This mini-series on the year ahead for Central Asia was kicked off with a global analysis of the opportunities and challenges facing the region by Kazakh thinktank Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of Kazakhstan (KazISS) and was inspired by two early January stories on the broader future for Central Asia.
This second part draws on a recent report by the International Crisis Group on Tajikistan, which flags some serious concerns about developments and prospects in the country. Published on 11 January 2016, the report,
can also be downloaded as a pdf here: Tajikistan-early-warning-internal-pressures-external-threats ICG Jan 2016.
In summary, the report points to the potential for the deteriorating situation to become a serious problem unless conflict prevention measures are taken. Writing in The Diplomat, Katie Putz highlights the report’s focus on opposition crackdowns as an indication that Tajikistan has become unstable. She notes that internal and external pressures have long been brewing, and that events of 2015 offered no exception to what seems to be a trend.
Russia in particular ought to take action and bordering Central Asian countries need to beef up security arrangements. The USA and EU have a role to play in encouraging greater regional border security. The language used by the ICG tends towards the rhetoric of chaos, crisis and collapse: in one sense I can understand this as they are doing their best to gain attention in a world crowded with state failure and near misses. On the other hand, this belies some of the complexities underlying what is happening in Tajikistan. Here I agree with Putz who in a previous article of December 2015 calls for more nuance in the instability debate.
However, reporting anecdotally from informal conversations with colleagues in Tajikistan, there is little optimism that there will be positive change in the country this year. People continue to see corruption permeate all aspects of public life, from the highest echelons downwards, which collides (colludes?) with schizophrenic policy-making to leave Tajikistan vulnerable to richer and more powerful neighbours. It’s possible to earn a living, enjoy being around family and friends, and in general live (reasonably) well in Tajikistan in 2016, but the effort involved in doing so is becoming greater all the time.