Iran to defeat rivaling interests in Tajikistan

Iran to defeat rivaling interests in Tajikistan

Head of the Trend Persian Service Dalga Khatinoglu

The economic and political interdependence between the two Persian-language nations - Iran and Tajikistan, with $200 million worth trade turnover is not as vital as the matter of sink or swim, but significantly important for both them.

Five mutual trips of Iranian and Tajik presidents over the recent two years demonstrate the significance of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi in a meeting with his Tajik counterpart Hamrokhon Zarifi on the sidelines of Istanbul Conference on Wednesday stressed importance of finalizing joint economic projects.

Tajikistan is one of the most vulnerable economies in Central Asia, as it is not as energy-rich as other countries in the Central Asia, the International Monetary Fund said in April.

This fact is enough for encouraging any international super power to get a firm footing here.

For instance, during independence Tajikistan's goods turnover with China increased roughly by 15 times to $1 billion in 2010.

Now Iran is the second investor in Tajikistan following China, whereas the mutual trade between Russia and Tajikistan grew by over 12 percent to $400 million, alongside Russia's $110 million direct investments in the Tajik economy in 2010.

Both Russian and Iranian presidents call Tajiks "strategic partner", but Ahmadinejad has taken one step further in voice, saying Iran-Tajikistan are two body with one spirit.

The Sangtodeh-2 power plant and Esteqlal Tunnel projects are a good example for of Iran's major role in the Tajik economy.

The Sangtoudeh-2 plant is one of the key projects in Tajik energy sector which was built on Vakhsh River in Tajikistan. The plant with the capacity of 220MW electricity generation is scheduled to generate up to 1 billion KWH electricity annually.

Earlier, Iranian Ambassador to Tajikistan Ali-Asqar She'rdoust released Tehran's plans to construct a $500 million cement production plant in Tajikistan's Khatlon Province as well.

Furthermore, the heads of Iran and Tajikistan signed an agreement on construction of "Aini power plant" above Zarafshan River in Tajikistan by Iranian engineers on Sept. 4 and Iran's Energy Ministry pledged to reconstruct and complete Tajikistan's Istiklol (Independence) tunnel as well.

It is noticeable that five years ago China and Tajikistan signed an agreement to build Yavan Hydroelectric plant above Zarafshan river, but China withdrew because Uzbekistan's protest which has a long term water dispute with neighboring Tajikistan. However, Iran grabbed the project finely.

Still China with a trade turnover of $25.9 billion with the Central Asian countries in 2009 (50 times more than that figure of 1992 which hit $527 million) takes the first place as an investor in Tajikistan with high trade turnover volume.

Central Asia is of great importance for China both economically and politically.

Widening economic footprint in Central Asia, China seeks its strategic interests as well.

According to a U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, American officials suspected China of offering Kyrgyzstan $3 billion to shut down the American Manas air base there. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have about 3,000 km border with China.

Tajikstan is also a host of a foreign military base. Tajikistan and Russia reached an agreement in September 2011 to prolong the presence of a Russian military base in Tajikistan for other 49 years.

Nowadays, about one million Tajik labor migrants, or roughly every seventh Tajik, work in Russia - a country which supplies almost 90 percent of Tajikistan's domestic fuel consumption.

So, Russia enjoys its strong muscular diplomacy in Tajikistan.

Rivaling interests in this Central Asian country put new challenges for Iran, which will have to push out China and Russia.

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