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.
Visiting area affected by 7-8 Feb deadly ethnic clashes in Zhambyl region in south, in which eleven people were killed and dozens injured, President Tokayev 1 March blamed violence on “criminal groups” and called for perpetrators to be punished regardless of ethnicity; meeting with ethnic minority Dungan representatives, he promised state protection of their culture while urging them to take measures to lessen tensions with ethnic Kazakhs, including learning Kazakh language. Authorities late March detained 25 people for involvement in clashes, including ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of Dungan minority. According to govt 80 people briefly detained following continued protests 1 March over late Feb death in custody of civil rights activist Dulat Aghadil; rights activists said police detained 144. National Security Committee 26 March announced arrest of alleged Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated terrorist suspected of plotting attack in capital Nur-Sultan. Govt mid-March introduced state of emergency and sealed off Nur-Sultan and Almaty city in attempt to limit spread of COVID-19.
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.