Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Interim President Tokayev, who took office in March after former president resigned, won snap presidential elections 9 June amid widespread repression of anti-govt protests. Tokayev named winner with 71% of vote and 12 June took oath of office. UK-based organisation NetBlocks reported several social networks blocked 12 June. Election monitors from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe same day said “lack of regard for fundamental rights, including detentions of peaceful protesters, and widespread irregularities on election day, showed scant respect for democratic standards”. UN Human Rights Office for Central Asia 12 June called on authorities “to respect freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression and right to political participation”. Interior Minister Turghymbayev 18 June said authorities had released most of almost 4,000 people arrested around poll. Major explosions at ammunition warehouse in Arys, near Shymkent in south 24 June killed two, wounded dozens.
Kazakhstan’s wish for stability and continuity under long-serving President Nazarbayev trumps the will for political change, especially given turbulence elsewhere on Russia’s borders. But without economic reform, full ethnic equality and a political succession plan, the Central Asian country risks becoming another brittle post-Soviet state vulnerable to external destabilisation.
Resource-led economic growth cannot mask the need for reforms in Kazakhstan as labour unrest, social divisions and a growing Islamist movement threaten the country’s stability.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan.
The Annual Meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) commencing on 3 May 2003 is an opportunity to assess frankly and honestly the records of the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Competition for water is increasing in Central Asia at an alarming rate, adding tension to what is already an uneasy region.
The new Kazakh military doctrine is a clear reference to Ukraine. The Kazakh doctrine is very similar to the doctrine Belarus adopted in 2016, but Minsk was more explicit about learning lessons from Ukraine.
Originally published in Eurasianet
In late 2014, consultant and former Crisis Group researcher, Varvara Pakhomenko, journeyed to the northern Kazakh steppe, and the towns and villages along Kazakhstan’s Russian border, to learn more about the interwoven relationship between the Kazakh and Russian speakers of the area.