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.
The Pamir Mountains served as a natural boundary between two old empires – Chinese and Russian. Stretching for hundreds of miles, and reaching an elevation of 7,500 meters (24,000 feet), the Pamirs are so remote that, even in this era of globalization, few travelers ever reach this corner of the world.
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.
Turkmenistan sits upon around one-tenth of the world’s proven natural gas reserves. Tajikistan is so poverty-stricken that around half its adult male population is forced to travel abroad in search of work.
When China’s top diplomat visited Kyrgyzstan last month, he heard some bold proposals.
Why, Foreign Minister Wang Yi was asked by Kyrgyz economic officials during his visit to Bishkek on May 22, did Beijing not consider relocating 40 or so manufacturing operations from China to Kyrgyzstan?