On the first day of a three-day visit to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan’s president was greeted with pomp and ceremony, resulting in pledges for more than $1 billion in commercial partnerships and collaborative projects.
It’s a dramatic change from only a few years ago when the former Soviet neighbors regarded one other with a thinly veiled distrust.
On June 10, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon arrived at Dushanbe airport in-person to see Shavkat Mirziyoyev, handling formalities generally handled by the prime minister.
The tone had been established the day before at a first-ever Tajikistan-Uzbekistan investment forum in the southern Tajik city of Bokhtar, which drew roughly 300 businesspeople. The Foreign Trade Ministry of Uzbekistan said in a statement that the event resulted in $730 million in business deals.
Automobile, electronics, and home appliance manufacture, as well as high-yield agricultural and food processing, are among the industries involved in the collaborations.
Officials in Uzbekistan also announced the establishment of a $50 million joint investment fund to support the “implementation of promising joint projects.”
According to Prime Minister Sardor Umurzakov, there are 200 Tajik investors in the Uzbek market, and 60 Uzbek businesses are investing in Tajikistan.
The length of the border and shared heritage and culture should make Uzbekistan and Tajikistan perfect partners, but distrust has plagued the relationship for decades. Tajikistan was little more than a potential source of regional instability for the late Uzbek ruler Islam Karimov. He was particularly concerned about Tajik plans to construct a massive hydroelectric facility, which Uzbek officials feared would jeopardize the country’s agriculture.
Following Karimov’s death in 2016, Mirziyoyev’s ascension to power ushered in a profound transformation. Mirziyoyev marching hand-in-hand with Rahmon down the red carpet stretched up to his plane’s stairs was one of the most memorable images from his maiden state visit to Tajikistan in March 2018.
The two men lavished one other with mutual admiration and wish for the future in a tete-a-tete affair in front of cameramen and photographers in the Palace of Nations, as the official presidential house is known.
The Uzbek government has stated that its goal is to attain $1 billion in trade, which is more than Tajikistan presently trades with Russia. The two administrations are trying to make it appear that their relationship is about more than just money.