(H.E. Mr. Sirodjidin Aslov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, The European Times, 5 March 2014)
The decade-long transition period in Afghanistan is coming to an end. In view of this, implementation by the international community of its commitments and obligations is the key to maintaining and multiplying the progress in the social, political and economic fields achieved in the country over the last 12 years. Ensuring security, political transformation and economic reconstruction are the three main pillars underpinning the future of Afghanistan and the achievement of prosperity.
Tajikistan, like the other countries of the region of Central Asia and of the world, is vitally interested in the establishment of lasting peace, order, security and political stability in neighbouring Afghanistan, which is situated to the south of our country and with which we share our longest border, measuring some 1400 km. As the closest neighbour, with a common language, culture and religion, Tajikistan is truly interested in establishing stability in this country, and, based on our capacity and opportunities, in contributing to its reconstruction and its social and economic development.
Tajikistan supports all initiatives aimed at establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan. As the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, said: “Tajikistan supports the efforts of the world community and the government of a friendly nation to attain a comprehensive solution to Afghanistan’s problems. We are convinced that the right to determine the future of Afghanistan belongs exclusively to the people of that country. We have always been and will always be interested in maintaining the territorial integrity of a friendly neighbouring country and in the consolidation of all its political forces. Within the framework of the joint activities of the world community in Afghanistan, our country is committed to making a practical contribution, in particular to economic renewal.”
From our own experience, Tajikistan believes that the national reconciliation process will require huge efforts and the coordination of activities, as well as political wisdom and willpower. We assume that this process, which is already under way in the complex reality of Afghanistan, must involve the active participation and leadership of the Afghan Government.
We support the Afghan Government in completing the effective implementation of the peace process as soon as possible. At the same time, we emphasise the need for an end to violence, for the breaking of all ties with Al-Qaeda and for recognition of the Constitution of Afghanistan by the Taliban and other armed opposition groups. In this context, we are in favour of “one Government, one territory and one flag for Afghanistan”; we are against the establishment of parallel government systems in the country. The peace process is a key to achieving the long-term stability and unity of Afghanistan. Tajikistan will support the decision made by the people and the Government of our neighbour.
Security in Afghanistan and in the region as a whole is impossible without eliminating terrorism and radicalism. This regional problem requires a comprehensive regional solution. In this regard, Tajikistan plays an active part in the confidence building measures to combat terrorism within the framework of the Istanbul Process.
The major goal of the Government of Tajikistan at present is to strengthen its border with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. In spite of this, there is a need to solve many problems that must be addressed. First and foremost to provide Tajikistan’s border guards with comprehensive, modern technology and equipment. In difficult and mountainous terrain the use of modern technology can help to protect the border effectively and at reduced risk. Tajikistan is engaged in negotiations with international organisations to that end.
It is clear that strengthening the border with Afghanistan will have a positive impact on peace not only for Tajikistan, but for the whole region. The Republic of Tajikistan considers itself duty bound in its foreign policy to adopt the necessary measures to take part in and coordinate the efforts of the international community to combat terrorist groups and illegal drug trafficking. In order to prevent a deterioration of the situation at the Tajik-Afghan border, the following preventive measures need to be taken:
• enhancing the military and technical infrastructure at the Tajik-Afghan border; first and foremost by providing the Tajik border guards with more effective and efficient means of active border protection: helicopters, high-speed patrol boats, night and remote-distance tracking equipment, modern arms and equipment;
• more active and effective coordination of the special, border and anti-terrorist forces;
• increasing and intensifying interaction with Afghan law enforcement agencies on the issues of combating terrorism, organised crime and illegal drug trafficking;
• increasing interaction with the international coalition against terrorism;
• broadening cooperation with countries of the region;
• using capacity in Tajikistan (the OSCE’s border guard staff training college in Dushanbe and other institutions) for the professional training of Afghan law-enforcement agencies’ staff and military personnel.
Aware of the necessity of handing over responsibility for providing security and full political power to Afghanistan’s own government bodies, our country considers it very important not to reduce support for Afghanistan at this initial stage. In our view it is impossible to ensure peace and order in the country without solving its economic problems. Tajikistan regards the solution of its neighbour’s economic problems as the major issue and reiterates its position. In this regard, in view of their shared language, Tajikistan proposes assigning Tajik experts to help in the revival of Afghanistan’s economic potential.
Along with social and economic reconstruction, we believe that the most important factor for peace and stability in Afghanistan is the development of its human resources and education. If we are unable to alter the way of thinking in Afghanistan, from war and destruction to peace and construction, it will be impossible to achieve success in any other field. The development of human resources in Afghanistan and the training of civilian specialists are included in the priority programme for cooperation between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Currently, more than 500 Afghan students are studying in higher educational institutions in Tajikistan to obtain bachelor’s, master’s and post-graduate degrees. At the same time, Tajikistan’s Government has decided to provide scholarships to 1000 Afghan nationals in the period until 2025.
Afghanistan is located at the crossroads of Eurasia and could have access to some rapidly growing markets of the world, while acting as a transit hub for expanding trade between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. As everyone knows, such development, social progress and economic growth are impossible without energy. Tajikistan possesses unique hydroelectric resources and is ready to supply Afghanistan with cheap, renewable and ecologically clean electric power. There are already some power transmission lines between the two countries. The latest is the 220 kW power transmission line from Tajikistan’s Sangtuda-1 HPS to the Afghan town of Puli Humri that went into operation at the end of October 2011 and there is the possibility to supply up to 2.5 billion kW/hour per year to the northern provinces of Afghanistan and almost as far as Kabul.
Construction of 500 kW power transmission lines between Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and between Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran and implementation of the power transmission line project between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan (CASA-1000) will make it possible to supply Afghanistan’s economy with cheap energy for growth and boost the country’s budget thanks to income from the transit of electric power to third countries. Swift action is needed for these projects to be implemented.
The geographical location of Afghanistan means that it can act as a crossroads for trade and transport between Central and South Asia and East Asia and the Persian Gulf. This could be encouraged, first and foremost, by developing the railway network in Afghanistan. In view of this, Tajikistan began the construction of rail links that could connect Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, as well as a separate line connecting Tajikistan to Afghanistan (Kolhozabad-Kunduz). Some work is under way, but for the rapid completion of these important regional projects there is a need for support from international donors.
2014 is a crucial year for Afghanistan. It is a year that will have consequences not only for that country but for all countries of the region. 2014 has to be made into the year of peace for Afghanistan.