Fergana: A deep valley with no way out

Kyrgyzstan Materials 11 July 2014 17:58 (UTC +04:00)
An incident on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border left at least one killed and several injured on July 10, raising once again the tension in this troubled region.
Fergana: A deep valley with no way out

Baku, Azerbaijan, July 11

By Elena Kosolapova - Trend: An incident on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border left at least one killed and several injured on July 10, raising once again the tension in this troubled region.

Clashes in Fergana Valley, where the borders of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan come together have become more frequent recently. And almost every time such incidents result in death, injury and damage.

After every skirmish along the frontier, the border guards of each country says that the incident occurred on their territory and that the shooting was provoked by unlawful actions by citizens from the other side.

The problem may arise from the fact that this multinational region was a single state during several centuries. In 18th -19th centuries it formed a part of Khanate of Kokand. During the 19th century it was conquered by the Russian Empire and in 20the century became a part of the Soviet Union.

In Soviet times the government divided this region between three republics within the USSR taking little account of the ethnic peculiarities of the local population. Moreover the borders between these three countries were repeatedly reconsidered in the period from 1920s until the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. A lot of ethnic enclaves ended up surrounded by the territory of other states when Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan gained independence from the USSR. Besides, the three countries are unable to delimitate the interstate border in the Fergana Valley for over than 20 years and a lot of plots in the region are still disputed.

The situation in the Valley is aggravated by its high population density which is increasing from year to year and the shortage of water and food as a result.

In world practice, such problems can be solved through the exchange of the territories between two countries, or laying of a corridor from the main part of the state to its enclave surrounded by the territory of other state, Russian expert on Central Asia, Azhdar Kurtov told Trend on July 11.

"In other words the state gives some territory to another state, and gets another piece of land in return," he said.

However this method does not satisfy the governments of the Central Asian republics since the corridors could pass through the settlements populated by people belonged to other ethnic group. For instance a corridor from Tajikistan to Tajik enclave Vorukh which was the reason of Thursday's skirmish could be laid just through Kyrgyz Ak-Sai town where about 3,000 Kyrgyz live.

Moreover such problems could be resolved through nonforced relocation of the population living in the enclaves to the main territory of the country with appropriate compensation if the two countries will agree on this issue, the chief editor of the 'Problems of National Strategy' journal of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, Azhdar Kurtov said.

"But Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are problematic and poor countries and have limited recourses to realize such relocation," he said.

Another way to solve the problem resolution is the integration of the Central Asian countries, Kurtov believe.

"An integration could help to remove many of the existing problems without an exchange of territories, relocations, etc. I do not mean creation of one state from two, I mean building of such relations in the economy, which would allow to remove the existing problems on the borders. For example, in the Soviet times there was freedom of movement between the two countries [Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan], and they did not have such problems. And after gaining independence, the economic ties between the countries broke," he said.

Meanwhile the expert noted that all integration projects in the Central Asia are stalled.

Moreover, the countries dividing the Fergana Valley should resolve the water problems in order to ensure stability in the region, Kurtov believes. He noted that water is required for meeting the demand of the raising population of the valley and for development of any industry.

"The climate is warming ...the rivers in the region are becoming less full-flowing in the region. There is a need to save water," he said.

For example new concrete irrigation canals and modern technologies such as drip irrigation could help to avoid water loss, according to the expert.

"But all such measures are quite expensive and these countries are poor. So they need to look for ways to interact with the outside world, which would allow them to obtain loans, to develop water-saving, energy-saving technologies and etc.," he said.

Meanwhile Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan resumed intergovernmental negotiations to resolve the border conflict. However since numerous bilateral negotiations between the two nations gave no results there is little hope at this point that the problem will be resolved, at least this time.