Central Asia is on the Move


President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov will pay a two-day official visit to Tajikistan on April 10. He will discuss with Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon the expansion of cooperation in the fields of transport and cargo transportation, the creation of industrial enterprises and the use of transport corridors of Turkmenistan. The heads of the two states will also discuss issues related to Afghanistan and preparations for the V, anniversary, Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia, which will be held on September 14-15 in Dushanbe.

On the eve of Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s visit, Dushanbe will host the first meeting of the Business Council, as well as a business forum of entrepreneurs from the two countries. A representative delegation with specific economic projects will arrive from Turkmenistan to participate in the event. The visit of the Turkmen president is expected to be a breakthrough.

“Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s forthcoming visit to Tajikistan is primarily intended to normalize relations between countries, even more relations between ruling clans, which is fundamental for the East, and finally turn the page on spoiled relations,” Serdar Aytakov, an expert on Central Asia, told NG.

Recall that the “history of damaged relations” began in 2013 with the signing of an agreement on the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan (TAT) railway. This initiative was taken by Emomali Rahmon to bypass Uzbekistan, whose first president, Islam Karimov, put Tajikistan under a transport blockade to prevent the construction of the Rogun hydropower plant. According to Karimov, the hydro facility could become a threat to the region’s water management complex. The railway should pass through Afghanistan, bypassing Uzbekistan from the south. Turkmenistan immediately began construction, bringing the highway to Afghanistan, where it began the construction of a logistics infrastructure.

After the death of Islam Karimov, the Tajik authorities abandoned this project. At the same time, as Aytakov noted, the refusal to participate in the project sounded insulting, especially considering the traditions of the East. In September 2018, the Ambassador of Tajikistan to Uzbekistan publicly announced the refusal to work on the TAT project, justifying this step by “warming relations between countries” (Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. – “NG”), implying a change in the policy vector of the new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev and the abolition of the actual transport blockade by Uzbekistan. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry expressed “perplexity” to the Tajik side, and all interstate relations entered a deep dive. It came to the actual ban on Tajik truckers to travel through the territory of Turkmenistan,

Bilateral relations began to emerge from the clinch in 2021, after the visit of Emomali Rahmon to Turkmenistan, but the issue of building the TAT was never resolved, which is why relations between the countries remained cool. And the visit itself, even under the status of a state visit, did not eliminate the problems,” Aytakov said.

Until Tajikistan and Turkmenistan regulate relations, the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborliness and Cooperation, which was concluded by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan following the IV Consultation Meeting in Cholpon-Ata in 2022, will not be signed. This unsettledness slows down the cooperation that Tashkent initiated in 2017 with the support of Astana. Today, the region has come into motion, not only political, but also economic. According to Bakhtiyor Ergashev, director of the Man’o Center for Research Initiatives, the countries of Central Asia are ready for dialogue and compromise, promote common initiatives, and find solutions to complex issues. In five years, the volume of mutual trade between them has increased by 50%. This testifies to the productivity of regional cooperation. “The practice of the past years has shown The document is under approval. In addition, the issue of creating a regional center for the development of transport and communication interconnectedness is being worked out. According to the expert, at the forthcoming summit in Dushanbe the “five” will also discuss this issue. The document is under approval. In addition, the issue of creating a regional center for the development of transport and communication interconnectedness is being worked out. According to the expert, at the forthcoming summit in Dushanbe the “five” will also discuss this issue.

The second, no less, and perhaps more important topic of the visit of the Turkmen president, according to expert Serdar Aytakov, is the coordination of positions before the landmark China-Central Asia summit in May, on which the Chinese side has high hopes, announcing a fundamentally new format relations, which will be formally proposed to the countries of the region and which is currently being intensively worked out in detail. “Perhaps, the normalization of relations between the countries was the result of the diplomatic efforts of the Chinese side, which attaches great importance to regional cooperation, which means that any confrontation in the region is contrary to its interests,” Aytakov believes.

According to him, China’s interests are quite definite. Until now, the issue of building line D of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline, which should also pass through Tajikistan, has not been finally resolved (for more details, see “NG” dated 15.01.23). Observers attribute this not only to the inconsistency in the terms of gas supplies to China between Turkmenistan proper and China, but also to the unresolved differences between Dushanbe and Ashgabat. Moreover, China has begun the practical implementation of a number of projects in neighboring Afghanistan. So, in the immediate vicinity of the border of Afghanistan with Turkmenistan, Chinese companies began to produce oil and build an oil refinery to saturate the domestic market of the northern provinces of Afghanistan with fuel and lubricants, where the construction of a large irrigation canal Kush-Tepa is currently underway, supplying water from the Amu Darya to the northern provinces of Afghanistan, Balkh, Faryab and Jauzdzhan, with the aim of large-scale development of territories for the needs of agriculture (see “NG” dated 03/26/23). “Given China’s interest in the minerals of Afghanistan, all its peacekeeping and mediation efforts in the region will be consistent, persistent and convincing,” Serdar Aytakov stressed.

Source: asiais