China has been expanding its political and military presence in Tajikistan lately. Russia is not expressing any concerns in this regard.
The Tajik office of Radio Liberty (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation) reported that against the background of the seizure of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban* Islamist movement, China will build a base in Tajikistan to deploy a special rapid reaction unit (known for the Russian initials as SOBR) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan.
According to the radio station, which was broadcasting a session in the Tajik parliament on October 27, First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Abdurahmon Alamshozoda told MPs that the army base would be built in the Ishkashim region in the Wakhan valley of Gorno-Badakhshan. In this connection, Tajikistan undertakes to exempt China from taxes and customs duties on the imports of equipment.
The Chinese version of the Voice of America (recognized in the Russian Federation as a foreign agent) added citing local sources in Tajikistan, that the army base would consist of more than ten buildings, including barracks, dormitories, office buildings, canteens, watchtowers and various ancillary facilities such as water storage facilities. China will be responsible for the design and construction of the project, as well as for the supplies of computers, furniture and other office and residential equipment.
The construction is evaluated at 55 million Chinese yuan, which is equivalent to approximately 100 million Tajik somoni ($8.5 million). It was not specified whether the new base would be staffed with Chinese personnel.
Expert Abdumalik Kadyrov, interviewed by Radio Liberty (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation), said that China's interest in the project is based on fears that Uyghur separatists may penetrate into China from the region and aggravate tensions there.
"China wants to use this base in Tajikistan to protect its borders from terrorist groups in Afghanistan," the expert said.
Noteworthy, Tajiks populate territories of Afghanistan adjacent to the region, including the rebellious province of Panjshir. Tajikistan supports them, which the Taliban* does not like very much. Therefore, it is beneficial for Emomali Rahmon (Tajik president) to have an army base in this direction.
Radio Liberty (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation) also said that the Tajik government offered to transfer the previously built Chinese army base in the Murghab district of the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region under Beijing's full control.
According to the radio station, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon put forward such a proposal to Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe when he visited Dushanbe in July. Tajikistan will stop taking rent from the Chinese in exchange for military aid.
It is worthy of note here that neither China nor Tajikistan officially recognized the existence of this base, which is located about 12 kilometers from the Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan and 30 kilometers from the border with China. The Chinese side insists that in accordance with the 2016 agreement, it had built four border posts and a training center on the Tajik-Afghan border and opened a center for combating terrorism, extremism and separatism in Dushanbe in November of 2019.
Another intergovernmental agreement that was discussed in the Tajik parliament says that China would assign $203.9 million to Tajikistan for the construction and reconstruction of a section of the Dushanbe-Khorog-Kulma highway. The highway is part of the international corridor of Asian Highway No. 66 and plays an important role in strengthening Tajikistan's transport links and trade with China, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.
China is one of the main investors in the economy of Tajikistan, which owes China more than $1 billion. Naturally, such a state of affairs makes Tajikistan dependent on China. Currently, China's economic activity in Tajikistan embraces nearly all vital sectors, such as:
Chinese oil and gas energy giants are also actively involved in geological exploration in Tajikistan, in an attempt to arrange the production of natural gas.
As a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), Tajikistan is a member of the military bloc with the PRC. China built a four-way mechanism of military interaction with Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the summer of 2021, Chinese and Tajik military conducted joint exercises.
Russia's reaction to the expansion of China's influence in Tajikistan has been relatively calm, despite the fact that this is the region, where the main danger from the Taliban* comes from.
Mikhail Aleksandrov, a leading expert at the Center for Military-Political Research of MGIMO, Doctor of Political Sciences, told Pravda. Ru that Tajikistan, being a member of the CSTO, is not a member of the Eurasian Economic Union.
"One of the problems is that the Tajiks on the territory of Afghanistan and on the territory of Tajikistan cooperate with each other. The Taliban* is not happy when the Tajiks fight with them, then come to Tajikistan, then return again. This provokes the Talibs to attack Tajikistan, and if they do, Russia will have to intervene. Does Russia have to fight for Tajikistan's ambition? Therefore, if China has a military base there, it would have to ensure the security of Tajikistan as well, and this is a good thing," the expert noted.
*terrorist organization, banned in the Russian Federation.