- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Focus on Kyrgyzstan

The Central Asia republic of Kyrgyzstan achieved new recognition in Washington last week when a visiting official signed a seven-page document that sets forth "new long-term relations" with the United States.

And Nikolai Tanayev couldn't be happier.

Kyrgyzstan's first deputy prime minister told Embassy Row last week that his visit established the groundwork for cooperation between the two countries on combating terrorism, building Kyrgyzstan's economy and promoting democracy and human rights.

"This is the first document to lay the foundation for long-term cooperation with the United States," Mr. Tanayev said.

He signed for Kyrgyzstan, and A. Elizabeth Jones, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, signed for the United States.

The "Memorandum of Understanding" underscores the sudden importance of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia as a new outpost in the war on terrorism.

The United States is building an Air Force base for 3,000 personnel in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek. Washington also has basing agreements with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which provided airport facilities for the war in Afghanistan. The Bush administration is also discussing a similar arrangement with Kazakhstan.

Mr. Tanayev said his country "was quick to condemn the barbaric" terrorist attacks on the United States and is determined to help fight the spread of terrorism to Central Asia.

Kyrgyzstan is already worried about Islamic militants of a group called Hizbut Tahrir, which so far is only spreading underground propaganda.

"Their goal is to overthrow the government, cut relations with the West and create an Islamic state," Mr. Tanayev said.

Under the U.S.-Kyrgyz memorandum, the United States promised to provide "security assistance and economic and humanitarian aid in an amount to be determined."

Kyrgyzstan promised to "to continue to take demonstrable measures to strengthen the development of democratic institutions and to respect basic human and civil rights, among which are freedom of speech and of the media, freedom of association and public assembly, and freedom of religion."

The State Department has been critical of Kyrgyzstan's human rights record, calling it "poor in several key areas" such as press freedom, but has recognized its basic protection of religious liberty.

Mr. Tanayev, who came to Washington at the invitation of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, attended the National Prayer Breakfast and held talks with Mr. Powell, officials at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and leading members of Congress.


India's view

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, during his Washington visit last week, received overall praise from Bush administration officials and congressional leaders for his cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

But Pakistan's South Asian rival, India, is also claiming some diplomatic success in limiting the achievements of Gen. Musharraf during the visit.

A senior Indian diplomat who spoke to a group of Washington-based Indian journalists a day after the visit ended, said "overall," India is "pleased" that New Delhi's point of view was reflected in various meetings Gen. Musharraf had with administration officials, our correspondent Desikan Thirunarayanapuram reports.

The diplomat, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, cited Washington's rejection of Gen. Musharraf's request for mediation in talks on the Kashmir dispute, the general's failure to win the advanced fighters he sought and the "tough questions" he faced from congressional leaders.

The Indian official also said the general's credibility suffered a "dent" during the visit because U.S. officials and the media did not bite into his claim that India was preparing for another nuclear test and that New Delhi was behind the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The official said Gen. Musharraf's plan to dramatically produce Mr. Pearl on the eve of his visit to prop up Pakistan's image went awry, with the main suspect saying the reporter may be dead.

The Indian official conceded that Gen. Musharraf's visit was a public relations success and helped restore Pakistan's status to a respectable state.


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