The first visit of the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, H.E. Mr. John MacGregor, was in 2002 to launch the office of the Department for International Development in Dushanbe. This was followed by the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, H.E. Mr.Talbak Nazarov, to the United Kingdom in 2003. We can also recall the visits of His Highness the Duke of York in 2006 and 2008 to the Republic of Tajikistan and his meetings with President H.E. Emomali Rahmon. These contacts serve as an indicator of the intensification of political contacts, which played an instrumental role in the development of Tajik-British relations, stimulating partnership-building measures between the two countries.
"We were delighted to welcome the Senior Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, when she visited Tajikistan last year,” the Minister recalls. Baroness Warsi is the UK’s Senior Minister for relations with Central Asia and during her visit, she met with the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, to discuss political, economic, trade and cultural dimensions. "There was special impetus to regional security in the light of the ISAF withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014,” says Aslov. Baroness Warsi also held meetings with the business community, representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations where issues of trade and investment with Tajikistan, human rights, the rule of law and international values were discussed.
“I am proud of the inter-parliamentary cooperation between our countries,” Aslov continues. “It provides a powerful thrust to bilateral relations.”
The exchange of delegations between the parliaments of the two countries has increased during recent years following the foundation of the British Tajikistan All-Party Parliamentary Group in UK Parliament. The first official visit of Tajik Parliamentarians under the leadership of Head of Upper Chamber of the Parliament, Mr. Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, took place in 2010 (reported by OCA magazine, who met with the delegation). During the visit, the parliamentary delegation met their counterparts, a group of British members of parliament and made the trip to Scotland to become acquainted with modern technologies of energy production and effective usage of water resources.
In turn, members of UK Parliament, chairpersons and members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group have paid frequent visits to Tajikistan in the past few years and held talks with a number of political leaders, high ranking officials, parliament members, representatives of civil society discussing a wide range of bilateral issues, including cooperation in economic, regional security, judicial and law enforcement areas. “The last visit took place quite recently, giving me the pleasure of meeting with the Chairman of the Group - Baroness Vivien Stern in May of this year,” Aslov recalls. “We exchanged views on bilateral ties between our countries, expanding the scope of inter-parliamentary cooperation, the situation regarding human rights in Tajikistan and the current state of its prison reform. I was also thankful to Baroness Vivien Stern for her briefing given to young diplomats of Tajikistan on inter-parliamentary relations between two countries and the role of UK Parliament in the democratic life of the United Kingdom. Inter-parliamentary cooperation between our countries serves as an important dimension and I hope it will continue to make its vital contribution to boost the Tajik-British relationship.”
In the last few years, the two countries have taken important steps to strengthen their cooperation in maintaining peace and security in the region, especially on matters related to the support of the ISAF in Afghanistan. As such, with the support of the UK Government, an English language training classroom in the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Tajikistan was established and one Tajik officer will conclude his training course at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst during 2014. In 2013, Tajikistan and the United Kingdom agreed to transit equipment and personnel of the UK Armed Forces through and over the territory of Tajikistan. Tajikistan, being tied by centuries of historic, cultural and neighbourly relations with Afghanistan puts great emphasis and effort in supporting Afghanistan’s bid to maintain peace and stability.
And what does the Minister think of the co-operation efforts? “I’m confident, that the steady efforts of Tajikistan’s Government, consolidated with successful implementation of regional economic projects in Afghanistan supported by the international community, will contribute greatly to the maintenance of peace and stability in this important ally for our country and for the whole region. We actively discuss with our partners the situation in the region after withdrawal of ISAF forces from Afghanistan in 2014 both on international and regional levels. We consider that Shanghai Cooperation Organization could contribute greatly to keep security in the region which remains the most pressing problem for all SCO member states. In September of this year, Tajikistan will host the 2014 SCO Summit and we put our efforts to make another important step towards strengthening of joint cooperation in the field of economy and regional security.”
In 2013 Tajikistan became a member of WTO, that clearly confirmed the course of the government in complying with international trade standards and liberalization of its economy. Tajikistan has welcomed a growing interest of UK trade and investment companies in various spheres of its economy, which has become more attractive over the last few years. For the time being five Tajik- British joints enterprises are registered in Tajikistan. The Foreign Minister won’t rest there, however. “Despite the progress, there is great potential to do much more in bilateral economic relations and we definitely continue to actively pursue our efforts to achieve more remarkable results in the future. Here we thankful for DFID’s technical assistance of the realization of the regional energy project CASA-1000 which will allow to build effective energy transporting system in Central Asia. I would like to remind that successful realization of the project in future will allow exporting energy to Afghanistan and Pakistan approximately 5 billion kilowatt per year, which in turn positively affect economies of the countries of the region. We also support the activities of DFID helping to improve the business and investment environment in Tajikistan and count on its further active cooperation in important economic and social projects in the country.”
The conversation with the Minister took place on the eve of his forthcoming visit to London which will be held in the first week of July. ‘‘The agenda of my visit to UK is quite intensive and important. High level meetings with Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan stand as a major part of the agenda in bilateral context, there we will discuss the issues of top priority in bilateral relations and sign the Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital. Development of cooperation with European Bank of Reconstruction and Development has a significant importance for Tajikistan. I’m eager to share my thoughts on the current projects in Tajikistan and future perspectives of cooperation during the meeting with EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti. Great attention will be given to the expansion of bilateral inter parliamentary, trade and economic relations during the meetings at the UK Parliament and with business circles.”
The cooperation between Tajikistan and the United Kingdom has become well established in wide range of areas and Aslov believes that it will continue to grow in future.