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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Uncertainties in Kyrgyzstan

The history has shown merciless trends of ethnic violence and for the parochial interests humanity has suffered a lot. An ethnic violence has a long-drawn history of mutual grievances. The sudden riots in Osh, an extension of Ferghana Valley, and Jalalabad had a long background mutual discomfort. The Ferghana Valley, where the violence occurred, is a tinderbox of ethnic conflicts. The borders of the three Central Asian states – Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – that converge in the fertile valley were arbitrarily drawn by Joseph Stalin more than 80 years ago.
Four days of rioting left an estimated 2,000 people dead and some 4,00,000 displaced, of whom about 1,00,000 fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan. Seventy per cent of the buildings in Osh, second largest city of Kyrgyzstan with a population of 2,50,000 people, were torched. The recent genesis of the ethnic violence can be traced back to the second “Tulip Revolution.” President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power as a reformer in the post-Soviet state, was overthrown and took refuge in Belarus under Alexander Lukashenko. Roza Otunbayeva has assumed as the interim leader of Kyrgyzstan. Many expected Moscow to respond with the same resolve to the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, where it has a military base; Kyrgyzstan is also its ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a defense bloc of seven former Soviet states, which also unites Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The clashes were the worst ethnic violence to hit impoverished Kyrgyzstan since it gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago.
Background: There are between 700,000 and 1,000,000 Uzbek residents in 5.5-million-strong Kyrgyzstan, but in the Ferghana Valley they form the dominant and fastest growing ethnic group, prompting Kyrgyz fears of a Kosovo-like situation. The growing disparities between the two ethnic groups have created a sense of deprivation. Kyrgyz residents resent the fact that their enterprising Uzbek compatriots dominate the local economy, while the Uzbek community complains of discrimination in official jobs and language rights. There is a deeper distinction that contributes to animosities: the Kyrgyz are traditional nomads, while the Uzbeks are farmers. Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the north mostly supported the interim government, while Kyrgyz in the south largely backed Bakiyev.
The recent causes of violence are not very certain but a number of theories are assumed and they may be enumerated as:
1.       The role of Bakiyev is seen as his political and family base is located in the conflict zone.
2.       During both the 2005 “Tulip Revolution” and the April 2010 events – which culminated in President Kurmanbek Bakiyev being driven out of the country – criminal groups took an active part in the change of government, providing detachments of storm troopers to the politicians.
3.       Russian role has been also seen as it was annoyed of the U.S. base at Manas airport near Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. It is to note that the US-led coalition in Afghanistan has used the Manas base since US military operations in Uzbekistan ended five years ago.
4.       The nascent stage of state formation, chronic problems of poverty and economic disarray, gross misgovernance, rampant corruption and cronyism, incessant clan struggle, weak regional integration processes, and so on have also contributed a lot to the sense of insecurity of the people.
5.       Both Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan suffer from the absence of any regional security architecture. There has been no regional initiative to address the Kyrgyz crisis. And the role of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is limited and far from effective in resolving the contentious issues.
6.       Besides that neither the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) nor the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) — in sum, neither Russia nor the U.S. — has shown willingness to depute peacekeeping forces to Kyrgyzstan despite the desperate cry from Bishkek for intervention by foreign forces to put down the violence.
7.       It is only through patient economic reconstruction that the roots of instability can be eliminated in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Whereas the Afghan economy was devastated by three decades of modern war, the Kyrgyz economy got derailed with the disintegration of the Soviet material supply system. In both the countries, the viable economic system has not created and as a result of this a lot of speculation and deviant tendencies use to cripple the law and order of the country. Kyrgyzstan’s vote for parliamentary form In order to resolve the on-going crisis the more than 90 per cent of Kyrgyz voters backed radical changes from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government. Basically four issues were involved in the referendum:
(a)    a new constitution, which would reduce the powers of the President and make Kyrgyzstan Central Asia’s first parliamentary republic;
(b)    The interim government. If endorsed, Roza Otunbayeva will remain interim President until December 31, 2011;
(c)    abolition of constitutional court, which the interim government claims was heavily influenced by allies of an ousted President; and
(d)    The constitutional court’s powers will now be transferred to the Supreme Court. The Constitution approved would devolve power from the President to Parliament. This will make Kyrgyzstan the first state in Central Asia with a parliamentary form of government. Kyrgyzstan will adopt the new political system this year itself after elections to Parliament are held within the next few months. Roza Otunbayeva, the interim President, called the referendum a success. Otunbayeva has said members of her interim government will continue to pass necessary legislation until October 2010, when voters elect a parliament.
Reactions: Russia: It has expressed doubts about the viability of the new political system. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed bewilderment at how a country ravaged by bloodletting and instability would transform itself into a democracy. Kyrgyzstan’s neighbors as well as China and the United States are afraid that the parliamentary republic will completely finish off the Kyrgyz state.  China: Chinese trade with Kyrgyzstan has been affected. China’s involvement in the crisis has far been limited to offering 5 million yuan ($732,000) worth of medicine, medical equipment, food, drinking water, blankets, and tents, while flying out almost 1,300 Chinese nationals from the battle-scarred city of Osh.
Impact of the violence: It holds out grave implications for regional security and India cannot remain impervious to them. Kyrgyzstan too is a land-locked country like Afghanistan that at once becomes highly susceptible to foreign interference. Further, the deepening crisis in Kyrgyzstan contains a mirror image of almost all the elements associated with the Afghan civil war. The international diplomacy over the issue of ethnic violence will have a direct impact on the politics of Afghanistan. India must be watchful under these circumstances and any major change in the power equation has a direct bearing on the stability of the region.

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