India may have been thwarted in its attempt to set up an air base in Tajikistan, but now it's building military ties with Kyrgyzstan, agreeing to train UN peacekeeping troops and establishing a joint high-altitude military research center in Bishkek.
India's defense minister, AK Antony, has been visiting Bishkek the last two days and announced those two initiatives. The altitude research center will host about 20 Indian soldiers at a time, and be based in Bishkek with a field station in the mountains outside the city, reports The Economic Times:
The centre has a field station at Tuya Ashu, located at a height of 3,200 metre. Akpay Sarybaev, a leading cardiologist and expert in mountain medicine, has been nominated as the centre's director.
The proposal for joint collaboration in the area of mountain medicine and to establish the centre was mooted during talks between then Kyrghyz President A. Akaev and then Indian president A.P.J Abdul Kalam in November 2003.
"The realisation of that shared vision has finally culminated in the establishment of this centre. The joint endeavour of our scientists will provide a platform to utilise the expertise of both the institutes in a holistic manner to evaluate, as well as improve the performance and enhance the process of acclimatisation at high altitudes using psychological, biochemical and molecular research tools," Antony said at the event.
1st Lt. Kathleen Ferrero, U.S. Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
A U.S. tanker flies over the Arctic Ocean en route from the U.S. to the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan
The U.S. air force has made its first trip over the Arctic Ocean in support of its troops in Afghanistan, the fruit of negotiations over the last two years with Russia and Kazakhstan to steadily expand the Northern Distribution Network. From a U.S. military press release:
A KC-135 Stratotanker flew north until it started flying south, June 21 to 22 -- cutting a new pathway over the Arctic Circle and the North Pole between Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. It was the first time an Air Force air refueling tanker has ever flown this route.
The mission followed another historic flight that took place June 5 to 6 when a C-5M Super Galaxy traversed the Arctic Circle to fly the first direct delivery airlift mission from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
A 2009 U.S.-Russia transit agreement helped make the new arctic routes possible, according to U.S. Transportation Command. The KC-135 flight over the North Pole alone saved the Air Force approximately 4.5 hours and $54,000.
Wherever Kamchybek Tashiev goes, mischief seems to follow.
The prominent deputy from the nationalist Ata-Jurt party is widely considered a contender in presidential elections this fall. Now, a criminal suit that he calls politically motivated may test Tashiev’s presidential mettle. Will his crowds of supporters be deterred? Or does their loyalty have little to do with his public image?
Tashiev is charged with "premeditated infliction of significant damage to a person's health,” after allegedly beating up a deputy from his own party. Bakhadyr Suleimanov says he spent several days in a Bishkek hospital with a concussion after Tashiev attacked him late on March 31.
The head of Kyrgyzstan’s boxing federation, Tashiev denies he ever laid a finger on his party-mate. He also insists the charges, including hooliganism, are part of a government conspiracy "to prevent my participation in the presidential elections" scheduled for the fall, he told RFE/RL. Even so, Tashiev has gallantly waived his parliamentary immunity so the investigation can proceed.
In Kyrgyzstan, where memories of last June’s ethnic violence are still raw, children’s futures risk being entangled in a flourishing nationalist impulse. As the country attempts to move beyond the tragedy, some officials are increasingly calling for education solely in the state language, Kyrgyz. Such a move risks not only hurting the development of minority children, but Kyrgyz kids as well.
Language is a delicate element of education policy across Central Asia, where newly independent nations understandably want to embrace their ancestral tongues and explore their identities. Education in the “titular” language is an important aspect to nation building. But high-quality learning materials in the region’s languages are in short supply. Sometimes provoking resentment, Russian-language schools, with better access to textbooks and an older generation of Soviet-trained teachers, provide better education.
The region is full of minorities. They make up approximately 30 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s population. Studies show that children whose native language is not the language of school instruction need educational support in their mother tongue to fully develop literacy and writing skills in the language of instruction. Without such support, minority language students are at a significant disadvantage that can lead to dropout and limited employment opportunities later in life. In schools without alternative languages, though, kids from the majority are hurt, too, cut off from news, information, and professional development opportunities in languages other than Kyrgyz – languages such as the regional lingua franca, Russian.
Kyrgyzstan’s politicians don't like hearing their country compared to Africa. When international election consultants proposed dipping each voter’s thumb in temporary, indelible ink last year – to prevent multiple voting and ballot fraud – election officials dismissed the idea as “something they do in Africa.”
So the latest Failed States Index released on June 20 by The Fund for Peace, a Washington-based NGO, is sure to elicit some horror from the country’s criticism-averse leadership. Kyrgyzstan ranked the most unstable state in the former Soviet Union.
High in the “warning” category, Kyrgyzstan ranked 31 worldwide -- where 1 is the worst -- right alongside some of Africa’s most notorious basket cases, such as Sierra Leone. One of the countries that slipped most in this year’s study, Kyrgyzstan even scored worse than Tajikistan (39), a ranking certain to depress analysts who have been writing that country’s obituary for years.
The index ranks 177 countries based on political, economic and social factors that signal the risk of instability. Indicators include 12 broad categories such as Uneven Development, Group Grievances and Human Rights.
In 2009, Kyrgyzstan scored 42; in 2010, it slipped to 45. Back in 2005, the first year of the study, the country ranked 65.
Kyrgyzstan’s parliament has voted unanimously to ban the independent news website fergananews.com (formerly Ferghana.ru).
After weeks of heated debate over the causes of last summer’s ethnic violence, lawmakers cast votes on a resolution including the ban, and blaming Uzbek “separatist” leaders for organizing the clashes. Ninety-five approved; none opposed.
The resolution instructed the Ministry of Culture and Information, the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor General's Office “to take steps to block the site Ferghana.ru in the information space of the republic.”
Moscow-based Ferghana.ru – singled out for offering alternatives to the nationalist narrative that Uzbek separatists are to blame for the tragedy – has been blocked in Kyrgyzstan in the past, just before periods of intense political upheaval, such as immediately preceding the ousters of both Askar Akayev in 2005 and Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2010.
Editor Daniil Kislov called on authorities to act based on the law, not “emotional hostility.”
“It would be very sad to see post-revolutionary Kyrgyzstan on a par with other states that are Internet enemies,” Kislov said in a story on the website.
In the same article, the head of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, Dinara Oshurahunova, said the resolution was a violation of the law, as the legislature has no authority to determine guilt, which is the province of the courts. She also pointed out that the blocking of websites helped precipitate the events that led to Bakiyev’s bloody ouster last year.
International researchers and NGO workers in Kyrgyzstan are starting to wonder if their time is running out.
As Kyrgyzstan’s nationalism metastasizes, foreigners who have studied the ethnic bloodletting last summer – and offered recommendations for how to move the country beyond the threshold of more violence – are under increasing attack from local lawmakers and journalists. (Western commentators and other “outsiders” consider these accounts unbiased; many local politicians brand them pro-Uzbek.) Parliament has unanimously declared one prominent investigator persona non grata for reporting that more Uzbeks died than Kyrgyz.
It seems only a matter of time before the new authorities resurrect censorial former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s blacklist, and begin adding names.
Last week, Human Rights Watch released a damning report describing the widespread torture of Uzbeks since the violence. Police – who are overwhelmingly ethnic Kyrgyz – are rounding up Uzbeks and torturing them to extract confessions, HRW found. Almost no Kyrgyz have been prosecuted for the violence or the aftermath.
HRW and Amnesty – which released similar findings the same day – are Kyrgyzstan’s friends: They are warning that the injustices threaten to spark a new round of violence. Their profession is analyzing comparable situations around the world and they know when a spark can turn into a flame. But the local response is disheartening.
Kyrgyzstan’s Committee on National Security is denying a rumor it appears to have started a few weeks ago. It turns out Kyrgyz citizens aren’t traveling abroad en masse for terrorist training after all. But why is the GKNB -- the successor to the Soviet-era KGB -- toying with the tense country’s emotions like this?
GKNB Deputy Chairman Marat Imankulov now says reports that “over 300 Kyrgyz nationals” have joined international terrorist groups, presumably in Afghanistan and Pakistan, do “not square with reality,” the KyrTAG news agency reported.
“There is no need to talk about mass training of our nationals at militant camps," he said on June 9.
Where did that rumor come from? Six weeks ago, Imankulov’s boss, GKNB Chair Keneshbek Dushebayev said that 400 ethnic Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz nationals, that is) were plotting to unleash a wave of terror on the country from foreign training camps. That was an electric claim in Kyrgyzstan where Uzbeks, since last summer’s ethnic violence, are blamed for just about everything. Indeed, Dushebayev has tried repeatedly to link the ethnic violence last summer to Islamic radicals.
Dushebayev is rarely a convincing source, but this latest GKNB disagreement backtracks from a year of dodgy claims – namely, that terrorists are merely a few bullets or bombs from launching a revolutionary assault on the country. Such panic mongering is, though, great for drumming up support.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization may not have done much last summer when ethnic violence broke out in Kyrgyzstan, but it won't stand idly by again, the group's head says. Nikolai Bordyuzha, the CSTO's secretary general, said the group is monitoring the situation, according to Regnum.ru:
"We are monitoring the situation in Kyrgyzstan, we know that there are elements of aggravation," - he said.
However, according to Bordyuzha, the Kyrgyz government to take proactive measures, including the transfer of additional units. "If you will continue worsening, the Council of CSTO will take appropriate action. We are ready for any action and have adequate capacity," - said Bordyuzha.
But Kyrgyzstan -- lately quite sensitive about foreigners opining about their ethnic troubles -- has reacted angrily to the CSTO's statement. According to a different Regnum story, Bishkek's ombudsman, Tursunbek Akun, said "neither the CSTO nor any other organization has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Kyrgyzstan." And he said that the situation, anyway, was different now than it was last summer, when the government and its security forces were weak because of the recent change in government.
The CSTO has been lately talking up its willingness to intervene, saying also that just because it didn't get involved last year in Kyrgyzstan doesn't mean it wouldn't do so in Nagorno Karabakh if fighting broke out there. Does this mark the era of a new, more assertive CSTO? It'll be interesting to watch...
Mina Corp, the Pentagon fuel supplier once accused of being everything from a CIA front to the corrupter of Kyrgyz presidents and their sons, is attempting to become a model corporate citizen.
The company is granting $2.5 million to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA), a prestigious, cash-strapped institution catering to bright but often financially challenged students, mostly from Kyrgyzstan.
The money, according to a joint June 8 press release, will be used to create a one-year “bridging” program -- “The New Generation Academy” -- to annually prepare 70 talented high school graduates for a higher education.
In addition, Mina will “pay for 15 full scholarships, including room and board, for the Academy’s most able graduates in both 2013 and 2014 to study for a four-year degree at AUCA.”
Mina Corp doesn’t have many friends in Kyrgyzstan. But even the company’s critics admit $2.5 million earmarked for education is not an unwanted gesture, although some noted the sum is pocket change for Mina and its sister company Red Star Enterprises Ltd, who between them have sewn up hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel contracts at the Manas air base near Bishkek and Bagram air base in Afghanistan.
AUCA President Andrew Wachtel said at a press conference on June 8 that he was introduced to Mina Corp’s initiative in early 2011.
“We were looking for a reliable partner,” he said.