Monday, June 18, 2012 -
Tajikistan's plans to participate in an inter-regional railway line linking China with South Asia via the Central Asian republics have been stymied by Kyrgyzstan, which expressed disinterest Friday.
Tajikistan saw the proposed Afghanistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan-China rail project as its hope to open up a second international transportation highway to free its dependence on its fractious neighbor Uzbekistan.
But Kyrgyz Transport and Communications Minister Kalybek Sultanov said his government is unlikely to agree to the proposal.
"It doesn't interest us much at this time, because there's another project, the China-Kyrgyzstan railway, that's more important economically and strategically," the official said, according to local news web site Tazabek.kg.
The $2 billion China-Kyrgyz rail route supported by Kyrgyzstan bypasses Tajikistan altogether, running from Kashagas in western China to southeast Kyrgyzstan where it will link to Uzbekistan’s rail network at the border town of Kara-Suu.
China sees the project as speeding delivery of its potentially vast exports to Europe and the Middle East, while Kyrgyzstan expects to earn transit fees, develop regional links, and create jobs with the project.
Tajikistan will be left out in the cold if the China-Kyrgyz railway corridor goes ahead. The Uzbek government has frequently blocked the passage of freight trains on its territory carrying goods to and from Tajikistan. Dushanbe says it is doing so to exert political pressure, but Uzbekistan blames the stoppages on technical reasons.
Nevertheless, the Uzbek government is furious that mountainous Tajikistan is building hydropower stations that it says is stealing precious water supplies from Uzbekistan’s vast downstream agricultural lands.