On May 16 Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev met a senior Russian military delegation led by Army General Vladimir Isakov, the Russian deputy defense minister and head of the Rear Services. The Kyrgyz were keen to highlight that this was the highest Russian military delegation to visit Bishkek during the past 15 years. The content of the discussions, centering on ways that the Russian armed forces could benefit from closer cooperation with Bishkek, appeared restricted to accessing Kyrgyz agricultural produce and supplying fabrics.
Isakov explained that the Russian side is interested in purchasing dried fruit and canned beans to enhance the quality of rations in the Russian army. Moreover, recognizing that fabrics purchased in Kyrgyzstan would be more cost effective than procuring materials inside Russia, the Russian side wanted to explore the potential for concluding agreements in these areas in the near future. Isakov confirmed that the Russian army currently needs many types of foodstuffs, and wants to find cheaper ways of sewing uniforms, mattresses, and pillows. Atambayev instructed the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Management, and Processing Industries to produce price lists and define exactly what Bishkek will be able to supply to the Russian armed forces. Another meeting aimed at discussing and organizing the future supply of Kyrgyz foodstuffs to the Russian army has been scheduled for July 2007 (Akipress, Kyrgyz Television 1, May 16).
It was an unusually high-ranking delegation sent to Bishkek to essentially carry out negotiations on the minutiae of the requirements of the Russian army. However, the meeting itself conveyed a sense that Moscow wants to reassure Bishkek that the existing military cooperation between the two countries is considered two-way; Russian military officials see tangible, if small, ways of gaining possible help from Bishkek. The apparent excitement of the Kyrgyz government relating to this visit, and the opportunities presented by Moscow, indicate a near subservient relationship in terms of the security dynamics: Russia is offering no new initiatives to help promote Kyrgyz security.
However, other countries are reaching out to Bishkek. On May 16 the leadership of the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops received a delegation from the U.S. Montana State National Guard headed by General Randall Moseley. “We have similar tasks — to ensure internal security. We have certain experience in fighting terrorism. That is why our cooperation and collaboration [in training mountain specialists and rescuers] must be directed at raising combat readiness and professionalism of the servicemen of the Kyrgyz Internal Troops and the U.S. Montana State National Guard, in particular, of task force subdivisions,” Moseley explained. These developments demonstrate the focus of U.S. planning staffs on helping further the capabilities of the security agencies within Kyrgyzstan, thereby expanding the anti-terrorist options at the disposal of the Kyrgyz government (Kyrgyz Television 1, May 16).
Similarly, Bishkek is opening a dialogue with Pakistan, aimed at building stronger security linkages, as well as facilitating economic ties. On May 17 a Pakistani parliamentary delegation discussed the possible export of electricity during a meeting in Bishkek with Kyrgyz state secretary Adaham Madumarov. Attiya Inayatullah, the head of the Pakistani delegation, made clear the difficulties faced by both countries, especially in political stability and ensuring future economic growth. She identified the priority areas in bilateral cooperation as being the power-engineering and transport sectors, and she also attached importance to fighting international terrorism. The Kyrgyz officials indicated strong interest in fostering cooperation in these areas, and noted the potential for anti-terrorist cooperation to include the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a multilateral component. (Kyrgyz Television 1, May 17).
Atambayev confirmed that Kyrgyzstan is “planning to build several hydroelectric power stations and wants to cooperate with Pakistan in this field.” Atambayev signaled Bishkek’s willingness to open the SCO to greater involvement for Pakistan, “We hope Pakistan will be represented at the highest level at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which will be held in Bishkek on August 16, 2007,” he commented. He also mooted the idea that the UN Security Council needs to expand the number of members to include greater representation for Muslim states (24.kg, May 17).
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf attaches great significance to cooperation with Kyrgyzstan. Islamabad’s interest in bilateral relations with Kyrgyzstan dates back to the Tulip Revolution in March 2005, and Inayatullah pointed out that the parliamentary delegation included representation from all of Pakistan’s regions and parties. Pakistan now appears clearly interested in boosting its cooperation with Kyrgyzstan within the framework of the SCO. Pakistan intends to be represented by a large delegation at the forthcoming SCO summit (Khabar, May 17).
Bakiyev’s government remains strongly committed to its security relations with Russia, while keeping the window open for help from the United States in such a way as to avoid raising alarm in Moscow. Russia, in turn, regards Bishkek as a reliable partner within the region through which it can promote its own security agenda. However, within the Kyrgyz government there are signs that relations with other Muslim states, such as Pakistan, could strengthen Kyrgyz security agencies. Meanwhile Musharraf, by expressing interest in boosting Pakistan’s involvement with the SCO and cooperation with Bishkek, is demonstrating his credentials as a player in Central Asia.