Tajikistan - Foreign policy



President Rakhmonov has proclaimed Tajikistan's willingness to establish amicable relations with all countries, and has supported stronger ties with the neighboring states of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries sharing Tajikistan's language, history, and culture. He has emphasized cooperation with China and India, and has called for increased economic ties with the United States, Europe, and Japan.

Afghanistan continues to be a base of international terrorism, a scene of civil conflict between the Taliban and their opponents, and the world's largest producer of opium. This combination of negative factors produces crossborder effects that regularly threaten to destabilize Tajikistan's fragile and hard won peace. In the summers of 1999 and 2000, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a U.S.-declared terrorist organization, used Tajikistan as a staging ground for an insurgency campaign against the government of Uzbekistan. At the same time, Taliban advances in northern Afghanistan threatened to inundate Tajikistan with thousands of refugees. All the while, a constant flow of illegal narcotics continue to transit Tajikistan from Afghanistan on its way to Russian and European markets, leaving widespread violent crime, corruption, and economic distortions in its wake. As a result, the Tajikistan government has offered full cooperation with the United States in the War on Terror, initiated by U.S. President George W. Bush following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the World Trade Center in New York. The attacks were suicide missions staged by members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network based in Afghanistan. In April 2003, Rakhmonov expressed regret that Islam was being linked by some international politicians to international extremism and terrorism. He claimed that the acts of terrorist and extremist organizations had nothing to do with true Islam. In 2002 and 2003, the non-political, but radical Islamic movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir ("Freedom Party") became more active in Tajikistan. Tajik officials during that time closed down mosques and removed imams in the northern Isfara district, which added to the region's instability.

Critics of Russia's large role in security in Tajikistan argue that it jeopardizes Tajikistan's independence, while still failing to safeguard it from drug trafficking, arms smuggling, terrorism, and other transborder criminal activity. Tajikistan continues to permit the basing of the Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division, which never left Tajikistan when it became independent. Most of these Russian-led forces, however, are local Tajik noncommissioned officers and soldiers. Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan assisted Russian peacekeepers in guarding Tajik borders. In April 2001, Rakhmonov and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to establish a 3,000-man tactical air base in Tajikistan. Russia announced it would increase its border troops along the Tajik-Afghan border. Russia wishes to establish a rapid reaction military presence in Central Asia, including Tajikistan.

Tajikistan's relations with Uzbekistan have been mercurial. Tajikistan has accused Uzbekistan of harboring separatists, and Uzbekistan has accused Tajikistan of harboring Uzbek and Tajik terrorists intent on overthrowing the government.

Rakhmonov met with China's head of the Central Military Commission (and former president) Jiang Zemin in March 2003, and the two discussed border issues and pledged to increase bilateral ties between the countries.

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