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Tajikistan

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Tajikistan is a central Asian country on the northern border of Afghanistan and western border of China, with a population of 6.7 million and capital city of Dushanbe. Soon after getting its independence after the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, it got into a five year civil war, with the Moscow backed government on one side and an Islamic-led opposition on the other. [1]

Media

The BBC says of the country's media:

Broadcasting is dominated by state-run radio and TV. More than 30 local and regional private TV stations are on the air, most of them entertainment-based. There are more than 200 registered papers, some of them government-owned and others linked to political movements.
Media rights organisations report that, although provided for in the constitution, press freedom is not widely respected in Tajikistan. Reporters Without Borders notes that independent journalists come under great pressure from the authorities, who also control printing plants and determine the editorial line of the state-owned media.[1]

Foreign military bases

The U.S., Russia, and India are looking to increase their military presence in Tajikistan. Money is a big factor in convincing the country to accept more outside military people and bases. India's first military base outside its territory is starting up in Tajikistan. News Central Asia reported on July 24, 2007, "Quickly and quietly, India is preparing to deploy a squadron of Mi-17 helicopters at the Ayni airbase in Tajikistan, possibly even before the end of this year. India's first real military outpost in a foreign land will give New Delhi a 'strategic' capability in energy-rich Central Asia.

"India recently completed refurbishing the airbase at Ayni (also known as Farkhor), just 10 km northeast of Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital, at a cost of around Rs100 crore ($25 million), after four years of hard work. The airbase, shut since the late '80s, after the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, is to be operated under a trilateral joint agreement between India, Russia and Tajikistan." [2]

Diplomatic and political struggles continue over bases in the country. Stephen Bank of EurasiaNet.org wrote on January 11, 2008, "India’s strategic ambitions in Central Asia are in flux after Russia reversed an earlier stance, and now opposes the deployment of Indian military jets to an air base in Tajikistan. Russian displeasure over India’s strategic drift toward the United States appears to be the primary reason for the Kremlin’s policy shift.

"India and Russia have traditionally had cordial relations, underpinned by New Delhi’s status as a prime buyer of Russian-made arms and military equipment. These strong ties enabled the Kremlin to sanction India’s efforts to establish a strategic beachhead in Central Asia, specifically at a Tajik air base at Ayni, about 15 kilometers outside the capital Dushanbe, and at a medical facility in Farkhor, near the Tajik-Afghan border. India has maintained a presence at the Ayni base since 2002, spending an estimated $1.77 million on upgrading the facility.

"As recently as mid-2006, reports were circulating that New Delhi was on the verge of deploying as many as 12 MiG fighter-bombers at Ayni -- a development that would mark the establishment of India’s first military base beyond its borders. The deployment was initially delayed due to problems with India’s ability to upgrade Ayni. The base was not capable of accommodating the jets until mid 2007, when renovations were finally completed about two years behind schedule. [3]

Russia opened its first permanent military base in the country in 2004. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty wrote on October 17, 2004, "Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov dedicated the first permanent Russian military base in Tajikistan today. Russian troops have been in Tajikistan for years, but the presidents have legally agreed on a new way to look at their presence.

"The two presidents watched as the Russian flag was raised today at the military base in Dushanbe to mark the new status for some Russian troops in Tajikistan.

"Yesterday, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Imomali Rakhmonov signed an agreement establishing permanent posts in Tajikistan for the troops of Russia's 201st Motorized Rifle Division. The division had been stationed in the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the agreement formalized the legal status of the unit's presence."

"Russia's only other permanent base in the region is in Kyrgyzstan. During today's ceremony, President Putin highlighted the importance of the permanent Russian outposts." [4]

Russia is exchanging debt relief for military facilities and for the Okno space surveillance complex in Nurek near the border with China. Sergei Blagov of the Asia Times wrote in 2004, "Moscow had secured a practically free 49-year land lease of the space surveillance complex, which gives Russia further reach into East Asia. The Okno complex is understood to be a convenient locale to monitor China's missile launches. In exchange for the base and the Okno facility, Russia agreed to write off $242 million of Tajik debt. Moscow also pledged to invest $2 billion in the former Soviet state. For instance, Russian aluminum major Rusal plans to invest $560 million to build Tajikistan's Ragun hydropower plant, and will put up an undisclosed amount to build an aluminum plant in the Central Asian state as well.

"The US has been pushing to boost ties with Tajikistan and Tajik authorities have been receptive to Washington's overtures. Tajikistan's main attraction for Washington is its strategic location along Afghanistan's northern border. Russian media have also reported an allegation that Rakhmonov had been offered $1 billion in US aid in exchange for refusing to set up a Russian military base in Tajikistan. Tajik officials denied the allegation." [5]

Vladimir Mukhin of CDI Russia Weekly wrote in 2003 that, "the United States is trying to build up its military infrastructure in Tajikistan. According to unofficial reports, Washington has allocated $2.4 million to reconstruct the Dushanbe airport. The Pentagon and NATO states are paying Tajikistan between $3,000 and $5,000 for every landing and takeoff from that airport."

"The Tajik government has already denied reports that Washington offered President Emomali Rakhmonov $1 billion in long-term loans for "not establishing" the Russian 4th Military Base in Tajikistan. But regardless of denials, the rumors persist; and the lack of progress in the talks on the status of Russian military facilities in Tajikistan shows that the Tajik government is standing firm. The United States will give Tajikistan $108 million in aid this year alone; while Russian-Tajik trade turnover amounts to only about $100 million a year. [6]

Leaders

  • Emomali Sharipovich Rakhmon (Rakhmonov), President, in third seven year term. International observers said the 2006 election was neither free nor fair and was boycotted by the opposition.[1]

Resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Country profile: Tajikistan, BBC, accessed April 2008.
  2. "India's first overseas 'military base' taking shape in Tajikistan", News Central Asia, July 24, 2007.
  3. Stephen Blank, "Russian-Indian Row Over Tajik Base Suggests Moscow Caught in Diplomatic Vicious Cycle", EurasiaNet.org, January 11, 2008.
  4. "Tajikistan: First Permanent Russian Military Base Opened", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 17, 2004.
  5. Sergei Blagov, "Cementing Russia's Central Asian clout", Asia Times, October 20, 2004.
  6. Vladimir Mukhin, "Russian and American Interests Clash in Tajikistan", CDI Russia Weekly, August 12, 2003.

External resources