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Press review: What sparked the Tajik-Kyrgyz conflict and China beating India in S. Asia

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, April 30

Media: Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan engage in battle over water

A conflict over a disputed water distribution facility on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which broke out on the morning of April 29, quickly moved from stone throwing clashes between civilians to gunfights involving border guards and government forces, Vedomosti writes.

According to Stas Pritchin, an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relations, there are no external reasons for a violent conflict between the two Central Asian countries at the moment, but Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have had a long history of border disputes as both have enclaves on each other's territory. However, even when the authorities show some willpower to resolve border conflicts, local communities and criminal groups are not always willing to do the same, the expert added.

Expert on Central Asia Alexander Knyazev, in turn, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the border issue had long been neglected, particularly as far as Kyrgyzstan is concerned, because frequent changes of government forced the country to start solving its problems from scratch.

"On the whole, neither Kyrgyzstan nor Tajikistan is ready to address the border issues. Border regions in both countries are socially and economically depressed. The Fergana Valley lacks agricultural resources - land and especially water. This is why land and water have become the main cause of all conflicts," the expert noted.

"Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, aggressive nationalist sentiment has been increasing among locals both in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The young generation was brought up in an atmosphere of aggression against their neighbors. That’s why even if the parties try to employ civilized methods to solve the problem, it won’t work in the foreseeable future. Long and painstaking work needs to be done," Knyazev pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Beijing about to win South Asia over from New Delhi

The coronavirus wave from India has reached other countries on the subcontinent. India planned to prove its status as a major global vaccine producer in March by providing inoculations to neighboring nations. However, the infection spread so fast that India had to suspend vaccine exports and even rely on foreign assistance itself. China acted quickly to take advantage of the situation, offering help and resources to countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Analysts say that the tragic coronavirus situation in India has provided China with an advantage in its competition with New Delhi. China is delivering increasingly heavy blows and India has to defend itself. And since New Delhi has stopped exporting vaccines, its neighbors now have doubts about whether they should rely on India, Fellow at New Delhi’s Centre for Social and Economic Progress Constantino Xavier pointed out.

"Competition between vaccines is unfortunately inevitable, and it doesn’t matter if they are Russian, American or Chinese," said Boris Volkhonsky, an associate professor at Moscow State University’s Institute of Asian and African Studies. "However, the political standoff between India and China is a different issue. Pakistan aside, China has been strengthening its influence in all South Asian countries, particularly in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh and Myanmar remain a field for competition. China will continue using all means in order to expand its presence in the region based on its Belt and Road strategy," the analyst noted.

"The current spike in coronavirus cases in India will pass, and India will handle the trouble. However, China’s strategy is a long-term one and it won’t change," the expert emphasized.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: What are the consequences for Biden’s delay in troop pullout from Afghanistan

The special envoys of the extended "Troika" on Afghanistan - Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan - will meet in Qatar on April 30 to discuss ways to revive the Afghan peace process. The US administration’s decision to slow down troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in breach of the deadline set by a deal with the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) has led to concerns that militants will step up hostilities, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The Intra-Afghan dialogue has stalled recently following the United States’ refusal to pull out troops by May 1. The Pentagon will only begin the process next month, according to US President Joe Biden’s statements. He has vowed that the US will leave Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.

Meanwhile, the Taliban view the delay in the troop pullout as a violation of the agreements that their political office had managed to reach with the Trump administration. The Taliban noted that the US refusal to implement the initial agreements by May would waive the obligations that the movement took upon itself under the peace accords.

Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Oriental Studies Omar Nessar pointed out that the Americans had made it clear to the Taliban that the militants had failed to live up to all the commitments made under the Qatar agreements.

"The Taliban are unlikely to take any serious action against American troops. However, they won’t completely abandon violence," the expert stressed. That said, the Afghan government’s security forces are soon going to go through hard times, he concluded.


Media: With Navalny's network dissolved, what awaits blogger’s supporters

The designation of Alexey Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) as an extremist organization will put an end to its activities in Russia. Coordinator of the so-called Navalny Headquarters network Leonid Volkov has announced its dissolution and the end of its funding in order to avoid criminal prosecution, said experts interviewed by Izvestia.

Political organizations established with the goal of raising money often times abandon their ideas as soon as they lose funding, member of an expert council under the State Duma’s committees Nikolai Kalmykov pointed out. According to him, when an organization has neither creative ideas nor specific proposals for various audiences and is only based on money and a couple of populist slogans, it can fall apart easily.

There are two options for Navalny’s organization: either try to create another brand (which Volkov has rejected as impossible) or go underground, Minchenko Consulting President Yevgeny Minchenko noted. "Both options will reduce the efficiency of their work. As for protest activities, there will be serious difficulties because participating in events arranged by an extremist organization is a completely different ballgame," he explained.

However, political analyst Pavel Salin told Kommersant that it would be hard to eliminate Navalny’s organization completely because 70-80% of its activities were in the information field. "The work of activists will be suspended for several months but it won’t end. Some kind of a transformation will take place and I think that it will become clear once the State Duma election rolls around," the expert said.

According to political analyst Gleb Kuznetsov, Navalny's regional network won’t act in the same manner as before. In his view, its leaders have made it clear that they are reluctant to fight for their people." "They are willing to fight for just one person who is at the center of it all. For them, the others are only tools that are no longer effective," the expert noted. The activists’ fate is now in their own hands, Kuznetsov said, adding: "Some of them will perhaps return to legitimate politics, while others will ditch it forever."


Izvestia: Putin’s meetings with foreign businessmen help restore trust

Russia will continue to provide support to French businessmen and investors, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with members of France’s business community. He also pointed out that European companies were taking part in the Nord Stream 2 project, which had attracted attempts at unfair competition. Russian lawmakers believe that such meetings prove Moscow’s willingness to cooperate despite the West’s unfriendly actions, Izvestia writes.

These meetings contribute to restoring trust and help overcome sanctions, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Dmitry Novikov stressed. "We do see that big business has a serious impact on politics. Even in the Soviet era, economic cooperation was supported and fostered despite major ideological divisions. Today, efforts to boost economic ties have come under the pressure of sanctions," the lawmaker pointed out.

Putin’s actions point to Russia’s willingness to cooperate, Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee member Vadim Dengin noted. "Russia has always been known for its cordiality. This is a signal not only for the Europeans but for the Americans as well. We don’t seek to raise tensions, we are easing them once again," he added.

Another committee member, Andrei Klimov, shares the same opinion. "The president has said that we don’t burn bridges, our doors are open. As an experienced politician, he understands perfectly well that all the propaganda scaremongering is aimed at isolating us. We don’t buy into that and continue to boost mutually beneficial ties with NATO and EU countries," the senator emphasized.


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