The border problems between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan date back to the borders drawn by the Soviet Union. As it is known, the high population in the Fergana Valley, which is located on the border of the two countries, brings along problems in pasture and animal husbandry. People are forced to migrate due to the current environment of insecurity. In order to overcome these problems, the two countries have resumed negotiations to determine the border.
In this context, Ankara Centre for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views of SpecialEurasia Research Director and Geopolitical Intelligence Analyst Giuliano Bifolchi to assess the status of border negotiations between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
- Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will hold negotiations with a view to ending the disputes and conflicts between them. Will this negotiation process be sufficient to solve the problem?
Although negotiations are essential to end the conflicts between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, different political, economic and sociocultural approaches are needed to stabilise the region. Given the history of violent conflict, both sides have developed resentment and prejudice, and events such as the military escalation last year have worsened relations between the local population.
In order to overcome mistrust and anger between the parties, community-to-community confidence-building activities should be organised along the borders of the region. People living along the border should not perceive the “other” as an enemy or a threat to their survival and existence.
Simultaneously, of course, it is important to promote inter-state trust and dialogue through meetings and initiatives to prevent conflict escalation. In this context, it is important to remember that border conflicts have become part of the political agenda promoted by both Dushanbe and Bishkek for their domestic political goals. It is therefore not reasonable for either country to think that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will be able to reach a solid and comprehensive agreement or overcome this problem until the border situation becomes a domestic political centre of attention.
- The determination of the borders between the two states remains an important problem. What method do you advocate to solve this problem?
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan can peacefully resolve any disputed issue by respecting the basic principles of international law. The experience of other Central Asian republics can provide a framework for Bishkek and Dushanbe to work out a border solution. While many experts believe that demarcation of the border could resolve the crisis between the parties, without interventions by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to strengthen institutions and build capacity in resource management, there is a risk that this solution will have a limited impact on regional stability.
Bishkek and Dushanbe should clarify roles and responsibilities, ensure transparency in decision-making on sustainable rangeland and water management, ensure transparency in the use of revenues from grazing fees and taxes, and ensure greater participation of local users and stakeholders. As both communities depend on the same water and pasture resources, Bishkek and Dushanbe should reach an intergovernmental agreement to define property rights for access to and use of water and pasture resources and to avoid mistrust and resentment among local people that could lead to conflict.
3.How do you think security can be ensured without local conflicts?
Although the absence of local conflicts in Central Asia favours regional security, Central Asian republics should also solve economic and social problems arising from internal and external dynamics. Indeed, we can not talk about security in Central Asia without taking into account neighbouring Afghanistan and the terrorist threat from terrorist groups operating on Afghan territory and Central Asian borders.
- How do you think stability in Central Asia can be achieved?
Central Asia is the epicentre of interests of regional and international powers. Therefore, stability also depends on their influence and strategies. Regional integration and participation in joint economic and logistical projects can promote peace and stability and help the Central Asian republics build a modern and vibrant economy capable of meeting the needs of the people. Regional co-operation is also essential for dealing with energy problems that seriously affect the lives of Central Asian citizens. Unfortunately, regional stabilisation may be difficult to achieve as foreign geopolitical actors will continue to exert pressure on local governments by trying to influence their political and economic decisions.
The Central Asian republics should rely less on foreign aid and create an internal economic and political framework independent of external influences. The region must also increase the level of democratisation and modernisation.
Giuliano Bifolchi SpecialEurasia Research Manager. He has vast experience in Intelligence analysis, geopolitics, security, conflict management, and ethnic minorities. He holds a PhD in Islamic history from the University of Rome Tor Vergata, a master’s degree in Peacebuilding Management and International Relations from Pontifical University San Bonaventura, and a master’s degree in History from the University of Rome Tor Vergata. As an Intelligence analyst and political risk advisor, he has organised working visits and official missions in the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America, and the post-Soviet space and has supported the decision-making process of private and public institutions writing reports and risk assessments. Previously, he founded and directed ASRIE Analytica. He has written several academic papers on geopolitics, conflicts, and jihadist propaganda. He is the author of the books Geopolitical del Caucaso russo. Gli interessi del Cremlino e degli attori stranieri nelle dinamiche locali nordcaucasiche (Sandro Teti Editore 2020) and Storia del Caucaso del Nord tra presenza russa, Islam e terrorismo (Anteo Edizioni 2022). He was also the co-author of the book Conflitto in Ucraina: rischio geopolitico, propaganda jihadista e minaccia per l’Europa.