By EurAsian Times
RUSSIA’S sphere of influence in Tajikistan is under threat as China has now claimed a part of the Central Asian country. China’s claim over Tajikistan comes after it claimed parts of India, Bhutan, Nepal and has ongoing disputes in the South China Sea (SCS) with many nations.
According to reports, an article by a Chinese historian Cho Yao Lu, using Chinese sources, says the entire Pamir region in Tajikistan belonged to China and should be returned. While the apparent official endorsement has worried Tajikistan, reports say the development has even drawn attention in Russia, which considers the central Asian countries to be part of its strategic backyard.
“After the formation of the newest Chinese state (1911), the first task of the authorities was to return the lost lands. Some of the lands were returned, others still remain under the control of neighbouring countries. One of such very ancient regions is the Pamir, which was outside China for 128 years due to the pressures of world powers,” writes Lu.
China and Tajikistan signed a boundary agreement in 2010 when Tajikistan was forced to cede about 1,158 sq km of territory in the Pamirs to China as part of debt forgiveness deal. China is building an airport at Tashkurgan near the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, that is now a growing cause of concern.
In addition, the Chinese government has been talking about gold deposits in Tajikistan. Chinese reports say there are 145 deposits in Tajikistan alone. The Tajik government has allowed a Chinese company to mine and develop these gold deposits from areas of northern Tajikistan.
Experts at EurAsian Times believe that this is a classic Chinese manoeuvre, where a road or airport or a development project is used as a thin end of a wedge to take a more muscular position in the country.
The Tajik government, however, is quite sensitive about the Pamirs, where some local communities tend to be restive. Last month, following the publication of the article by the Chinese historian, the Tajik foreign ministry called China’s ambassador to complain.
Threat to Russia
China’s claim over the Pamir mountains in Tajikistan has set alarm bells ringing Russia. Ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has maintained a sphere of influence over central Asian countries.
However, in recent decades Beijing has stepped up investments in Central Asia and this has worried Russia losing its special relationship with countries in the region. The latest claim is supposed to further make Russia nervous.
Russia has accused a leading Arctic researcher of giving sensitive information to China. Many speculate that this was the reason for Russia delaying the delivery of the S-400 missile defence system to China.
During the coronavirus pandemic, China has been forwarding its regional interests. It has already claimed territory in India, Bhutan, Nepal and the SCS. While China has encountered resistance in the SCS and India, it is unlikely to face similar resistance in Tajikistan.
Top: Chinese President Xi Jinping . Photo: Reuters and published by Al Jazeera
Insert : Tajikistan map (This version of the map includes significant changes from the previous version of the map including changes to the China-Tajikistan border.) From CIA Factbook and published by Wikipedia