New trends in the interaction between Russia and the states of Central and South Asia in the context of transformation of the geo-economic space more and more clearly define the contours of a new macro-region of development — Central Eurasia.
At the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, the formation of a multipolar world is still underway; the Eurasian geo-economic map is being redrawn amid the transformation of political and economic relations. Under these conditions, there is an understanding in Central Asia that in the modern world, Russia plays one of the key roles in the process of forming a new architecture of global politics and economics. The increasing role of Russia and China in global politics indicates the emergence of a new pole that is competing with the United States. We face a so-called democratic pole with ancient origins represented by the United States and the European Union and a Eurasian (Asian) pole with local civilisational origins, represented by Russia, China, and India. Considering that the transition to a polycentric world is currently accompanied by a reformatting of the international system and a reorientation of the priority vectors of interregional cooperation, the states of Central Asia, in order to strengthen national and regional security and realise national interests in their foreign policy, are pursuing a course towards diversifying interregional ties. Having limited access to world sea trade routes, the states of the Central Asian region have launched the implementation of a strategy of integrating South and Central Asia, implementing joint communication projects, and strengthening trade, economic and humanitarian ties. In this context, it is important to note the strengthening of relations between the states of Central Asia and the countries of South Asia, the Arabian monarchies, Iran, Turkey, China and other states of East Asia. Meanwhile, the level of interaction between the countries of the region and the Russian Federation is traditionally high. The states of Central Asia have strategic partnerships with Russia; Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are its military allies within the framework of the CSTO. For Russia, Tajikistan, along with other states of the Central Asian region, has always been central to historically-determined interests. Russia’s policy towards its neighbours is determined
by the interaction of three factors: traditional economic and defence components, the presence of a common geopolitical space, and their shared historical experience.
The core element of the Tajik-Russian strategic partnership and alliance is the coordination of joint actions in the international arena in a bilateral format, as well as within the framework of global and regional organisations such as the UN, the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, etc. Relations between Tajikistan and Russia are based on more than 300 interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements regulating the multifaceted ties between the two states. For 30 years, Tajikistan and Russia have successfully coordinated efforts in the field of foreign policy support of socio-economic, migration, cultural and humanitarian cooperation, and interacted in the field of defence policy and security, which is important for all of Central Asia. In the first place, Russia’s foreign policy tasks now include maintaining the ability of the new neighbouring states to conduct foreign policy independently.
Russia’s strategic priority goal is to promote the formation of stable sovereign statehood among its neighbours, which are capable of pursuing their own foreign policy, which would correspond to the geopolitical position and balance of power in the common space.
One of the high-priority areas of Tajik-Russian relations at the present stage is the expansion of economic and humanitarian cooperation between the regions of the two countries. A favourable business climate has already been created for Russian and Tajik companies in the markets of Tajikistan and Russia, and the process of deepening industrial cooperation between the entrepreneurs of the two countries is underway. For Tajikistan, Russia continues to be the main trading partner. The Tajik side has established close interregional cooperation with the Nizhny Novgorod and Orenburg regions, as well as a number of Siberian regions, while maintaining traditional contacts with Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russian engineering products are sold in Tajikistan: a contract was signed for the supply of 100 GAZ buses to Khujand; seeders and components for them are being supplied. Entrepreneurs from many Russian regions are now coming to Tajikistan and establishing business contacts. Thus, Ivanovo entrepreneurs have invested more than 10 million USD in the cotton processing industry of Tajikistan. Tajikistan exports cotton and fruits and vegetables to Russia, and Russia sends Tajikistan oil products, food products, mineral fertilizers, metals, wood, pulp and paper products, as well as machinery, equipment, vehicles, agricultural raw materials.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021, more than 68 constituent entities of the Russian Federation maintained trade and economic relations with the Republic of Tajikistan. The main volume of foreign trade turnover was formed by deliveries to Tajikistan from the Volga, Central, Urals, Northwestern, and Siberian federal districts, which account for about 81.2% of the total volume of trade between the two countries. The main partners in the export of goods were: Moscow, with 14.3% of the total export of goods, Orenburg Region (13.7%), Chelyabinsk Region (7.5%), St. Petersburg (7.26%), Moscow Region (7.2%), Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region (5.5%), Sverdlovsk Region (4.1%), Krasnoyarsk Territory (3.8%), Samara Region (3.0%), Ivanovo Region (2.6%) and others. [Certificate of the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Tajikistan dated May 3, 2022] Currently, Moscow is persuading Russian companies which participate in foreign economic activity to implement projects in strategic sectors of the economy of the Republic of Tajikistan, including agriculture, industry, energy, transport, high tech, etc. It is important for Tajikistan to attract additional sources of funding for the implementation of its National Development Strategy in the country’s communication projects and in its economic projects so that it may implement its fourth national strategy — the industrialisation of the country. It hopes to become an industrial-agrarian country by 2030.
Under these conditions, it is important at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century to determine new approaches to interregional interaction, to new formats for structuring the geopolitical space of Eurasia in order to realise their national interests.
New trends in the interaction between Russia and the states of Central and South Asia in the context of transformation of the geo-economic space more and more clearly define the contours of a new macro-region of development — Central Eurasia. At present, the reformatting of the geo-economic space of Central Eurasia, located in the most promising economic region of the world — between the Arctic and Indian oceans, geographically covering Western Siberia, Central and South Asia and part of Western Asia, is of particular relevance, where it is quite promising to create an extensive network of East — West and North-South corridors. This macro-region is located at the intersection of water and railway routes. Waterways connect the new macro-region with the Northern Sea Route, the ports of the Barents Sea, and railways — with the European part of Russia, the Far East, and the countries of Central and South Asia, which will allow the creation of “development corridors” in the 21st century, given the presence of significant resources for economic co-development. This is especially true when the new states of post-Soviet Asia have taken a course towards the modernisation of countries and, accordingly, they will need markets for products in the future, additional sources of resources for industrial development, as well as investments in strategic sectors of the economy and humanitarian development. In Western Siberia all the necessary conditions have developed for the creation of a powerful new industrial region, capable of the large-scale mechanised production of everything from heavy engineering equipment (mining equipment, industrial equipment, machine tools, various kinds of automated equipment, shipbuilding) and production for the defence industry — to complex and precision engineering, based on the world’s largest research centres: Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk.
In the emerging Central Eurasian macro-region, Tajikistan and other states are promoting the integration of Central and South Asia. However, in interaction with the states of South Asia, new actors in the region suffer from transit problems. The new states of Central Asia are opening up new opportunities for closer cooperation in the implementation of transit projects in the south, opening up for them the Afghan-Pakistani, Afghan-Iranian-South Asian, and Caspian-Iranian-South Asian corridors, which can become “corridors of economic and humanitarian development”. Afghanistan is strategically significant for the countries of Central Asia in the formation of an important transit corridor for access to Iranian, Pakistani and Indian railways and seaports. However, the increasingly aggravated complex military-political situation in Afghanistan is one of the main obstacles to interregional integration and the realisation of the highest priority joint interest of the Central Eurasian states related to the provision of alternative and complementary transport communications. At present, the states neighbouring Afghanistan are promoting a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem, involving it in major transport and energy projects necessary for the integration of Central and South Asia. Here, the efforts of the states of the macro-region in the fight against terrorist networks, organised crime and drug trafficking are consolidated, and there is also a common interest in co-development and modernisation. Many transport projects linking the states of post-Soviet Asia with the states of South Asia are expected to be implemented in the future through Afghanistan and Iran. At present, the implementation of the Uzbek-Afghan-Pakistani railway project Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar has begun, and a transit link has been established across the Caspian Sea along the Mumbai-Chabahar-Central Asia and Karachi-Chabahar-Iran transport routes. In addition, discussions have begun on the construction of the 101-km Swat highway connecting Tajikistan with Pakistan through the Wakhan corridor, where the road connects with the existing transportation network in Pakistan. The length of the road from Ishkashim, Tajikistan to Pakistan’s Dorah Pass should be only 183 km, however, the difficult mountainous terrain will make it difficult to build such an important road, and most importantly, there is the lack of investment for the implementation of this project.
However, new threats to stability in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, which borders China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, remain a serious obstacle to the implementation of transportation projects through Afghanistan. For example, the Tajik CASA-1000 transmission line energy project, which will connect the electrical networks of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and could seriously contribute to the development of Central Asia, strengthen regional cooperation and ensure security. The CASA-1000 project will allow for the organisation of a single electricity market between the countries of Central and South Asia (CASAREM). The implementation of projects proposed by the Tajik side would not only contribute to the implementation of the geostrategic interests of Tajikistan, but could seriously contribute to the development of Northern Afghanistan, which in turn would contribute to strengthening regional cooperation and ensuring security. Such projects include the construction of a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan railway line, a gas pipeline along this route, as well as accelerating the construction of the CASA-1000 power line and Rogun-Mazori-Sharif-Herat-Mashhad, as well as the development of an electrical network along the planned Rogun-Mazori-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway route, which could connect the electrical networks of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
Currently, the states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) are working on an agreement to create a common free trade zone. Thus, new international legal foundations are being laid for the longitudinal and latitudinal integration of South and Central Asia, and ultimately for the strengthening of ties in the new macro-region of Central Eurasia.