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President Rahmonov's Visit to India

Dr. Ramakant Dwivedi was Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • August 17, 2006

    Tajik President Emomali Sharifovich Rahmonov visited New Delhi during August 6-10, 2006 on a State visit at the invitation of Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The visit was preceded by the meeting of the bilateral Inter-Governmental Commission (July 31- August 1, 2006) and India-Tajikistan joint working group (JWG) meeting on counter-terrorism (August 3-4, 2006), both held in New Delhi.

    Tajikistan's independence in September 1991 led to the expansion and strengthening of bilateral ties between New Delhi and Dushanbe in the political, economic and cultural spheres. Diplomatic relations was established on August 28, 1992. Since then, Tajik President Rahmonov has paid three State visits to India including the visit last week. He had earlier visited India in 1995 and 2001. Then Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee paid a State visit to Dushanbe during November 13-14, 2003. The political dialogue between India and Tajikistan has been regular and mutually beneficial. High-level exchanges have set the tempo to chart out the scope and direction of cooperation and have also laid the foundation for understanding each other's interests and core concerns. Both countries subscribe to common principles of inter-state conduct, peaceful settlement of all differences, and rejection of extremism of all forms as well as the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

    India-Tajik cooperation spans many areas such as economic and commercial, cultural, education and technical training in diverse disciplines, information technology, science & technology and agriculture. The two countries have signed as many as 26 agreements/ protocols/MoU so far to promote cooperation in these diverse fields. One of the most important outcomes of President Rahmonov's visit is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between New Delhi and Dushanbe on cooperation in the energy sector. Energy security is paramount for a developing country like India, which has begun to grow at an accelerated pace. Central Asian Republics could provide a modicum of energy security to India. Tajikistan is the largest producer of hydroelectricity in Central Asia and the third largest in the world after the US and Russia. Currently, it exports hydroelectricity to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). There is thus huge potential for cooperation in this sector. But in bringing Tajik hydroelectricity to India, the main hurdle is the issue of the route for laying down hi-tension transmission line. If Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India could agree to build a common electricity grid, this could be a win-win situation for expanding regional economic cooperation. In such a case, the issue of laying down transmission lines could be addressed and it could reach India via Afghanistan-Pakistan. However, given the track record of Pakistan in hampering regional economic cooperation and promoting religious extremist forces that pose a serious threat to security and stability both in Central and South Asia, this does not seem to be a feasible option. Therefore, Indo-Tajik cooperation in energy sector could focus upon having Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) both in hydrocarbon and hydroelectricity sectors. Khatlun region in the south of Tajikistan is said to have large deposits of gas still unexplored. Indo-Tajik joint initiatives could help in exploiting the vast opportunities that exist in the region. Russia and Iran are already cooperating with Tajikistan in building and rehabilitating hydropower plants (Sangtuda I & II and Rogun) at Bakhsh and Piyanj rivers. The Indian offer to assist Tajikistan in rehabilitating Vorzob I is a good step in expanding and strengthening cooperation in the energy sector.

    Bilateral trade has been much below the potential that exists between the two countries. The third meeting of the Inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation between India and Tajikistan held in New Delhi focussed on this issue. The meeting, held from July 31-August 1, 2006, discussed the ways and means to exploit the economic potential that exists between the two countries. The inauguration of the Bedil India-Tajikistan Centre for Information Technology, built with Indian assistance, in Dushanbe on July 18, 2006 is a good sign of enhanced engagement of India in the ongoing economic and educational processes in Tajikistan. Tajik entrepreneurs can make use of the considerable experience of Indian industry in areas such as textiles (both cotton and silk), pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, information technology and processing of agricultural products, to name only a few.

    The "Tulip Revolution" of March 2004 in Kyrgyzstan, and the "May 12-14, 2005 Events in Andijon" in Uzbekistan have influenced the nature and direction of Central Asian geopolitics. The summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in Astana on July 5-6, 2005 (India was admitted to the SCO as Observer) also drew attention to these events. Uzbekistan returned to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a Russian led regional security alliance, in July 2006; thus giving it more teeth since it is, militarily, the strongest country in the Central Asian region. Tashkent has also joined the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC), which aims at promoting regional economic cooperation. China has been making coordinated moves in enhancing its economic partnership, both at bilateral and multilateral levels, with the Central Asian Republics. The US is trying to gain lost ground after it was forced to leave the Karshi-Khanabad (K-2) military base in Uzbekistan. Tajikistan is a member of all the important security and economic groupings (CSTO, SCO, EEC and others as well.) active in the Central Asian region. Tajikistan thus occupies an important place in the ongoing "Great Game" in the region. It is against this backdrop that enhanced partnership between Delhi and Dushanbe holds significance.

    India and Tajikistan together have been playing a positive role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, which has been the breeding ground for international terrorists and religious extremist forces ably supported by their counterparts in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Religious extremist forces like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Movement of Turkistan (IMT) have declared goals to overthrow the secular and constitutionally elected governments of the Central Asian Republics and establish an Islamic Caliphate in the region. The nexus among the Islamic Revival Parties, the Islamic Movement of Turkistan, Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan, Taliban and al Qaeda is crystal clear. Delhi and Dushanbe have common concerns over threats from religious fundamentalism, terrorism, extremism and cross-border terrorism. Both countries have underlined the need to further strengthen secular and democratic ideas in international relations. In this regard, they are coordinating their efforts through a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Combating International Terrorism. The 2nd meeting of the JWG on Combating International Terrorism took place in New Delhi August 3-4, 2006 and the next meeting is likely to take place in Dushanbe later next year. Both countries emphasise the need for an early conclusion of the Comprehensive Convention on Combating International Terrorism at the United Nations sponsored by India and supported by Tajikistan. The two countries share common values such as secularism, tolerance and strong opposition to the forces of fundamentalism and terrorism. Tajikistan has condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Srinagar. In this regard, the important step is to cut the financial and ideological supply lines of terrorist and extremist forces. Deputy Foreign affairs Minister of Tajikistan, Abdullo Uldoshev said, "Tajikistan and India are facing common threats from terrorists and it would be our efforts to evolve common responses".

    Cultural ties constitute an important pillar of the India-Tajikistan relationship. The Indian Cultural Centre in Dushanbe is very active and works closely with many Tajik organizations. It also organises regular Indian film shows, very popular all over Tajikistan. The Cultural Exchange Programme for 2006-2009 signed during the Tajik President's visit would help in further expanding and strengthening cultural exchanges between Delhi and Dushanbe.

    In the final analysis, Indo-Tajik cooperation would be an important part of the international coalition against religious extremism and international terrorism. The real threats to Central and South Asian security and stability come from such forces. Tajikistan has been an active supporter of India's constructive initiatives in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Dushanbe has supported the Indian point of view on various regional and global issues and extends full support to India's permanent membership at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and for the resolution of Jammu & Kashmir issue through bilateral talks between New Delhi and Islamabad. Energy, information technology, deepening of bilateral cooperation in the area of small and medium scale business and tourism appear to be candidate areas in Indo-Tajik economic cooperation with high potential for success.