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KYRGYZSTAN


 

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
198,500 

Population 
5,081,429

Principal 
ethnic groups
Kyrgyz 52.4%
Russians 21.5%
Uzbeks 12.9%

Capital
Bishkek 

Currency 
Kyrgyz Som 

President 
Askar Akayev



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 peace.
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 capital, Bishkek.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev knows this very well and is trying to counter-act it. 
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 organizations. 
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 regional level.

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.

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The following is a thoughtful piece on this vital topic by a close observer of Central Asia:-

Kyrgyz-Uzbek security relations: similar problems, different policies 
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 cooperation.
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 Uzbek regime.
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 rights organizations.
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, July 30).
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 Uzbek citizens.

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TOURISM

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," he said.
"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.

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