out with Washington completely. It forced the Americans to
evacuate their base at Karshi-Khanabad on the Afghan border, which they had
acquired after 9:11, because they began to complain, so blatant was the massacre
before the world's media. Beforehand they had been decidedly complaisant, unlike
the UK ambassador, Craig Murray, who denounced the regime's human rights abuses
repeatedly and joined forces with the opposition. He was naturally recalled by
the timorous Foreign Office and dismissed the diplomatic service.
China immediately supported the regime's actions, as did Russia after slight
hesitation. As Western countries imposed more and more sanctions on Uzbekistan,
Moscow continued cheerfully to receive Karimov.
Karimov is turning back to Russia. He has no other choice. The hard men in the
Kremlin must have been popping corks, at least metaphorically, when they heard
about the US-Uzbek estrangement last year.
Still, he is playing hard to get. He does not relish returning to a bondage to
Moscow which Tashkent was in for decades in the old Tsarist and Soviet days.
Russia underpins the stability of the Uzbek regime
Alexey Miller, chairman of the management of Gazprom, arrived in Uzbekistan
in early August for very delicate negotiations. He primarily wanted an agreement
with President Islam Karimov on Gazprom's development of the three largest
natural gas deposits in Uzbekistan, and secondly a deal on current commercial
arrangements. The negotiations were so important to both sides that Miller
discussed the product-sharing agreement with Karimov himself.
At stake was whether the Russian company would acquire a de facto monopoly of
gas export from Uzbekistan. What Tashkent wanted inter alia in exchange was a
100% guarantee that Russia would help Uzbekistan suppress antigovernment
demonstrations and protect it from the West.
That of course, one can be sure, it got. The Russians are not squeamish, not
those in power at any rate.
But Karimov is sticking in for more. Some purely commercial affairs were easily
agreed upon; but not the crucial investment deal - at any rate yet.
The devil is in the detail
Miller persuaded Karimov to sell to Gazprom 9 billion cu. meters of natural
gas at $60 per 1,000 cu. metres. But, Uzbekistan did not agree to the
maintenance of the Central Asia-Centre gas transportation system by the Russian
monopolist in exchange for the tapping of three largest deposits in Ustyurksky
district of Uzbekistan, the more important issue for Gazprom.
Miller and Uzbekneftegaz CEO Abadusal Azizov signed contracts for the Russian
company to purchase 9 billion cu. metres of Uzbek gas at US$60/1,000 cu. metres
and the transportation of Turkmen gas in Uzbekistan with the transit rate of
US$1.1 for the pumping of 1,000 cu. metres for 100 km. Gazprom contracted for
all gas main transportation facilities of the Uzbek gas system for 2006-2010 in
an agreement sealed back on February 5, 2005.
The second part of the talks between Russia and Uzbekistan was less fruitful.
Gazprom confirmed its proposal to restore the Central Asia-Centre pipeline
system in exchange for the right to extract natural gas at Uzbekistan's three
largest deposits of Ugra, Kuanysh and a group of Akchalaksky deposits. Gazprom
is currently operating at the Shakhpakhty deposit on the tableland of Ustyur.
Its planned capacity barely exceeds 500 million cu. metres a year and is unable
to indemnify Gazprom's European contracts should gas production in Turkmenistan
Karimov listened to Gazprom's amended proposals to tap the country's largest
deposits but did not give an affirmative answer. Karimov earlier declared that
Uzbekistan is able to modernize its gas pipelines on its own. "The talks,
however, will be continued," a source in Gazprom told Kommersant.
It is doubtful that Uzbekistan could develop its gas pipelines on its own. But
even if it could, or it could get non-US foreign help to do so, it still has the
huge problem that they all go via Russia, truly colonial pipelines.
He is probably just taking up a bargaining position. Time will tell.
Meanwhile Uzbekistan has its own continuous domestic problems all right. The
following is a brilliant analysis of them, by an exceptionally well-informed
source, the more interesting for having been written two years ago in 2004,
showing great prescience:-
Uzbekistan: Another Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan Waiting in the Wings?
by Shoshana Keller, associate professor of history, Hamilton College
Since March 28 unprecedented violence has stunned Uzbekistan; dozens of people
have died in explosions and gunfire, and police have detained up to 200 people.
The government of Islam Karimov has accused Islamic militants, specifically the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and an international political party called
Hizb-ut Tahrir, of attempting to topple the government and establish an Islamic
republic. The Uzbek government has linked fighting in Tashkent, Bukhara, and
Andijan with the bombings in Madrid earlier in March (2004). These claims are at
best only partially true.
Most US journalists have simply repeated Uzbek government claims. To an extent
this is understandable: Uzbekistan is a closed society with no freedom of speech
or press. It is extremely difficult to obtain any solid information about events
there. On the other hand, the BBC has a reporter on the ground in Tashkent who
has been able to uncover independent and contradictory information. Web-based
news sources such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have also provided helpful
information that most U.S. journalists have ignored.
The problem is this: Karimov's government is promoting a story that fits very
neatly with our experience with Islamist militants, but his 'facts' are strongly
skewed to distract attention from the miserable condition of Uzbekistan. A
glaring difference between the Madrid bombings and the Tashkent bombings is
that, in Tashkent, attackers have specifically targeted the police. More
importantly, there have been no attempts to slaughter large numbers of innocent
people. All attacks have been directed at government figures.
Because this is a state with little freedom, much corruption, and over 6,500
political prisoners who suffer brutal torture routinely, there are plenty of
reasons for anti-government protests unrelated to Islam. Esmer Islamov, a
pseudononymous reporter for Eurasia.net, discovered that the day before the
attacks at the Chor Su bazaar, police there had publicly beaten an old man to
death. No US media outlet reported this important fact.
The United States had 1,000 soldiers stationed in southern Uzbekistan. The
country itself contains some 25 million people who are growing increasingly
frustrated with the Karimov regime. It is very important for Americans to
understand that our government's support for this regime may explode in our
faces, just as has happened in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We need to hear the
entire complicated story of this country and its divisions.
Petronas to pump 12m into exploration
Malaysia's Petronasm plans to invest 12m Euro in oil and gas exploration in
Uzbekistan this year, a source at Uzbek national oil and gas company,
Uzbekneftegaz said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The source said most of the equipment that would be needed for seismic
exploration would begin late July or early August. It is believed that Petronas
could eventually invest 36m Euro in exploration at the Baisum block.
Uzbekneftegaz and Petronas signed an agreement in October 2005 on exploration
over a period of 18 months at Baisum, which is in the Surkham Darya region. The
parties will base their decision on the form of cooperation for developing gas
fields on the results of the studies. The options include forming a joint
venture and signing a production-sharing agreement (PSA). Petronas has joined a
consortium of investors set up in 2005 to explore the Uzbek section of the Aral
Sea. The consortium also includes Uzbekneftegaz, Russia's LUKoil, Korea National
Oil Corporation (KNOC) and china National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The
members all have equal shares in the consortium.
State to buy 88.6m in loans for railroad development
Uzbekiston Temir Iullari, the state railroad company, plans to receive loans
worth 88.6 million Euro from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Japan
Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC) for three projects aimed at
developing railroads in the country, a source in the company said, Interfax News
The JBIC will issue a 54.4 million Euro loan to develop the company's facilities
for building train cars. The IDB will issue an 18.2 million Euro loan, which
will be used to acquire equipment to develop the railroad company's repairs
network. Uzbekiston Temir Iullari plans to use an additional six million Euro
credit line from the IDB and 10 million Euro from the JBIC loan to carry out a
project to develop and equip railroad networks connecting Uzbekistan and
Afghanistan, the source said.