Tajikistan turns into one of major regional players

Tajikistan Materials 18 May 2012 22:36 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 18 / Trend /

Trend commentator Viktoriya Zhavoronkova

Tajikistan, perhaps without realizing it itself, turns into one of the most important players in Central Asia. The word "significant" in this case fits perfectly. Tajikistan from one of the most problematic countries in the region with a turbulent Afghanistan in the neighborhood quickly transformed into a point of intersection of the interests of key regional players such as Russia, Iran, USA and Europe.

If we analyze the recent developments in Central Asia, we can observe the increased attention paid to Dushanbe. It is worth noting that the interests of the superpowers in relation to this small state are completely different - each with its own motivations and reasons why they decided to be friends with Tajikistan.

One of the most active partners of Dushanbe today is Tehran. After relations between Iran and the West deteriorated even more, the country began looking for new partners and new opportunities for cooperation - and found. Tajikistan is almost entirely suitable for this purpose. A country similar in culture, language and traditions is not only a new potential market for Iranian goods and resources, but also a transit country - one of the connecting links between Iran and China. Iran for cooperation with Tajikistan has chosen the main strategic directions of the economy such as transport and energy.

If Iran indeed, as it promises, creates the infrastructure and begins energy exports to Tajikistan, and if the railway line from Iran to China via Tajikistan is built, this Central Asian republic will come out of the transport blockade and will be provided with energy to the extent that it needed. In addition, Dushanbe will have the opportunity to diversify energy supplies, which will free it from excess dependence on foreign players, for example Russia.

Tajikistan has very different relations and points of contact with Russia. Perhaps the relationship between the two countries would not be so friendly, if not for the many migrant workers from Tajikistan, who work in Russia, and imports of petroleum products. For Russia, the main interest in Tajikistan is presence of the 201st military base in this Central Asian republic.

The contract on the base expires in 2014, and Russia is interested that Tajik leader in no way changes his mind to renew an agreement with Moscow on its lease. After the meeting between the presidents of Tajikistan and Russia in Moscow this week, Emomali Rahmon said that "the Russian military base in Tajikistan exists, operates, and therefore there is no problem". How things will develop further in this regard is not known, because the head of Tajikistan has still time to reconsider. It is also important for Moscow to control the situation with the drug trafficking, which affects Tajikistan because of its proximity to Afghanistan.

For the United States, Tajikistan today is also of particular interest, and also because of its proximity to Afghanistan. 2014 is not far off, and it's time for NATO to withdraw its troops and heavy military equipment from this republic, and Tajikistan in this matter may play an important role for Washington. During a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister of Tajikistan Hamrokhon Zarifi on Wednesday, the U.S. diplomat noted "a good level of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and expressed appreciation to Tajikistan for the support to coalition forces in Afghanistan".

Clinton stressed the importance of Tajikistan and confirmed the United States' readiness to continue assisting the country to strengthen its borders, the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism and other challenges.

But NATO is not only the U.S., it's also Europe, whose troops are awaiting the withdrawal from Afghanistan. It also expresses interest in cooperation with Dushanbe. Tajikistan, in turn, tries to take advantage of the situation to its own advantage. For example, recently, officials of the Republic called on the EU to contribute to the construction of fundamentally important for Tajikistan Rogun hydroelectric power station to which Uzbekistan opposes.

The EU is unlikely to help Dushanbe in this matter, as it's disadvantageous to worsen relations with Uzbekistan, and they will be definitely spoiled with any external player which will help Tajikistan construct Rogun hydroelectric power station.

However, in exchange for its friendship with Dushanbe, the EU can help the country with other investment projects that will contribute to the development of the economy, including advances in the energy sector.

Today the government of this country, which has many problems, especially economic, should properly take advantage of this favorable situation. Superpowers now can more than ever help Tajikistan solve the basic problems and improve the economic situation in exchange for the favour of Dushanbe.

If Tajikistan is not able to use this situation to its advantage, the second chance might not be.