Tajikistan

Tajik Officials Justify Chinese Land Deal

After Tajikistan’s parliament ratified a treaty ending the long process of border demarcation with China, critics of the move said the Central Asian state had effectively given away a swathe of territory. 

Like other Central Asian countries, Tajikistan had to enter into complex negotiations with its giant neighbour China after gaining independence in 1991.

The agreement ratified on January 12 cedes 1,100 square kilometres of territory to China. The land consists of uninhabited high mountain plateau areas in the southeast, but the deal has nevertheless provoked an outcry from those who see it as a betrayal of national interests.

Officials say the deal is a major diplomatic achievement since the ceded land represents only three per cent of what the Chinese were seeking.

Muhiddin Kabiri, leader of the Islamic Rebirth Party, was one of only two members of parliament to oppose the bill, and is among those who see it as a defeat.

Analyst Firuz Saidov points out, however, that the deal opens the way to greater funding from Beijing – already a major investor in Tajikistan’s hard-pressed economy –while the land that was given away was of little value as it is unsuitable for farming or mining.

“I see it as a pragmatic solution,” Sukhrob Sharipov, head of Tajikistan’s Centre for Strategic Studies, said. “We wouldn’t have been able to withstand threats or pressure from China. So our country has secured the stability and inviolability of its borders for many decades to come.”

This audio programme, in Russian and Tajik, went out on national radio stations in Tajikistan, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.