The region of Central Asia has become a priority direction of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. It was to the countries of this region that the President of Azerbaijan visited the most in the last year and a half, not to mention meetings with the leaders of the region in various formats in other countries.
These days, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited Tajikistan, and on April 10 he plans to visit Kazakhstan. However, if Azerbaijan is connected with Kazakhstan by many joint economic projects and a common maritime border, then with Tajikistan everything looks different.
“This visit is very consistent and natural. We do not know this region well enough and do not really understand the processes developing in it. In general, our research base in this region is very weak. Therefore, we have many stereotypes associated with this region, in particular with Tajikistan. And when such visits take place, we are surprised because we do not have enough information,” political scientist Ilgar Velizade told Minval.az .
The analyst added that in the last year and a half, Azerbaijan has stepped up its policy in the Central Asian direction.
“There is a fairly objective explanation for this. I, as a person who often visits this region, understand how huge unrealized military-political, economic and social potential Azerbaijan has in developing with this region,” he added.
According to the analyst, now a more stable regional decision-making format is being formed in Central Asia, and our interaction with the Central Asian region is our resource.
“Not a single country in our region has such relations that Azerbaijan currently has with the countries of Central Asia. Even Turkey, which is traditionally strong in this region, does not have such special relations as Azerbaijan has with these states. We at least speak the same language with all the leaders of these states. For a year and a half, the President of Azerbaijan visited all the countries of Central Asia. Moreover, most of these visits were state visits, and a number of agreements on economic, political and cultural interactions were signed during all of them. To a large extent, our relations with the countries of the region developed within the framework of the UTC. The only country that fell out of this format was Tajikistan. In order to complete this puzzle, this visit was very important,” he added.
The expert added that now in the region itself, the countries are actively working in the Central Asian format of interaction. Tajikistan also prevails there.
“There is a 5 + 1 format (Central Asia + Russia, China, EU, USA) – all this suggests that the Central Asian format does not work without Tajikistan. All politicians and experts in private messages speak about the importance of the Central Asian format. Many issues related to security in Central Asia close in Tajikistan,” the expert believes.
The analyst believes that it is impossible to solve security issues in this region without Tajikistan.
“Because this is the border with Afghanistan, and if security in Tajikistan is closed, then the entire region will be covered by a destructive element. All terrorist organizations consider Tajikistan as a “gateway” to Central Asia, and not Turkmenistan at all. Therefore, for all Central Asian countries, even for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan is a very important partner. For us, this country is also important. We cannot build relations with the Turkic countries without taking into account the factor of Tajikistan. If all the countries of the region give preference to this country in matters of security, then we also need to build relations with this state. Of course, this is not such an important country for us as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but as far as interaction with the region is concerned, we cannot do without Tajikistan,” he stressed.
According to Velizade, among other things, this country is a member of the CSTO, it stops the processes that may come from the CSTO towards Azerbaijan. In addition, this country is very rich in mountain minerals.
“Now I understand that Azerbaijan wants to invest in different sectors of different countries. In this regard, Tajikistan offers some areas, mining, for example, where we could participate as investors. They have a lot of minerals, few investors, because the Western ones are reluctant to go to such countries, and China sets extortionate conditions,” he added.
Speaking about the Iranian factor, the expert said that few people know that a few years ago Tajikistan had very tense relations with Iran.
“There was a conflict and Tajikistan even recalled its ambassador. Iran tried to introduce its proxy forces there, to use its economic leverage. Under such conditions, Emomali Rahmon abruptly stopped these attempts. This region is closed on all sides. Russia from the north, China from the east, Iran and India from the south – and in such conditions Azerbaijan wants to use its advantageous positions in the region,” he concluded.