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Update No: 283 - (26/07/04)

The Tajik case; Russia gets its way
An important meeting took place on June 4th between the presidents of Russia and Tajikistan. The result is a new twist in the Central Asian 'Great Game' being played between Russia and the US. 
It looks as if US influence is waning in Tajikistan. Tajik president, Immomali Rakhmonov, is disenchanted with US policy in Central Asia. The US has not stabilised Afghanistan, nor has it sent the aid to Tajikistan it promised for its steadfast support against the Taliban in the post-9:11 war against terrorism. Washington is obviously distracted by what is going on in Iraq.
In exchange for Russia's decision to write off $300m in debt, Tajikistan has given Russia the rights to the Nurek space-surveillance station, one of the most advanced in the former Soviet bloc. 
Putin may have used the threat of returning Tajiks in Russia back home, a real concern for Rakhmonov since many Tajiks are dependent on remittances from Russia to survive. The Russians could make a lot of trouble ahead of parliamentary elections in 2005 and a presidential one in 2006.
Rakhmonov has learnt his lesson. The Americans are glamorous, but remote, an alternative, yet feckless and fickle. The Russians are the big boys on the block!

US geopolitical position takes hit in Tajikistan
The US geopolitical position in Tajikistan has gone from bad to worse in recent weeks. Russia appears to have succeeded in achieving a long-held goal of establishing a permanent military base in Tajikistan, while China has bolstered its strategic presence with the opening of a Khorog-Kashgar road link. At the same time, there are signs that Tajik scepticism over strategic cooperation with the United States is growing. 
Immediately following the September 11 terrorist tragedy, the United States significantly enhanced its geopolitical profile in Central Asia, establishing military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Though American forces were never stationed in Tajikistan, Rakhmonov welcomed the rapid expansion of ties with the United States, prompting widespread speculation that Dushanbe one day might turn its back on Russia and rely on Washington to be the country's primary supplier of security assistance. In a stunning turn of events, however, Russia and Tajikistan struck a deal in early June at a summit at the Russian resort of Sochi that preserved Moscow's economic and political primacy. 
Tajik political experts say a muddled and contradictory policy pursued by the Bush administration played a significant role in pushing Tajik President Rakhmonov back into Russia's embrace. "US President George W. Bush is not as clever as Russian President Vladimir Putin in turning the United States into a 'trusted friend' of Tajikistan," political analyst Fakhriddin Kholbek wrote in the Ruz-i-Nav newspaper July 8. "That is why it [the United States] is being regarded as an 'outsider.'" 
In late June, Russia followed up on its Sochi success by reaching tentative deals concerning responsibility for border control and the establishment of a permanent Russian base. According to a Tajik radio report, Putin is expected to visit Dushanbe in the autumn to sign a treaty giving Russia a permanent base in Tajikistan. The pact would formalize an arrangement that has existed since the Soviet collapse, under which Russia, in the form of the 201st Motorized Rifle Brigade, has maintained a military presence in the country. 
Under the tentative border patrol agreement, Russia stands to transfer in stages full authority for frontier security to Tajik forces. An official at the Tajik State Border Protection Committee, Nuriddin Amirgulov, said four preliminary agreements were signed during bilateral meetings June 29-30. Under the agreements, Tajik border troops would assume responsibility for patrolling the eastern Badakhshan region this autumn. The transfer is envisioned to be completed by 2006, when Russian border forces would vacate border posts in the Pyanj region, along the Tajik-Afghan border. The final pact on the border control issue could be ready for signing in late August, Tajik border officials said. 
The announcement of the Tajik-Russian agreements came shortly after China heralded the opening of its first road link between Tajikistan and the Chinese province of Xinjiang. The first bus, carrying 26 passengers, arrived June 27 in Khorog, the capital of Tajikistan's Badakhshan Region, after making the treacherous 700-kilometer trip from the Chinese city of Kashgar, through mountainous terrain, in about 24 hours. The bus then continued on to Dushanbe, arriving almost two days later. 
The road route is expected to promote a significant expansion in trade between Tajikistan and China over the medium- to long-term. At present the route is in poor condition and has no service infrastructure whatsoever, according to a Tajik radio report. In addition, winter weather can be expected to keep the road route closed from every late October until May. 
Nevertheless, both Tajik and Chinese officials have high hopes that the route will emerge as an important conduit for economic activity. Tajik officials also say that the opening of the new route could create jobs in Badakhshan, which is considered the most impoverished region of Tajikistan, which itself ranks among the world's poorest countries. 
For China, the Khorog-Kashgar link represents an attempt to boost the share of Chinese goods in the Central Asian market. Many Tajik political experts note that China is aggressively promoting trade as a way to extend Beijing's geopolitical influence in the Central Asia. Indeed, some experts say the focus of the new route is not Tajikistan, but Uzbekistan, which is widely viewed in Beijing as Central Asia's key regional player. Chinese President Hu Jintao held talks with Uzbek leader Islam Karimov in Tashkent in June. The two signed several cooperation agreements to promote trade and increase strategic cooperation. 
As Tajikistan has strengthened its ties with both Russia and China, the appeal of strategic cooperation with the United States appears to be fading. In Dushanbe, political leaders have questions about the US willingness to follow through on its commitments, some Tajik commentators suggest. Others add that the United States has sent contradictory signals concerning the democratisation process, serving to undermine Washington's influence. 
In general, the United States since September 11 has placed greater emphasis on security in Central Asia than on the democratization process. Accordingly, Washington has tended to steadfastly support incumbent leaders in the region. Nevertheless, the Rakhmonov administration, which is preparing for parliamentary elections in 2005, has at times been miffed by the willingness of US officials to engage opposition leaders - even if such dialogue is mostly pro forma. "The United States has made both the Tajik government and opposition sceptical," said Kholbek, the Tajik political commentator. "Both the government and the opposition do not know whose side the United States is on." This of course reflects the unfamiliarity of the democratic process in this former Soviet backwater.

Dunshanbe resumes power energy supplies to Afghan regions
Tajikistan recently resumed supplies of electric power to Afghanistan's northern province of Badakhshan. The resumption became possible after Tajik specialists restored the electric power transmission line destroyed in the course of fighting in Afghan territory. Fifty thousand kilowatt/hours of electrical energy is supplied to the Nusai locality.
After the completion of construction of the Pamir-1 hydropower station, Tajikistan plans to provide electric power to the entire Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, which is the most difficult of access region of the neighbouring country. Two years ago, Tajikistan supplied electric power to Kunduz province.

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Rao YsEs Rossy gears up to build Sangtuda power plant

RAO YeES Rossy intends to join a consortium to construct Sangtuda hydroelectric power station in Tajikistan, New Europe reported recently.
The decision was announced following the meeting of Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov with the head the RAO YeES Rossy (Russia's Unified Energy Systems) board, Anatoly Chubais. According to Asia Plus News Agency, Chubais said the Russian side was also interested in a tripartite cooperation between Russia, Iran and Tajikistan for the implementation of the project to complete the construction of the Sangtuda hydropower station.
Chubais also visited the sites of Sangtuda and Roghun power plants. He noted that he arrived in Tajikistan on the instruction of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who after his recent meeting with President Emomali Rahmonov in Sochi had charged the joint stock company Russia's Unified Energy Systems to enter into development of the hydraulic power sector in Tajikistan.
"President Rahmonov seconded my proposal on holding of a joint tripartite meeting of Russian, Tajik and Iranian sides here, in Dushanbe, which may possibly be held in a month," the RAO YeES Rossy chief said. According to him, the meeting is due to discuss principles of participation of each of the sides in the project to complete the construction of the Sangtuda hydropower station.
"The project for construction of the Sangtuda hydroelectric power station is interesting for us and we have financed and prepared the preliminary feasibility study on the proposal for participating in completion of the construction of it," Chubais was quoted as saying by Asia Plus. He added, "Proceeding from results of the feasibility study, experts estimate that together with US$120m that have already been invested, a further US$350-520m of investments are necessary to finish the construction of the Sangtuda plant."
As far as the Roghun hydroelectric power station is concerned, the volume of investments in this project will be even more, according to Chubais. He noted that the cost of putting two hydroelectric power stations into operation would come to hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Japan grants 6 social, health contracts to Tajikistan

The government of Japan awarded further grants to Tajikistan for implementing social and health projects. Six grant contracts for a total amount of US$431,000 have been signed in Dushanbe.
The grants are awarded under the grant assistance for grassroots projects of the government of Japan, local media reported. Since the Japanese embassy opened in Dushanbe in January 2002, it has supported 130 grassroots projects for the total amount of US$6.636m, Asia-Plus reported recently.
A total of US$62,873 was awarded to road-building Unit 9 in the Tajik northern city of Istaravshan for repair of five bridge in Istaravshan district. The Interaction and Cooperation Public Association has received US$78,420 for implementing the project aimed at providing a hospital in Tojikobod district with medical equipment.
Besides, the international organisation CARITAS has received US$79,907 for reconstruction of lavatories in five schools in Dushanbe. Overall, US$79,910 has been allotted for carrying out major repairs in the Dushanbe-based hospital for infectious diseases.
Sixty-five schools have received US$60,935 for purchasing school equipment, and a grant of US$78,874 has been awarded to the women's centre "Rafoqat" for implementing "Dushanbe Women's Resource Centre Support" project.

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Dushanbe upgrades water resources management

The World Bank (WB) recently approved the Community Agriculture and Watershed Management Project for the Republic of Tajikistan for a total project cost of US$19.79m equivalent, a news release issued by the WB Dushanbe Office informed.
As cited by Asia-Plus local news agency, the project is funded by International Development Association (IDA) credit SDR 3.4m (US$5.0m equivalent), IDA granted SDR 3.9m (US$5.8m equivalent) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) grant of US$4.5m.
The project will help rural communities in Surkhob (Rasht Valley in eastern Tajikistan), Zarafshon (Zarafshon Valley in the Tajik northern Sughd Province) and Tohirsu (Khatlon Province) watersheds to raise agricultural productivity and prime the rural economy while curtailing degradation of fragile areas.
"The project will protect globally significant mountain ecosystems by mainstreaming sustainable land use and bio diversity conservation within agricultural and rural investment decisions.
"This approach will provide replicable models for comparable areas throughout the country," the WB regional office's statement said, cited by Asia Plus.
The Project's goals are in introducing sustainable land management practices to the mountain population to increase productivity of land while reducing erosion problems related to poor land use, building up the capacity of local populations and helping them identify and implement project activities, and supporting the government's capacity to provide local communities with technical advice and develop its role as facilitator and supporter of local initiatives.
Most of the GEF resources will be provided to beneficiaries via grants to undertake agricultural development activities to improve productivity while ensuring sustainable land use. Specific activities include contour planting, low-till or no-till cultivation techniques, introduction of organised grazing rotations, and rehabilitation of wooded areas and of local bio diversity.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a mechanism for providing new and additional grant and concessional funding to meet the agreed incremental costs of measures to achieve agreed global environmental benefits in the four focal areas - Climate change; Biological diversity; International waters; and Ozone layer depletion.

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