Source: News Bharati English19 Nov 2016 12:22:25

Dushanbe, Nov 19: Russian dominance in the Central Asian region seems increasingly marginalised as China has unexpectedly begun taking interest in the region and started building closer military relations with Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to agency reports, China is pushing for closer joint military and security cooperation with Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These moves could strengthen Chinese position in the region as a regional counterweight to Russia.

Russia currently has a good military role in the region through the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Tajikistan is also a member of CSTO. Russia’s largest foreign military base is also located on the Tajikistan soil.  

On October 20–24, a combined 10,000 military personnel from the National Army of Tajikistan and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China were mobilized together to engage in a five-day counterterrorism exercises in Tajikistan’s Ishkoshim region, which borders on Afghanistan  (Centre1.com, October 26; News.tj, October 20, 21; Sputnik-tj.com, October 19; Regnum, October 20).

To date, neither Beijing nor any of its regional partners have publicly commented on China’s sudden interest in bilateral military cooperation with Tajikistan.

According to Tajikistani and Russian security experts, Beijing’s growing military activity in Central Asia is highly unusual. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, China has promoted its economic interests in this region, but it had always maintained a largely invisible military presence (Centre1.com, October 26; Ozodi.org, August 11).

Some analysts posit that Dushanbe’s sudden appetite for Chinese military investments and cooperation is linked to the deteriorating security situation along its border with Afghanistan, and to security threats emanating from radicalised followers of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT)

Historically, the politico-economic elements of Dushanbe’s multi-vector foreign policy have largely been tolerated by Moscow. But the recent developments in Sino-Tajikistani military relations might ignite new tensions between Moscow and Dushanbe.