What are the causes of the current Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan conflict? What precipitated the recent escalation between the two countries? How can the conflict be settled? How can the global community be of assistance? Read here to know the answers.
The breakup of the Soviet Union has left a series of disputed border issues among the post-soviet countries. These disputes have time and again escalated to serious conflicts.
- The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region
- Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia
- Moldova-Ukraine border
- Kyrgyzstan-Ukraine enclaves
- Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan issue
Tajik and Kyrgyz forces exchanged sustained gunfire along several points of the disputed border between the neighbouring Batken and Soghd provinces of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, respectively.
History of Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan conflict
The current flare-up is a continuation of the pre-and post-soviet era issues that have not been resolved.
- The 1920s delimitation imposed by the Soviet Union resulted in numerous enclaves in both countries.
The borders of the two republics were then demarcated under Joseph Stalin’s leadership.
In the past, the populations of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan shared rights to natural resources. But now almost half of their nearly 1000 km border is disputed.
The creation of the Soviet Union caused the redistribution of resources like livestock, and farms disturbing the existing status quo.
- The Tajik territory saw their livestock increase, but with scarce grazing land.
- Hence agreements were signed between the two populations over the utilization of Kyrgyz territory by the Tajiks’ livestock.
Ferghana valley is the major sight of trouble with the location housing Tajiks, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks, who used to share common social, economic, and religious practices.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the consequent breakup of the water and land agreements that were in place at the time, numerous smaller independent farms were established, which significantly changed how much water the farmers used.
- Multiple water routes that both nations share have undulating trajectories and flows disrupt fair access to water on both sides.
- As a result, during the vital irrigation season, minor disagreements virtually always arise.
- Small clashes caused by planting trees in the disputed land have led to physical confrontations among locals.
Present day conflict
Even though both countries share close historical connections, their internal governance and dynamics have taken different courses since gaining independence.
The major cause of instability, both internal and external, is multinational challenges and ethnic conflicts.
The leaders of both countries have in ways contributed to the prolongation of these conflicts.
- A specific kind of development was imagined by them to try to stabilize the internal dynamics and legitimize their authority.
Such development projects are comparable to how the Soviet Union approached modernization, which led to the extensive eviction of nomadic populations and ultimately served as a driver for the ongoing conflict.
The current escalation is happening alongside the regional summit of the Shanghai cooperation organization (SCO) in Uzbekistan.
- Even though the Kyrgyz and Tajik presidents met on the sidelines, none of them or the host president raised the issue formally at the summit.
- This shows that the leaders are reluctant to use the global platform provided by the SCO summit to resolve the issue.
Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan internal dynamics
Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan has different internal dynamics and issues which should be addressed:
- Tajikistan has a very fragmented society and the regime rules with an iron fist.
- There is poverty, mass migration, and high inflation.
- Independent media and control are absent over the internet keeping society vulnerable to propaganda.
- The economic condition is quite dilapidated and the military strength is also not fine for Kyrgyzstan.
- The political regime is fragile and incapable of defending territorial incursions.
- The current administration is not on good terms with Russia as well.
- The independent and free media allows the public to react and protest against the regime’s inefficiency hence causing internal disturbances often.
Also read: India-Tajikistan relations
The global attention is as of now focused on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, which overshadows the other conflicts in Central Asia like the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan issue.
The escalation of conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is a troubling and demoralizing trend for the area.
Recently, several initiatives have been made to promote better collaboration and togetherness among Central Asian leaders as well as indications of political determination to end long-standing border tensions between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The numerous international initiatives for border security aid and conflict prevention, of which both nations were beneficiaries, are also called into question in light of the intensification of the conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Tens of thousands of families with children also find it impossible to live in the border region due to frequent and unpredictable invasions, which breeds fear and hopelessness about the future.
The main path to resolution is to agree upon a common map for demarcation.
The international community can help in the efforts through mediation by involving the elders of the ethnic communities involved.
Article written by: Swathi Satish