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
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
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
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
"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
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.
WARNING TO THE U.S.
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
"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.