email icon Email this citation

Remarks by H.E. Academician Talbak Nazarov

H.E. Academician Talbak Nazarov *

New York, September 30, 1998

Speeches and Transcripts: 1998

Asia Society

It is a great honor for me to meet with the members of your Society. I am sincerely grateful to you for your genuine interest in the history, present, and future of Tajikistan.

Let me brief you—within the allocated time—on several aspects of the current situation of my country and perspectives on its future development. In this regard I would like you to keep in mind the following:

First, Tajikistan is now engaged in a process of national reconciliation. The process has run into many difficulties but, nonetheless, is moving steadily forward. The major achievement is that the initiated peace process and related nationwide consolidation have already become irreversible.

Second, Tajikistan has embarked on the track of a multifaceted and promising integration into the modern interrelated and interdependent world. The new, young Republic of Tajikistan has taken its first steps on the way to constructing a modern nation–state based on a free market economy and oriented towards democratic principles and ideals of social life. Moreover, our accomplishments in this area have already been accepted with great satisfaction by major international organizations, first and foremost by the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe(OSCE).

Third, Tajikistan is optimistic about its future. It possesses not only vast natural resources but also has rich historical, cultural and intellectual capacities built over years of creative development. Couple with political will, these attributes are capable of ensuring dynamic growth in the country at large.

This belief is backed up by the fact that Tajikistan has not been left alone to face its complex problems and needs: we enjoy strong support from the international community on our very difficult path of nation–state building and achievement of international recognition.


I. The Peace Process

1) It is know that after the collapse of the Soviet Union Tajikistan was plunged into a horrible civil war. Due to peace efforts of the United Nations and our neighboring states, particularly Russian and Iran, the senseless fratricidal war was finally stopped. This resulted from 3–year extensive inter–Tajik negotiations conducted under the UN auspices. It is known that the General Assembly on Peace and National Reconciliation in Tajikistan was signed on June 27, 1996.

2) The Commission on National Reconciliation, set up in line with the General Agreement has been working in Dushanbe for over a year. The government cooperates with representatives of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). The country has declared a comprehensive amnesty and is receiving back refugees and displaced persons. with support of the United Nations and other international humanitarian organizations, the returning people are being helped to setup their lives and to become actively integrated into the economic, social and political life of the Republic.

3) There is some progress in the implementation of the Military Protocol to the General Agreement. By September 1, 1998, all 5, 200 combatants of the United Tajik Opposition have sworn allegiance to the present government. The other 200 combatants, currently in Afghanistan, will soon return home with the help of the UN Mission of Military Observers in Tajikistan.

4) One cannot say that there are no remaining military and political tensions and social unrest in Tajikistan even after the end of the conflict. Unfortunately, there are still forces which oppose peace and development.

5) As a result there have been a few reports of terrorist acts, crimes and violations, which are sources of great concern to the United Nations.

6) Nevertheless, the immediate top priority of the Government of Tajikistan is to logically complete the initiated process of national reconciliation. All prerequisites for this do exist.

7) In the longer term we seek to meet a broader and more fundamental objective of strengthening the basis of civil accord. The accord we are seeking should not be only inter–Tajik, it should be also international.


II. The Religious and Political Situation

8) The civil war in Tajikistan drastically changed the distribution of social and political forces, regional and public elements that were established in Soviet times. These principal changes were initiated by politicized Islamic factions representing mountain and village communities. the new " dividing" line was drawn not between Islamists and neo–Communist, but between Tajiks and Tajiks. As in many other " hot spots" on our planet, in Tajikistan religion in an instrument in the struggle for power, like nationalism, democracy and secularism.

9) In the first year after gaining independence we faced a new reality, i.e. fundamentalist Islam, which confronted secular society not only as a religious practice and spiritual tradition but also as a well–organized military and political force with a widespread trans–national network of support. Now Tajikistan has embarked on a difficult path of social integration of the Islamists who constitute the spiritual core and military part of the United Tajik Opposition. This purely practical task is not as easy as it might have appeared at the time of preparation of the schedule for implementation of the General Agreement. The problems are not only political, but also legal and constitutional.

10) Members of the United Tajik Opposition have already joined the Tajik government and therefore share power with the secular regime. As a result, a spiritual and religious dimension has been inserted directly into the political environment of a country that, by its Constitution, was proclaimed a secular state.

11) The principal position of the political leadership of the Republic of Tajikistan on this fundamental issue is as follows: we have not prevented and will not prevent Islam from taking its proper place within the traditional social structure that is being reconstructed, but we will not allow anybody to full the current vacuum with a new form of totalitarian ideology similar to that professed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, which seeks to compensate for its spiritual poverty with fundamentalist extremism.

12) Meanwhile, taking advantage of their new position in the state and society, the Islamists are anxious to quickly legalize the current post–conflict religious and political status quo, and to amend the effective Constitution—which declares that the secular nature of the State cannot be changed.

13) The position of the senior Tajik authorities, based on a Constitution adopted by referendum, rests on a solid social footing. The moral and psychological climate of society after the war is clearly against the Islamists. The public at large, especially educated people, consider them to have been among major instigators and perpetrators of criminal and political acts that led to a bloody civil war. Even after President Rakhmonov had started to search for a political compromise with the United Tajik Opposition, the dissatisfied public exerted pressure on him not to settle with it.

14) As you know, Tajikistan is not the only country where political Islam is creating problems. The Islamic movement has roots not only in Central Asia, but elsewhere. It is characterized by external spiritual and political influences. That is well recognized by all states in the region and by bordering countries, particularly the Russian Federation, and is the very reason for coordination of their policies.

15) Creation of a Three Party Union (made up of Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) is a first practical step in this direction. This union is of vital importance to the destiny of our region. Unfortunately, some political observers commented on this timely measure inadequately, to say the least, probably due to being ill–informed.


III. Tajikistan and the International Community

16) The Republic of Tajikistan, like any other new independent state, wishes to become integrated into the international community as smoothly as possible, and to quickly find its place among the civilized and prosperous countries and peoples of the modern globalizing world. However, to achieve this Tajikistan has to cover a long and twisted path.

17) Given a variety of interrelated factors—geographical, historical, economic, cultural, etc.—it is possible to identify four geo–political zones. Each of them is like a chess board (using Professor Bzezhinsky's phrase describing the geopolitics of Eurasia), where Tajikistan closely cooperates with other states located both in its immediate vicinity and farther away, and each state is guided by its own national interests and priorities.

18) No doubt, the borders of these geo–political zones are conditional; they are not rigidly defined, they are closely related and often overlap each other.

19) The Central Asian countries forming the first geo–political zone have very much in common, i.e. in their history, religion, culture, way of life, customs and traditions. Currently they share many common interests, i.e. economic, environmental, demographic, communicative, etc.; they also face many common concerns and challenges in the areas of military and strategic security, the struggle against international drug cartels, terrorism, the need to create common regional infrastructure, etc. Solutions require a purposeful coordination of political activities by all states of the region.

20) In post Soviet time the Turkic–speaking people of the Central Asia region institutionalized their cooperation by creating a Union of States of Central Asia. As of today the scope of this cooperation has been expanded due to Tajikistan joining the Union in 1998 and becoming a party to the Treaty on Establishing a Unified Economic Zone.

The special and important role of Tajikistan as a full–fledge member of the regional interstate cooperation body can be attributed to a number of factors, among them its unique geo–political status, availability of vast hydro–power resources, the presence of ethnic Tajiks in all Central Asian republics (especially in Uzbekistan) and the presence of a Turkic–speaking community in Tajikistan itself.

21) Tajikistan is also seriously interested in developing a comprehensive cooperative relationship with the second geo–political zone, with CIS member states as its core. Many believe, not without reason, that priority should be given to coordinating social and economic policies with the CIS member states. This will allow both to harmonize, to a certain extent, market reforms and to synchronize the related market instruments.

22) In this regard we attach special significance to our relationship with the Russian Federation with which we have been united by visible and invisible bonds for many years. Major Tajik industrial facilities, for example, remain closely connected to industries in the European part of Russia.

23) In the American and Russian press I often come across negative assessments of the current and future relationship between Russian and Tajikistan. Often statements present diametrically opposed views. The American mass media are confident that Russian wishes to turn Tajikistan into a protectorate of Moscow, or that it has already done this. The Russian mass media argue that the rich republics are drifting towards the West while the poor ones, like Tajikistan and Belarus, follow a long–standing Soviet tradition and prefer to " sit on Russia's neck" . In reality we do not have intention to be economic burden on anyone. We are not deprived by nature, our natural resources are not poor at all and we know how to work really hard.

24) However, Tajikistan currently is ranked among the poorest countries in the world by the UN. There is no concealing the fact that our post–conflict economy is in very bad shape. For this reason we exercise caution and do not make hasty decisions while restructuring our economy.

25) However, one should not regard Tajikistan as a stagnant place at the edge of the Asian wilderness. Our country slowly—maybe slower than others—but steadily, is being transformed into a market economy. We managed to curb inflation. We initiated large–scale privatization. We have established new foreign economic ties. The entrepreneurial sector is developing: 240 joint ventures have been registered in Tajikistan, some operating in the production sector. Moreover, international financial institutions are willing to cooperate with us, since they view the measures we have undertaken in this area favorably.

26) The third geo–political zone incorporates Afghanistan, the most dangerous source of military, political, criminal and economic turbulence. Afghanistan, with the Taliban in power, is like a three–headed hydra. It poses a multifaceted threat to the citizens of Tajikistan. It jeopardizes Tajikistan's military, ideological and economic status. The Taliban have already accused Tajikistan of allowing use Tajikistan territory for an air base for " The Northern Alliance" which opposes Taliban. They made claims against Iran, which culminated in the massacre of Iranian diplomats in Mazar–i–Sharif.

All of the above once again confirms that the political leadership of the CIS member states has drawn a timely conclusion by stating that Afghanistan, run by the Taliban, threatens peace and stability in all Central and Southern Asia.

27) It is possible that, once the Taliban comes into power on the whole territory of Afghanistan, many ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks will return to their historic homelands. Such an exodus would undermine the peace process in Tajikistan, and would create serious problems for the Central Asia region as a whole. We cannot ignore the fact that the unmanageable stream of refugees could include Afghan warlords accompanied by staff and combatants. This would destabilize the situation and would have a serious negative impact on the peace progress.

28) The alarming situation that is currently developing in Afghanistan has both regional and global aspects, and the latter affects international security. Indeed, this is a real problem with far–reaching consequences. Extremism—of a religious or political nature, or both—poses a problem not only for the states of Central Asia. The most offensive and dangerous form of extremism, characterized by religious fanaticism, is international terrorism which, as shown by recent events, openly threatens the United States. Terrorism as state policy poses a double threat. Taliban–led Afghanistan is embarking on this most dangerous path by turning its land into a training ground for international terrorists and by rendering them open support.

29) We are also well aware that for a long time Afghanistan has been one of the most powerful drug–producing centers in the world. The growing drug production business is becoming a core part of the shadow economy in Central Asia as well. Linked with the organized crime network in Eurasia, this criminal production and marketing complex is evolving into a serious destabilizing factor, not only in Central Asia but also, one may assume, in the Caucasus and Russia.

30) We do hope that the Organization of Islamic Conference will clearly define its position with regard to this set of burning global issues.

31) In the post–conflict rehabilitation and development of our war–ravaged but future–oriented country we count on considerable assistance and support from the international community. We mean not only such major international organizations as the UN, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but also some highly industrialized countries, first of all the United States. We do hope that they will assist Tajikistan in creating the essential material and intellectual prerequisites needed for establishing a truly democratic state with a socially–oriented market economy, one that will occupy a worthy place in modern geo–economics.

32) I am pleased to recognize the understanding of our growing needs shown by the international community.

33) It is essential to continue peace–keeping and peace–making operations as well as international programs of humanitarian aid, especially those targeted at the most vulnerable populations, in order to prevent the situation in Tajikistan from deteriorating, since this country because of its geo–political and geo–cultural importance, is at the very epicenter of potentially explosive religious and political conflict in Central Asia.

34) Now that the country, worn out by civil conflict, has started a long–awaited peace process it is extremely important that the national reconciliation follow a firm moral and political course. We must deal with the crisis of national integrity that started immediately before the breakdown of the USSR and aggravated during the civil conflict. Dealing with this crisis must be the ultimate goal of the moral and spiritual rehabilitation of the Tajik people. Building a nation–state of the modern type, guided by the idea of general civic accord rather than by militant nationalism, is of paramount importance in Tajikistan.

35) We can learn much from our history in this respect. We take into account our historical experience while preparing to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the Samanid Kingdom, the first form and manifestation of our statehood. I hope that this celebration will not only promote the moral and psychological unification of the Tajik people but will also contribute to the strengthening of the civic accord of all peoples inhabiting today's Tajikistan.

With regard to this, we attach great importance to the traditional friendship between the Uzbek and Tajik peoples, since the nature of their relations will determine a general situation not only in Central Asia but in Southern Asia as well.

36) Earlier I referred to Tajikistan's integration into a unified economic zone in Central Asia. We bring to it real economic potential. Exploitation of vast raw materials and hydro–power resources are still in store for us. I will cite only one example, but a rather convincing one. The total hydro–power potential of Tajikistan is estimated at 300 billion kW/hours. That is 2 million, 100 thousand kW/hours per square kilometer. For comparison, I note that in Russian and Ukraine, output per square km is 1/10 as much.

In the 1960s through 1980s the USSR planned to develop 16 hydro–power stations on the Vaksh and Pyanj rivers, with a total targeted output of 16.6 million kW/hours. The cumulative output of all large hydro–power stations within the power and irrigation complex was envisaged to reach the level of 600 million kW/hours. One plant, the Nourek Hydro–Power Station, was commissioned in the Soviet period. Today, regardless of current financial and economic constraints, we are continuing to build the Santguidin and Rogun power stations which, we hope, will contribute much to the development of the incomplete industrial complex in Southern Tajikistan.

37) Priceless human rescues and rich historical and cultural heritage are among the assets that we possess and pin our hopes on. However, in order to use them to the best advantage we need to improve the current educational system. During the civil conflict the school infrastructure in the south of Tajikistan was severely damaged but our intellectual potential was not destroyed, and the education level of the general population remains rather high. This gives us grounds to believe that Tajiks will withstand the ideological confrontation with political Islam, that has already started to develop its own broad system of religious education.

38) However, the ongoing post–conflict reconstruction poses new challenges. To adequately meet these challenges we need new, comprehensively trained, skilled personnel at all government and public levels. Therefore, accelerated training of highly skilled experts in the broad range of modern professions is a most urgent need for Tajikistan. This can be accomplished only with a support from the international community.

39) We are pleased that the United States has been actively involved in helping us meet these needs through U.S. national foundations, research–and–training centers and charitable organizations. They provide grants and scholarships for our young specialists and arrange various special programs.

40) Tajikistan is a country with an extremely undeveloped internal communications system. Suffice is to day that Dushanbe TV programs are not broadcast in the Mountain Bodakshon area. This must change. From a broader perspective, along with expanded communications inside the country, we must improve connections with the global outer world. For example, we need regional highways to connect us with our immediate and far away neighbors. In this regard we pin great hopes on the completion of the Karakarum Highway.

41) This is only the beginning. We also strongly advocate the creation of a modern version of the ancient SilkWay that connected the Far East with Western Europe via Central Asia. At some point our scholars were actively involved in the elaboration of this idea within the framework of a UNESCO working group. The global significance of a new intercontinental communication route is obvious: it would acquire not only commercial and economic but cultural importance; it would become a venue for a constructive dialogue between civilizations.

42) In a Joint Appeal to their compatriots President Imomali Rakhmonov and Chairman of the UTO Said Abdullah Nuri addressed Tajiks who live inside and outside of Tajikistan with the following words:

" We have one motherland, Tajikistan by name. It cannot be divided. It should be loved and developed."

I hope that this appeal will be heard by all those who recognize the potential historic turning point faced by our still very young state, and who have profound political and moral responsibility to present and future generations.


* Academician Talbak Nazarov is the Foreign Minister of The Republic of Tajikistan Back.