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Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict


Nearly 100 people have been killed and scores injured in violent border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over the last week. A ceasefire was brokered by Russia.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan conflict
  2. What is happening now at the border?
  3. What led to the current flare-up?
  4. Significance of this region for India
  5. What is the road ahead?

About Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan conflict

  • The conflicts replay previous pre- and post-Soviet legacies.
  • Under the direction of Joseph Stalin, the boundaries of the two republics were established.
  • In the past, the populations of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan shared rights to natural resources.
  • The border delineation debate is a holdover from the Soviet era.
  • The map that should be used for demarcation purposes remains one of the key sources of contention, despite attempts to resolve the matter through regular negotiations.
  • Nearly half of its roughly 1000 kilometre border is up for debate.
The origins of the conflict
  • Large-scale livestock transfers to collective and state farms occurred during the Soviet Union’s establishment, upsetting the status quo.
  • There was, regrettably, only so much acreage to go around.
  • As the number of animals in the Tajik territory of Batken increased and grazing area became more scarce, agreements were made between the two populations on the use of Kyrgyz territory by the Tajiks’ livestock.

What is happening now at the border?

  • The last few weeks have seen constant shelling, violent confrontations by local communities, and active engagement by security forces on either side.
  • The Batken region of Kyrgyzstan is seeing families being moved out and getting relocated.
  • Close to 1,50,000 people out of the 5,50,000 odd population of the Batken region have either fled the area or have been relocated by the state. The situation in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, is no different.
  • The highly militarised borders also add to tensions.

What led to the current flare-up?

  • The ideological basis of the current set of clashes is reinforced by developmental issues, thus providing a fertile ground for the entire geopolitical space to become a hotbed of multiple minor conflicts and clashes.
  • The environmental trajectory of the conflict can be further highlighted by incidents which saw groups from either side planting trees in disputed areas and engaging in a physical confrontation using agricultural equipment as weapons.
  • Ferghana valley continues to be a site of struggle and frequent violent outbursts, with the location consisting primarily of Tajiks, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks, who have historically shared common sociological specificities, economic activities, and religious practices.
Why are the clashes occurring now?
  • The collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dissolution of the then-existing water and land agreements saw the creation of multiple smaller independent farms, which led to a marked increase in water consumption patterns among the farmers.
  • Both countries share multiple water channels with undulating trajectories and flow, which upset equitable access to water on both sides.
    • As a result, small-scale conflicts occur practically every year during the crucial irrigation period.

Significance of this region for India

  • Central Asia serves as a land bridge between Asia and Europe, making it geopolitically axial for India.
  • The region is rich in natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, antimony, aluminum, gold, silver, coal and uranium which can be best utilized by Indian energy requirements.
  • Central Asia has huge cultivable areas lying barren and without being put to any productive use, offering enormous opportunity for cultivation of pulses.
  • India intends expansion of International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. This will act as a vital gateway to access Eurasian markets and optimally operationalize its use, requiring a Central Asian state joining the project as a direct stakeholder.
  • India has proposed setting up of ‘India-Central Asia Development Group’ to take forward development partnership between India & Central Asian countries. This group will help India to expand its footprints in the resource-rich region amid China’s massive inroads and to fight terror effectively, including in Afghanistan.
  • India has a very wide array of interests in Central Asia covering security, energy, economic opportunities etc., therefore Security, stability and prosperity of Central Asia is imperative for peace and economic development of India.
  • Both India and Central Asian Republics (CARs) share many commonalities and perceptions on various regional and world issues and can play a crucial role in providing regional stability.
What is the road ahead?
  • The path to resolution of the conflict will require groups to agree upon a common map.
  • The international community will have to make efforts to solve the dispute by involving elders in the communities, as historically, elders have been used to resolve conflicts.
  • The informal small-scale governance mechanisms would also have to be further strengthened through a concerted effort by the respective countries to stabilise the geopolitical dynamics.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023