Thursday, 13 January 2011

China and Tajikistan end century-long border row

Map of Tajikistan
Tajikistan's lower house of parliament ratified an agreement on Wednesday 12th January to demarcate its border with China, ending a century-old conflict over territory in Central Asia's Pamir mountains.

While China will gain 1,000sq km of land, Tajikistan will gain 27,500sq km of land.

The territorial dispute started between Tsarist Russia and Imperial China in the second half of the 19th century, and future governments have been unable find a solution.

The Majlisi Namoyandagon, Tajikistan's lower chamber of Parliament, ratified a protocol on demarcation of their common border with China. The boundary dispute had been settled in agreements signed by both sides in 2002. The agreement still must be ratified by Tajikistan's senate, but that is not expected to be problematic.

While the government is claiming the agreement as a 'great victory' for Tajik diplomacy, opposition parties are less convinced.

Tajik Foreign Minister Khamrokhon Zarifi celebrated the agreement, which ceded only three per cent of the disputed territories to China.

"These disputable territories are nearly 20 per cent of Tajikistan's territory, while under the protocol, only 1,000 square kilometres, or 3 per cent of the disputable territories, are ceded to China," the minister said.

Opposition politicians, however, said the agreement flouted the constitution of the country, which says the territory of Tajikistan is 'inseparable and inviolable'.

Leader of the opposition Islamic Revival Party, Muhiddin Kabiri said the land transfer represents a defeat for Tajik diplomacy. Kabiri is one of only two opposition members in parliament.

Despite the fact that the agreement was reached in 2002, parliamentary deputies said they had been unaware of the agreement with China until several days ago. The leader of the Communist Party of Tajikistan (which generally backs the president), Shodi Shabdolov said people were unhappy about the lack of transparency.

"Nobody had reliable information and many rumours were in society that allegedly a huge part of Tajik territory will be ceded to China," said Shabdolov. The territory ceded to China represents less than one per cent of Tajikistan's land.

Sources: Times of India, Reuters, Washington Post

For more information on Central Asian border, see the Menas Borders website, here.

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