Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 321 - (26/09/07)
A backwater turned pivot
Nobody had heard of Tajikistan before al-Qaeda and the fighting in Afghanistan.
It was in 'the back of beyond'. Actually it is in the centre of Central Asia
with frontiers with important regional states including China and Afghanistan.
Dushanbe flirted for a while with Washington in the aftermath of 9:11, 2001. It
allowed the US to use its territory to invade Afghanistan, albeit with the
crucial allegiance of the Northern Alliance, led by ethnic Tajiks. There was an
assassination of no small moment that took place on 9:9, 2001, that of the Tajik
Lion of the North, the Lord of the Panshirs, Shah Mahmoud, two days before that
great event. He was killed by two al Qaeda hit-men posing as Algerian
This made it certain that the Americans would intervene on the side of the
Northern Alliance in an ongoing civil war and that Tajikistan would be a vital
ally. It still is.
The Chinese card
But Beijing counts too, as does Astana.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon and top legislators in mid-September met He Luli,
vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC)
of China, for talks on ways of boosting bilateral ties and parliamentary
During a meeting with He, who was ending a three-day visit to the Central Asian
country on September 14th, Rakhmon said Tajikistan has been a steadfast
supporter of China's stand on the Taiwan question and its efforts toward
Tajikistan is ready to make further efforts to boost cooperation with China
within a bilateral framework, as well as multilateral frameworks including in
the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Rakhmon said.
Makhmadsaid Ubaidulloyev, speaker of the upper house of Tajikistan's Supreme
Assembly, and Sadullo Khairulloyev, speaker of its lower house, said during
separate meetings with He that parliamentary cooperation is an important
component of the bilateral relationship and the Tajik parliament is ready to
strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the NPC at different levels and in
He Luli was on a three-nation Central Asian tour. She had already visited
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
The Kazak neighbour
Kazakhstan has for years wanted to be the flagship country in Central Asia. It
now seems to be realizing that ambition, thanks to its massive oil revenues.
Tajikistan is a key country here.
Kazakh success is good news, indeed, for all its neighbours, with the exception
of arch-rival, Uzbekistan. With its vast hydrocarbon resources, Kazakhstan has
achieved nearly 10 percent annual economic growth in recent years, mostly due to
its oil industry. Rising oil revenues have also allowed Kazakh companies to
invest in neighbouring countries.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited both Turkmenistan and Tajikistan
in September, holding talks focused mostly on economic issues. The visits are
seen as the latest moves in Kazakhstan's increasing economic expansion in the
The great leap forward
In Dushanbe, Nazarbayev promised on September 13th to provide Tajikistan with
grain -- a timely offer for a country where prices for bread and flour have
risen sharply in recent weeks.
Nazarbayev and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, agreed to set up a joint
investment fund, with Kazakhstan providing 80 percent of the money. "We
agreed to establish a special investment fund of $100 million," Nazarbayev
said. "The Kazakh side will contribute its significant part. The fund will
work for the benefit of the Tajik economy. I believe it will be a good
Nazarbayev also said that Kazakhstan is ready to finance the construction of the
Nurobod hydroelectric power plant in northern Tajikistan.
Rahmon said Kazakh-Tajik trade has increased 57 percent in January-July 2007
compared to the same period last year, a formidable leap forward.
But it is not only officials in Astana who aim to develop economic ties with its
neighbours. Kazakh companies -- state-owned as well as private ones -- have
shown the interest and financial capacity to invest in neighbouring countries'
energy sectors, construction businesses, and general services. Luzynanin says
the political will of the authorities has coincided with the companies'
pragmatic interests at present.
Russia, China Also Look To Move In
Kazakhstan is not the only country expanding its economic presence in Central
Asia. Russia has had a strong economic position in its former "soft
underbelly." Russia is Tajikistan's biggest trade partner.
In recent years, China has also greatly strengthened its economic position in
the region. Many Central Asians have even expressed fears of China's
Will these developments produce a clash between the economic interests of Astana
and those of Moscow and Beijing in Central Asia?
As the gap deepens between the rich and poor in all Central Asian countries,
there are growing discrepancies between Kazakhstan, on the one hand, and poor
countries like Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan on the other. This makes
regional stability more vulnerable. Kazakhstan should help its neighbours by
investing not only in, let's say, the gas sector, but also by building
hospitals, schools, and roads.