Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 313 - (25/01/07)
Dushanbe hopes Niyazov death will not cause destabilisation
Tajikistan has one neighbour in turmoil, Afghanistan. It is now fearful of
having another, Turkmenistan.
Tajikistan hopes that the death of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on
December 21st will not precipitate a destabilisation or a dangerous civil
standoff in Turkmenistan, the leader of Tajikistan's lower house of parliament,
Abdulmadzhid Dostiyev, said.
"The main thing now is not to allow any forms of a standoff, to rely on the
wisdom of the people," he told ITAR-TASS on the same day. Dostiyev said
that the "situation in the whole region depends on the situation in
Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, which has experienced a five-year civil war, is
not indifferent to this."
It looks as if Dushanbe's wishes will be granted, at least immediately, but not
necessarily for good. A stable succession is in the process of happening in
Turkmenistan, a cousin of Niyazov, rumoured to be his natural son, taking over
in early February in an election that will hold no surprises. Gurbanguly
Berdymukhammedov - the former minister of health and vice premier, a dentist by
profession, is going to be the choice of the people, no doubt to the
satisfaction of Dostiyev and Iter-Tass.
A new post-Niyazov predicament?
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia went through a rollicking
period of shock therapy and kleptocracy that led to the resurgence of Russian
fortunes under President Vladimir Putin; the Baltics sprinted headlong toward
the West, reversing the winds of history as they went; and the Caucasus
descended into war.
Central Asia, in comparison, changed very little. The authoritarian political
and economic system of the Soviets was simply replaced by the authoritarian
political and economic system of the region's Soviet-era bosses who became the
first crop of presidents. Ultimately, this is why Niyazov's death is so
significant: That first crop of presidents has been the only crop of presidents.
Central Asia has largely been frozen since 1992.
True, there was a false start in the mid-1990s. Turkey and Iran attempted to
force their way in as the Russians retreated, and there was much talk of NATO or
China establishing a new security perimeter. Ultimately, however, distance and
despotism prevented the accrual of all but the smallest threads of influence by
outsiders. So Turkey focused on the Caucasus, Iran began to prepare for weakness
in Iraq, China obsessed over coastal development and NATO decided Central Asia
was just a bridge too far. The geopolitical free-for-all that marked the end of
the Soviet period in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus has yet to begin in Central
Or, more accurately, it had not until Turkmenbashi keeled over in the early
morning hours of Dec. 21st.
Most of the outside players now have options regarding Central Asia. Reeling
from Europe's cultural, political and economic rejection, Turkey needs a new
strategic vision to replace the quest for EU membership -- and here beckons
Central Asia. Iran is flushing ever deeper with success in Iraq and also has the
bandwidth for a new Central Asian vista. China is aiming to push its economic
miracle inland and needs both more resources and more security -- Central Asia
could provide both.
The Russians are reawakening, and are gazing at the familiar southern horizon
with the idea of empire in their minds. The West, while lacking the proximity to
be a major player, is still a dominant influence in terms of energy development,
and has bought for itself a place at the table.
On Dec 20th, all of Central Asia was in geopolitical stasis; on Dec. 21st
Turkmenistan was in play. And this time, the stakes are higher -- much higher.
Iran is busy enough right now in Iraq, whose southern Shi-ites Washington has
obligingly pushed into their lap. The mullahs in Tehran can hardly believe it.
But why should they not conquer Turkmenistan - with Tajikistan as the final
prize, a Persian country by language and culture. This might seem a fantasy at
the moment - but who knows what is round the corner?
President Emomali Rahmonov has ruled with all the techniques and skills the
world has come to expect from post-Soviet apparatchiks, but he rules at the
pleasure of a group of warlords delicately balancing power among themselves. Add
in zero economic future and a long border with Afghanistan and you have a
desperately poor country that has become a smugglers' haven. Afghan drug lords
regularly run the borders, often with the collaboration of a Russian border
force that is ostensibly there to prevent such activity. Since Tajiks are
ethnically Persian, the Iranians have succeeded in injecting a certain amount of
religiosity that is largely lacking in the other four Central Asian states.
But the real problem is simply the geography of the country. In order to
sabotage the futures of the Central Asian states, Josef Stalin redrew the maps
so the region's densest population centre, the Ferghana Valley, would be split
among three states. Tajikistan controls one access to the valley, but this chunk
of territory is on the wrong side of the mountains and is separated from the
rest of the country. All in all, Tajikistan is a state fractured by
Stalin-inspired ethnic and geographic fissures and involved in the one thing it
really does not need -- a tri-state territorial dispute.
Tajikistan to participate in creating regional drug-combating centre
Tajikistan will join the agreement on the creation of a Central Asian
regional information and coordination centre for combating illegal drug
trafficking. President Emomali Rahmonov of Tajikistan has signed a corresponding
resolution, Itar-Tass learnt at the Foreign Ministry of the republic on Tuesday.
According to representatives of the Tajik Foreign Ministry, the future centre
"is to become a powerful regional centre for coordinating the fight with
illegal drug trafficking and exchanging operational and analytical information
of law enforcement and secret services of the region's countries."
The centre is being created by the countries-participants in the
"Memorandum on Interaction" in the field of control over drugs. It was
signed by representatives of five countries of Central Asia and the U.N. Office
on Drugs and Crime in Tashkent in May 1996. In 1998, Russia and the Aga Khan
Fund for economic development, and then Azerbaijan joined it. The headquarters
of the centre is to be located in Almaty.
France to help rebuild airport in Tajikistan
France will offer a long-term loan of 17 million Euro and a seven million Euro
grant to Dushanbe for the reconstruction of its international airport, French
Defence Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, told a briefing for the press on
December 18, Interfax News Agency reported.
"We are very grateful to Tajikistan for ISAF access to air corridors and
the Dushanbe Airport," she said following a meeting with Tajik President,
Emomali Rahmonov. The minister made a stopover in Dushanbe on her way back from
Afghanistan. "Therefore, the French government has agreed to extend a loan
of 17 million Euro and donate seven million Euro for the reconstruction of the
Dushanbe airport terminal and repairs of taxiways," the minister said. The
ISAF France engineering team based in Dushanbe was expanded to 300 servicemen
and Mirage fighter jets were deployed at the airport this May. French engineers,
who provide technical support to the French contingent of the anti-terrorist
coalition in Afghanistan, were deployed at Dushanbe Airport when the Afghan
campaign started in 2001. Alliot-Marie said she also discussed regional
Gazprom gets gas, oil-prospecting licence in Tajikistan
Gazprom has been granted two licences by the government of Tajikistan for the
geological prospecting of natural gas and oil fields in the Central Asian
republic, the energy giant said on December 29th, RIA Novosti reported.
The licences were issued under a strategic cooperation agreement signed between
Gazprom and the Tajik government May 15, 2003. The Rengan gas field is located
20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the republic's capital, Dushanbe, with
probable natural gas reserves of 35 billion cubic metres. The Sargazon field is
based in the Dangarin district of the Khatlon region, 150 (90 miles) kilometres
southeast of Dushanbe, with probable gas reserves of 30 billion cubic metres. By
now, 12 oil and gas fields have been discovered in Tajikistan, of which two gas
and five oil deposits are being developed. The republic needs over 1.2 billion
cubic metres of natural gas a year. In 2005, Tajikistan produced 29.4 million
cubic metres of gas.
Dushanbe, Karachi to boost trade links
Ambassador of Tajikistan, Said beg Saidbeg Saidov, and the Minister for Kashmir
Affairs and Northern Areas, Major Tahir Iqbal, said strong cultural and social
relations exist between Pakistan and Tajikistan, New Europe reported.
They added that the relations between the two countries should be strengthened
to enhance cooperation in the fields of trade and commerce. The meeting was held
to discuss arrangements for the International Shah Hamdan Conference that will
be jointly organised by Tajikistan and Pakistan this year as the great Sufi
Scholar Shah Hamdan is equally famous for his spiritual influence in both the
Speaking on the occasion, Iqbal said such intellectual events should be
organised with vigour and spirit as these are essential for forging unity among
the Muslim Ummah and disseminating the message of peace and fraternity. Iqbal
further added that one international conference should be held either in
Pakistan or Tajikistan instead of separate events, where scholars and spiritual
leaders get the opportunity to discuss and spread teachings and thoughts of the
great Sufi saint for the benefit of the masses. The minister agreed to provide
maximum support for the international conference and the national conferences to
be held in Khalplv and Muzaffarabad. He added that most of the spiritual loaders
who spread the message of Islam in the Sub-continent have their roots in Central
Asia that is why Pakistani society bears close resemblance to the Socio-cultural
set-up in these countries. The ambassador reciprocated the minister's goodwill
and urged the two countries should not only work together for promoting peace,
cultural and religious harmony, but also collaborate in the fields of trade and
business. Mehdi briefed the minister about activities of international Shah
Hamdan Association and requested him to continue patronizing its activities
specifically for popularising Shah Hamdan's exemplary spiritual and intellectual