Three of Central Asia’s republics, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, border Afghanistan along a frontier agreed to by Russia and Britain during the late 19th century. The border deal was an outcome of the so-called Great Game.
Imagine if the Olympic Games were held in Genghis Khan’s day – with fields full of galloping archers, competitive birds of prey, horse races and wrestling, and of course, horsemen clashing over a goat carcass. Now add selfie sticks and shuttle buses – and you’ve got what the World Nomad Games were like.
While attention in Central Asia in late August was fixated on the looming leadership transition in Uzbekistan, another event with even greater potential to reshape the region occurred in Kyrgyzstan: an apparent suicide bomber attacked the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, killing himself and wounding at least three others.
The Taliban organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan are undergoing unprecedented divisions that pose both new opportunities and challenges for the two neighbors battling insurgencies. Leadership disagreements and factional infighting have raised the specter of a far-reaching realignment among Taliban factions.
While Turkey remains Azerbaijan’s chief strategic partner, officials in Baku are taking steps to upgrade relations with Pakistan. The diplomatic push is part of Baku’s plan to bolster its hand in its dealings over the future of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In early June, a newspaper in Pakistan announced the Asian Development Bank would withdraw from a much-anticipated energy transmission project that aims to connect Central and South Asia. The report stated that security fears in Afghanistan were prompting the ADB to drop its 40 percent interest in the project.
Last week, Turkmenistan’s president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, gathered regional leaders in his marble capital ostensibly to mark Navruz, the Persian New Year. But he seemed more interested in talking gas and transportation deals than jumping over any fires, as Zoroastrian tradition instructs.
The United States is facing some interesting diplomatic choices in South Asia. Washington is no doubt cheered by Turkmenistan’s recent commitment to ship natural gas via Afghanistan to India and Pakistan.