Ilham Aliyev’s Visit to Tajikistan: Dushanbe Recognized the Results of the Second Karabakh War

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Often the significance of an event can only be assessed after several years. The second Karabakh war in 2020, which was followed by the strengthening of the Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance and the development of integration processes within the framework of the Organization of Turkic States, was no exception. Strange as it may seem, the 44-day war created new realities not only in Transcaucasia, but also in Central Asia.

On April 5, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev arrived in Dushanbe on an official visit at the invitation of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon . Aliyev’s visit to Tajikistan, the only non-Turkic country in Central Asia, was productive. After the meeting of the presidents, the parties signed 14 agreements in the field of economy, transport, finance, diplomacy, culture and tourism.

Among these 14 agreements, one document of political importance stands out in particular. Special Representative of the President of Azerbaijan in the Shusha region Aydin Kerimov and Mayor of the Tajik city of Isfara Bahovaddin Bahodurzodasigned the “Protocol on the establishment of sister city relations between the city of Shusha of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the city of Isfara of the Republic of Tajikistan.” Recall that the city of Shusha is considered the pearl of Karabakh. Azerbaijan took control of Shusha during the second Karabakh war in 2020. It should be noted that the conclusion of an agreement on twinning between Shusha and Isfara indicates a change in the position of Tajikistan. Of course, official Dushanbe did not recognize the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. However, this did not prevent Tajikistan from having good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is worth recalling that President Rahmon visited Yerevan at a time when representatives of the Karabakh clan, Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, were in power in Armenia.. Now we see that Tajikistan, which took a cautious position in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict (official Dushanbe advocated a peaceful solution to the conflict), officially recognized the results of the second Karabakh war in 2020. Probably in Dushanbe they are sure that in the coming years Azerbaijan will not lose control over Shusha.

On the other hand, the motives of the Tajik leadership are also understandable. After all, if the government of Nikol Pashinyan has abandoned the struggle for the self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and wants to integrate the Karabakh Armenians into Azerbaijan, ensuring their rights, then why should the government of Tajikistan be more of a champion of the interests of the Armenians than those in power in Yerevan?

However, Tajikistan also has its own reasons that encourage it to develop cooperation with Azerbaijan. In this sense, valuable information was announced during the joint press conference of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. It is noteworthy that at the beginning of his speech, Rahmon stated :“In the beginning, I would like to note that over the thirty years of diplomatic relations between our countries, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan have been able to build effective mechanisms for interaction and achieve significant results that today serve for the benefit of our fraternal peoples. This is largely facilitated by close trusting contacts at the highest level, at the origins of which was the outstanding son of the Azerbaijani people and my friend and senior comrade, 

Heydar Aliyev ., whose centenary we, in Tajikistan, will also celebrate next month. I always remember with warmth our communication with this great statesman of fraternal Azerbaijan. Heydar Alievich at the most fateful time for the country became a truly national leader of his glorious people and led the country to the path of stability and development. The visit of the esteemed Ilham Heydarovich is a logical continuation of not only these ties, but also the centuries-old ties of mutual communication between our peoples, at the origins of which stood the incomparable 

Nizami Ganjavi , revered in every Tajik home .”

The fact that the President of Tajikistan spoke flatteringly about Aliyev Sr. is not surprising. Let’s not forget that the Azerbaijani and Tajik societies sin in terms of creating cults of personalities of national politicians. In addition, both Aliyev Sr. and Rahmon were national communists in the past and were members of the CPSU. The mention of Ganjavi, a poet and thinker who wrote in Persian, is interesting. Recently, against the background of the aggravation of Iranian-Azerbaijani relations, Baku and Tehran began to argue over Ganjavi’s affiliation. Meanwhile, even Mammad-Emin Rasulzade admitted that Ganjavi worked in Persian (see West and Turkey are preparing Azerbaijan for war with Iran). At the same time, Rahmon did not just mention the poet who lived in the Middle Ages. Tajiks are a kindred people for Persians. Moreover, a significant part of the literary heritage simply cannot be divided between Persians and Tajiks. And since poets and writers are determined by the language of their works, and not by nationality and blood composition, in Tajikistan Nizami Ganjavi is not considered a foreign poet.

Diplomatic Rahmon, of course, emphasized economic cooperation between Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. Noting the insufficient level of trade between the two countries, he stated:“During the negotiations, we separately focused on the areas of cooperation in the areas of investment, industrial cooperation, agriculture, transport and in the fuel and energy complex. In the field of industrial cooperation, they noted great opportunities for the implementation of joint projects in the light, chemical and mining industries, in the production of building materials, processing of aluminum, cotton fiber, precious and semi-precious stones and metals. In the energy sector, we confirmed the interest in the participation of Azerbaijani companies in the development of oil and gas fields in Tajikistan. We will continue to actively use the convenient transit opportunities of Azerbaijan and increase the volume of freight traffic of Tajik state and commercial structures.”

Why are Rahmon’s words important? The fact that from the point of view of the transport system, Azerbaijan is a kind of gateway to Europe for Tajikistan. Let’s be honest, Tajikistan is the poorest state in Central Asia. The Tajik economy is very dependent on remittances from Tajik citizens working in Russia. And Russia is under severe Western sanctions, which negatively affects its economic attractiveness. The alternative could be China. However, China already has a strong economic influence in Central Asia, which often causes concern among the peoples of the region. In addition, the United States, with which Tajikistan is cooperating in the military-technical sphere, may react negatively to the increase in economic cooperation between Dushanbe and Beijing. It turns out, that from an economic point of view, the western direction and Azerbaijan are the most preferable for Tajikistan, since they do not bear any risks. Azerbaijan, which considers itself one of the centers of the Turkic world, for its part would like to reduce Russian influence in Tajikistan and throughout the Central Asian region.

Judging by the statement of Rahmon, Azerbaijan is interesting for Tajikistan in many areas:“In the negotiations, an important place was occupied by the humanitarian direction of our relations. We reaffirmed our mutual readiness to expand cooperation in the fields of education, science and culture. We exchanged views on the entire set of topical issues of a regional and international character. We noted the importance of further interaction on the platforms of international and regional organizations. We agreed to continue the practice of mutual support for each other’s candidatures and initiatives at multilateral platforms, primarily at the UN. We expressed gratitude to the Azerbaijani side for supporting the global initiatives put forward by Tajikistan on water and climate. The talks focused on security issues. We spoke in favor of strengthening cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, extremism, drug and arms trafficking, cybercrime and other forms of transnational organized crime. We discussed in detail international issues and the situation in our regions.”

In a word, the negotiations in Dushanbe opened a new page in the Azerbaijani-Tajik relations. Aliyev in his speech spoke about the economic cooperation between the two countries:“Specific instructions were given in the transport and logistics sector, on industrial cooperation, on issues related to investment projects. We are ready to seriously consider investment projects in Tajikistan, because, firstly, Tajikistan is a close country for us, and secondly, a stable country … We agreed to hold the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission this year in Tajikistan, and by the meeting of the intergovernmental commission, I am sure , all the instructions that we gave to the members of the delegations on the issues of transport and logistics cooperation, investment policy, and industrial cooperation will be fulfilled.”

However, the most interesting is the cultural aspect touched upon by the President of Azerbaijan:“Our peoples have lived for centuries in friendship, accord, were friends, and it is no coincidence that Tajik culture is highly valued in Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijani culture in Tajikistan. I would like to say that it is no coincidence that the monument to the outstanding son of the Tajik people 

Rudaki was created by the Azerbaijani sculptor 

Fuad Abdurakhmanov . In the 1960s, this monument was erected in Dushanbe. Another well-known Azerbaijani sculptor 

Omar Eldarov created the monuments 

to Ayni and 

Ibn Sina. I mean, it says a lot. That is, entrusting the creation of monuments to the outstanding representatives of the Tajik people, representatives of Azerbaijan, speaks of great trust, friendship, and brotherhood. We also know that in Tajikistan they love and revere the great Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi, who was born, lived and left this world in his native Ganja. And this is the cultural foundation that today creates the prerequisites for active interaction in all areas. I am sure that in the field of education and in other areas we will implement all the decisions that we made today.”

Here we stop in more detail. The poet Abu Abdallah Jafar Rudaki, who lived in the 10th century, was the founder of poetry in the classical Persian language and died in the territory of modern Tajikistan. At the same time, Aliyev’s words that Rudaki is the son of the Tajik people are essentially a cultural provocation. The fact is that the separation of Tajik literature from Persian took place only in the 16th century. Therefore, in the scientific community, the expression Persian-Tajik literature is used in relation to works created before the 16th century.

It should be noted that for a long time there were conflict relations between Iran and Tajikistan. Dushanbe accused Iran of supporting the “Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan” * * (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation ) and the desire to export the Islamic revolution. There were also economic disagreements. Iranian-Tajik relations improved only in 2021-2022. And now Azerbaijan, judging by Aliyev’s speech, is not averse to throwing controversial and rather conflicting topics into the Iranian-Tajik social and cultural agenda.

Aliyev also spoke about the military-political aspect of relations between Baku and Dushanbe:“I would also like to note that we noted with satisfaction that about 50 cadets from Tajikistan are currently studying at educational institutions of the Ministry of Defense and the State Border Service of Azerbaijan. And we decided to help increase the number of Tajik students. Also, of course, I am sure that Azerbaijani students with great joy and desire can receive education here in Tajikistan.”

It is noticeable that Azerbaijan decided, together with Turkey, to engage in the military-political reorientation of Tajikistan. At first, Turkey successfully spread its influence in Azerbaijan, in particular through humanitarian activities and the spread of Sunnism. Now Azerbaijan, moving to NATO standards, will influence Tajikistan. At the same time, Turkey will also cultivate Tajik society with ideas of religious unity based on Sunnism. And this is not to mention the military-technical cooperation between Turkey and Tajikistan.

Aliyev’s mention of the poet Sadriddin Aini , who considered Pan-Turkism a threat to the Tajiks, also became symptomatic. At the same time, Tajikistan has not yet resolved the border conflict with Kyrgyzstan, which is a member of the Organization of Turkic States. In words, the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem takes a neutral position in the Kyrgyz-Tajik conflict. But in fact, Türkiye has been selling weapons to Kyrgyzstan for a long time, which is used against Tajikistan. Consequently, official Baku, wishing to develop economic relations with Dushanbe and promoting Turkic nationalism, also wants to enlist the sympathy of Tajikistan during its confrontation with Iran. Whether Tajikistan will be able to develop economic cooperation with Azerbaijan without spoiling relations with its fraternal Iran, the future will show. Extensive political experienceEmomali Rahmon allows us to assert that Dushanbe will stick to the planned regional course without sharp shifts in one direction or another in the context of a global geopolitical storm.

Source : EurAsia Daily