Tajikistan & Uzbekistan: A Feud that is a Fly in Central Asia’s Ointment | EurasiaNet.org

Posted: May 28, 2012 in Confrontation, Economy and Resources, Human Rights, International, Politics, Region, Relations, Resources, Tajikistan

Persistent feuding between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan has troubling implications for the future of Afghanistan.

Relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have been frosty for most of the post- Soviet era, but they have taken a particularly nasty turn lately. Uzbek leaders are now maintaining an economic blockade on Tajikistan, halting rail traffic and interrupting electricity supplies. The font of discord appears to be Tajikistan’s efforts to build the Rogun hydropower plant. Uzbek authorities fear Rogun would diminish the amount of water available for their country’s all important cotton sector, as well as weaken Tashkent’s political leverage in Central Asia.

The three most influential powers operating in Central Asia – the United States, China and Russia — are all keenly interested in easing Tajik-Uzbek tension. But they appear to have few instruments at their disposal to compel Tashkent to ease up on Dushanbe.

From the US perspective, a continuation of the Tajik-Uzbek Cold War would significantly increase the degree of difficulty of keeping Afghanistan stable after the withdrawal of American and NATO troops, now scheduled for completion in 2014. Washington’s post-withdrawal stabilization strategy for Afghanistan appears to rely heavily on regional economic development schemes, especially an initiative known as the New Silk Road.The Tajik-Uzbek spat acts like sand in the Silk Road’s engine. As it is, the project has a lot of problems, suffering from a lack of political will and financial backing. The ongoing inability of states in the region to work together would ensure that the New Silk Road is dead on arrival.

Tajik-Uzbek feuding could also hamper two other US-supported initiatives to help stabilize Afghanistan: one is the establishment of a regional electricity market via the construction of power transmission lines connecting Central and South Asia; the other is a long-planned pipeline connecting Turkmenistan to South Asia, dubbed TAPI.

As disruptive as it is for US plans, the Tajik-Uzbek feud is even more vexing for Russia, creating a major security gap that could be exploited by narcotics traffickers and Islamic militants. Regional experts are bracing for a rise in Islamic militant activity in Afghanistan and Central Asia after the 2014 foreign troop pullout. Speaking at a May 21 news conference in Baku, Nikolai Bordyuzha, the secretary-general of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), suggested that a deterioration of the regional security situation is almost inevitable. “We should be ready to neutralize the additional problems which may arise,” the Trend news agency quoted Bordyuzha as saying.

The problem is that if two CSTO-member frontline states – Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – are, in effect, fighting each other, a collective effort to contain drug trafficking and Islamic militancy seems to stand little chance of success.

via Tajikistan & Uzbekistan: A Feud that is a Fly in Central Asia’s Ointment | EurasiaNet.org.

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