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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 1,737 1,632 1,500 145
GNI per capita
 US $ 330 290 280 178
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Kyrgyzstan

Update No: 321 - (26/09/07)

The aftermath of revolution
Kyrgyzstan has been roiled by squabbling and infighting since the 2005 ouster of its longtime President Askar Akayev amid allegations of authoritarianism and corruption. This was in the course of the Tulip Revolution, sequel to the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004.
Parliament passed two sets of constitutional changes late last year amid a stand-off between President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and the opposition over the extent of presidential powers.
The November changes were made in the face of mass opposition protests that curtailed Bakiyev's powers. But the following month, after Bakiyev threatened to dissolve parliament, lawmakers reversed the changes, giving back to him the authority to form the Cabinet.

The Constitutional Court backs president
A Kyrgyz court voided the constitutional changes made last year by parliament, ruling on September 14th that they were invalid because they had been introduced under pressure.
The Constitutional Court's decision was unlikely to have any immediate effect on politics in the poor Central Asian nation. Bektur Zulpiyev, the presidential administration's legal affairs chief, said the court found the changes were adopted under pressure and therefore were illegal.
Opposition lawmaker Melis Eshimkanov praised the decision, saying the court made the point that no political group should try to change the constitution to suit its interests.

New political crisis looms as inflation soars
Soaring food prices are creating the potential for another political crisis. Premier Almazbek Atambayev recently threatened to sack ministers who did nothing to prevent soaring wheat prices, which have gone up 30% in the last three months. Indeed he said his own job is on the line. 
The government has been pre-occupied with the energy sector and the privatisation of land, while failing to sustain a coherent macro-economic policy. It has followed a largely hands-off policy vis-a-vis market shortages. 
In so far as it has intervened, it is by releasing reserves of wheat in Bishkek itself, fearful of another series of demonstrations and the like that toppled Akayev. But it is in the provinces that the worst shortages are being felt. This could prove a short-sighted strategy. 

Migrants' remittances back the economy 
Bleak prospects at home are driving enterprising Kyrgyz abroad. This is actually helping the stay-at-homes too.
Of the 5.2 million Kyrgyz nationals, some 300, 000 - 500, 000 live abroad, mainly in Kazakhstan and Russia. Migrants in Russia alone remitted $252m home in the first half of 2007 alone.
The northern areas of the country are largely supported by migrant remittances from Kazakhstan, which is booming. But driving your citizenry abroad is hardly a long-term solution to a country's problems.


In August Kyrgyzstan hosted the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisatioin (SCO). This is a step forward in international recognition. Founded in Shanghai in June 2001, the SCO groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and has Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran and India as observers. 

Kyrgyzstan is already courted by the big powers. The ex-Soviet republic hosts a U.S. air base that supports operations in nearby Afghanistan, as well as a growing Russian military base nearby.


The following written by a Russian journalist for publication by an Indian magazine is self-explanatory;- 

Volume 24 - Issue 18: Sep. 08-21, 2007 INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE from the publishers of THE HINDU 

War games in the Urals VLADIMIR RADYUHIN in Moscow 
The largest ever-military exercise by the SCO adds a new dimension to its rapidly expanding security agenda. 

Is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) turning into a defence alliance? The big-scale war games the regional group held in August led many analysts to this conclusion. They may have jumped the gun. "Peace Mission-2007" was the largest military exercise the SCO ever staged. It began in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where the operation planning was done, and moved on to the Ural Mountains in Russia for action on the ground. The exercise, billed as anti-terrorist, involved 2,000 Russian troops, 1,700 Chinese troops, smaller units from other SCO nations, 500 tanks and other combat hardware, and dozens of aircraft. Together with support and security personnel, over 7,000 servicemen took part in the exercise. It was the second major SCO military drill after "Peace Mission-2005", held in China. But that was a bilateral Chinese-Russian exercise, whereas this year's drill was the first one in which all the six SCO members took part: Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. 

For the first time the war games were attended by the heads of state of the SCO member-states in what became an impressive display of solidarity and cohesion. The drill itself was a dazzling show of military might and skill, which was broadcast live by Russian television. Fighter jets whizzed overhead, airborne troops baled out from transport planes, and tanks and armoured personnel carriers surged ahead as the joint SCO force freed a small town in the Urals (specially constructed for the purpose) after it was supposedly captured by terrorists and insurgents. 

The war games added a new dimension to the rapidly expanding security agenda of the SCO. Set up in 1996 to facilitate troop reduction and confidence-building along the common borders of the member-countries and remodelled in 2001 into a security and economic cooperation body, the SCO was a rather loose discussion forum until three years ago when it formed a modest Regional Anti-Terror Structure (RATS) for information exchange and joint training of national security services. Two years later, cooperative arrangements were extended to the military establishments and the Defence Ministers' Council was set up, and earlier this year Russia circulated a draft agreement to formalise military ties among the SCO states. 

In Bishkek, the SCO went a step further, offering security guarantees to the member-states, though in a somewhat diluted form. The treaty on "long-term good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation" the SCO leaders signed at the summit provides for consultations "with the aim of coming up with an adequate response" if the security of a member-state is threatened. 

Russia is the main champion of the cause of strengthening the military capability of the SCO in Central Asia as it views persisting instability in Afghanistan and the strategic inroads made into the region by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as immediate threats to its security.

"Conceptual foundations of military cooperation in the SCO framework should be worked out as a priority step," Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky told his colleagues from other SCO nations when they met in Urumqi to plan the war games. He called for setting up "an effective peace and stability-building mechanism in the region involving the military establishments of the SCO member-states". 

China, concerned primarily with gaining access to the energy resources of Central Asia, has been reluctant to speed up military integration. It rejected a Russian proposal for the war games in the Urals to be turned into a joint drill of forces of the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a Russia-led defence pact of seven former Soviet states. 

Meanwhile, the Bishkek Summit indicated a shift in Beijing's position. The war games in the Urals marked the first time China deployed a major military group abroad. Beijing has also swerved in favour of partnership between the SCO and the CSTO. In a declaration adopted in Bishkek, SCO leaders "supported the development of links between the SCO and CSTO with the aim of coordinating efforts to strengthen regional and global security [and] dealing with new threats and challenges". 

In the run-up to the Bishkek Summit, CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha announced that the two organisations would shortly sign a protocol on cooperation and might hold joint military training in future. China is the only member of the SCO that does not belong to the CSTO, sometimes described as Warsaw Pact-2. Both organisations have the same goal of combating terrorism and both operate in Central Asia. A formalised partnership between them could lay the basis for a defence alliance between Russia and China in Central Asia and turn the SCO into an effective security mechanism and a counter-weight to the U.S. and NATO in the region. 

For all that, the SCO is unlikely to evolve into a full-fledged military pact because there are limits to any strategic tie-up between Russia and China. China's long historical record of expansionism makes Russia extremely sensitive to the ongoing Chinese migration, across the 4,300-km border between the two countries, into the vast but sparsely populated expanses of Siberia and the Far East. Russia and China compete for influence and energy resources in Central Asia. Russia is unhappy with the imbalance in its trade with China, which readily buys Russian oil and other raw materials but spurns Russian engineering goods. China, in turn, resents Russia's reluctance to give it cutting-edge military technologies, which Russia generously supplies to India. Last but not least, neither Russia nor China is prepared to antagonise the U.S., which would view transformation of the SCO into a defence pact as directed against its strategic interests. 

However, Russia and China are both keen to build up the SCO as a platform for harmonising their divergent interests and as an instrument for pursuing their common interests. These include safeguarding stability in Central Asia, preventing a spill over of religious radicalism and violence from Afghanistan, and keeping the U.S. out of the region. 

In Bishkek, the SCO leaders bluntly stated that regional security was the responsibility of the SCO and no one else. "The heads of state think that stability and security in Central Asia are best ensured primarily through efforts taken by the nations of the region on the basis of the existing regional associations," they said in the Bishkek Declaration. 

This served as a reminder to the U.S. that the SCO's two-year-old demand to Washington to set a timeline for the withdrawal of its military forces from Central Asia was still on the agenda. The bell rang particularly loud as the Bishkek Summit venue was barely a few kilometres away from the U.S. airbase at the main Kyrgyz airport, Manas. It is the only remaining U.S. base in Central Asia after Uzbekistan kicked out another airbase the Pentagon had set up to support its anti-Taliban operations in Afghanistan. 

The SCO's security concerns are also prompted by a looming U.S. defeat in Iraq and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. "The situation in the region and neighbouring countries remains unstable," Baluyevsky was quoted as telling SCO military chiefs in Urumqi. "It would be premature to speak about its improvement. Moreover, the worst-case scenario cannot be ruled out. In particular, it is quite possible that the situation in Afghanistan may deteriorate even further. 

"Russian strategists fear that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq may precipitate a NATO fiasco in Afghanistan. If international efforts fail to stabilise Afghanistan, violence may spread to Central Asia. In recent years Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have been the target of repeated incursions by Islamist militants from the territory of Afghanistan. 

In Bishkek, the SCO leaders agreed to raise the organisation's profile in Afghanistan, whose President Hamid Karzai attended the Summit as a special guest. They decided to convene an international conference next year on post-conflict rehabilitation of Afghanistan and energise the work of the SCO contact group for Afghanistan. The Bishkek Summit stressed the need for "preventive measures to head off processes and phenomena that breed instability in the SCO area". They said in the final communiqué of the Summit that the creation of a mechanism for joint response to situations threatening peace, stability and security in the region would be speeded up. Russia has long advocated adding military clout to the SCO. "Successful economic activities within the framework of the SCO are impossible without building up security in the region, particularly involving the SCO military establishments in this process," Baluyevsky said. 

It was no coincidence that the storyline for "Peace Mission-2007" closely resembled the scenario of a 2005 armed revolt in Uzbekistan, when radical Islamists seized control of the provincial capital Andijan before government troops dislodged them several hours later. After the Peace Mission-2007 war games, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for "holding such exercises on the territories of different SCO countries on a regular basis" to improve interoperability of the SCO military, while Baluyevsky promised that future war games would be staged "on a bigger scale". 

"Peace Mission-2007" was already thought to be somewhat bigger than the anti-terrorist format would normally call for. Clearly, the SCO is aiming for more than just repulsing outside attacks by terrorist groups. It aspires to safeguard the internal stability of Central Asian states whether they are threatened by religious extremism or foreign-inspired "colour revolutions". Kyrgyzstan, which hosted this year's SCO summit, is still reeling from the 2005 "tulip revolution" the U.S. orchestrated to topple the pro-Moscow President, Askar Akayev. Kyrgyzstan has stayed in the Russian orbit but has been limping from crisis to crisis ever since. It is with an eye to staving off turmoils of the kind that shook Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan that the SCO is beefing up its security arm. The increased focus on security issues in the SCO has evoked controversial responses from the SCO observer states, which include India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia. Iran has stepped up its bid to gain full membership in the SCO, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attending a second SCO summit in Bishkek, whereas India has officially distanced itself from the SCO's "military, strategic and political" agenda. Official sources told Frontline in New Delhi that it R 20;wants to be a hands-on participant, especially in improving trade, economic and cultural linkages". To emphasise this point, New Delhi dispatched Petroleum Minister Murli Deora to Bishkek.

However, the SCO framework of military cooperation is likely to expand as it suits the interests of the member-states. Russia wants to create a security mechanism incorporating both the SCO and the CSTO defence pact to protect Central Asia from Islamists and the U.S.-NATO expansion. It also wants to formalise interaction between the SCO and the CSTO, which institutionalises its military predominance in the region, in order to balance China's rising influence within the SCO and channel its activity into a more controllable framework. China, while prioritising economic expansion in Central Asia, supports Russian security plans as they help it play a bigger role in the region and prevent Uighur separatist activity in Central Asia.

The Central Asian states also go along with the SCO security build-up because they for the moment are more concerned with the stability of their regimes than with a potential security risk from China's expansion.

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