>>Photo raises questions of role of security chief>>
LONDON, Oct. 22 (The Conway Bulletin) – A visit by Uzbek security chief Rustam Inoyatov caused a stir. Not because a senior Uzbek official visited Beijing, such trips have become fairly commonplace over the past five years or so as China extends its influence in the region, but because of a photo from the meeting (Oct. 15).
At the meeting on Oct. 14, Mr Inoyatov is pictured shaking the hand of Meng Jianzhu, head of political and legal affairs of the Central Committee. This is effectively a ministerial position.
The photo showed a thick-set 70-year-old Mr Inoyatov with barely a fleck of grey in his hear.
It’s also the first publicly available picture of Mr Inoyatov for some years. Searches across the internet only yielded grainy or blurred shots.
The picture is symbolic. Mr Inoyatov has been accused of being behind the campaign to purge Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of President Islam Karimov, of power. This picture may represent him, literally, coming out of the shadows.
Another theory about the picture is that it shows that Mr Inoyatov and Mr Karimov are putting on a show of force to Russia and a warning that it should not try to destabilise elections planned for 2015.
The photo suggests that Uzbekistan and China have grown increasingly close and that Russia risks being left behind as a bystander.
This story was first published in issue 205 of the weekly Conway Bulletin newssheet which covers Central Asia and the South Caucasus