Turkmenistan: Berdymukhamedov Picks up New Gas Order, Police Training Grant in China
While the European Union was left still fretting over how much Turkmenistan was committed to the Trans-Caspian Pipeline, and while Russia was left fuming that Turkmenistan shouldn't be building a pipeline without its consent (and supposedly didn't have enough gas to fill it anyway), President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov waltzed off to Beijing last week and picked up an order for an additional 25 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas.
The generous purchase from the Chinese National Petroleum Company brings to 65 bcm the amount to be pumped annually from Turkmenistan to China with soft loans of more than $8 billion -- double the volume of gas originally announced when construction began on the pipeline in 2009.
Turkmenistan has had diplomatic relations for 20 years with China. "The Turkmen and Chinese peoples are united by the respect for rich and unique culture and traditions of their countries," said the official Turkmen government website -- in other words, Berdymukhamedov never has to hear about human rights from Chinese leaders. For its part, Ashgabat supports China's "one-state policy" and opposes Taiwan independence in any form.
The Turkmen leader met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders on November 23 to discuss expansion of trade relations. Hu proposed a five-point plan including "strengthening political trust with high-level exchanges" between the two countries' governments, legislatures and political parties (Turkmenistan has only one; China has the dominating Communist Party but eight other parties under its direction). The Chinese president also suggested the two countries should consult "on major issues of mutual concern"; increase cooperation in non-resource sectors such as transportation and telecommunications; and expand people-to-people cultural exchanges.
Turkmenistan and China should also increase collaboration on security and law enforcement; crack down on "the three forces" (i.e. extremism, separatism and terrorism) and transnational organized crime to maintain national and regional security; and more closely coordinate on international and regional affairs, said Hu.
A press statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry site said the two countries should "establish a long-term strategic partnership on energy cooperation: and boost collaboration on high technology and "should also step up their efforts in security and law enforcement cooperation to safeguard the implementation and operation of large-scale projects between the two countries." In other words, they need to guard the pipelines.
BBC Monitoring Central Asia reported a TV Altyn Asyr broadcast November 23 that a cooperation agreement was signed between the Turkmen Interior Ministry and the Public Security Ministry of China, and China will provide an interest-free grant for training Turkmen police officers in China.
It's interesting this grant was publicized, and it will also be interesting to see the results of Chinese police training -- and whether it conflicts with training from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations and the US, which have focused mainly on counter-narcotics programs and border control. Chinese engineers have helped Turkmenistan install filters in the Internet, even as OSCE trainers try to help reform the Turkmen media law.
Berdymukhamedov also picked up an honorary title of "professor" from Beijing University to add to his many other honorifics.