Uzbeks and Tajiks celebrate restored ties
Residents on either side of the Tajikistan-Uzbekistan border are benefiting from prominent interactions between the presidents and national security ministries of both countries.
A deeply symbolic first joint military exercise was even held this month.
One of the significant results is that Tajikistan and Uzbekistan reached the level of strategic partnership, following similar agreements between the Uzbeks and Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, recently comparing the nations to two branches of a tree and streams from the same river.
By contrast, the former Uzbek president Islam Karimov threatened in 2012 to wage a border war. In the last two years, the most prominent change has been abolishing visas for short-term visitors and reopening 16 border crossing points.
Other achievements include the restoration of air travel and reopened highways.
Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon’s visit last week was preceded by visits by scholars from both countries and friendship delegations.
The meetings appear to have been emotional, sparking a rare public debate about the policies of the previous regime under the strongman Karimov.
In the national newspaper Xalq So’zi, Uzbek senator Iqbol Mirzo mourned the years spent rejecting the country’s neighbours. Although Uzbek figures have criticised Karimov’s monetary, education and health policies, Mirzo appears to be the first prominent politician to publicly condemn the previous administration.
Preparing the ground for Rahmon’s visit to Tashkent, between March and August this year, four major Uzbek ministries held national security meetings with their counterparts in Tajikistan.
During last week’s visit, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan signed 58 agreements worth US$133 million in oil and gas, metallurgy, machine building, construction and pharmaceutics, Tashkent’s Ministry for Foreign Trade said.
More than 400 business representatives from the two countries took part in the bilateral forums.
This month the emergency, defence and secret services ministries from both counties held meetings. The two defence ministries discussed the shared deployment of military technology. In May, the two home affairs ministries discussed fighting terrorism, international crime and information sharing. This month the first bilateral border exercises were held, involving patrol boats taking on mock incursions from Afghanistan.
The heavy emphasis on national security in bilateral interactions indicates that at this stage of relations, Uzbekistan considers security the most important factor in relations with its easterly neighbour.
Uzbekistan is hoping to open its architectural wonders from the Silk Road era up to the region and the wider world. Picture credit: Eurasia Times