Studying Hydro-Political and Geo-Cultural Relationship between Iran and Tajikistan

Document Type : Original Article


1 Associate Professor, Department of Political Geography, Faculty of Geographical Sciences, Kharazmi University, Tehran, Iran.

2 BSc in Political Geography, Faculty of Geographical Sciences, Kharazmi University, Tehran, Iran


Extended abstract
Central Asia is at the focal point of all geopolitical theories. This region is also the biggest landlocked zone which has no access to water, and with a population of 66 million and inappropriate access to global market has become a tempting trading site for industrial countries such as China, India and Turkey. On the other hand, United States and European Union have some interests in this region such as presence in Russia’s backyard, approaching Iran’s borders and gaining control over these two countries by restricting them. Saudi Arabia and Israel have no less tendency to have access to this region to siege Iran and seek allies in international society. Therefore, each country is struggling to confirm its presence in this region based on their interests and possessions. These states are trying to establish a share of their own actions in this region: European Union by extending NATO, Russia by extending regional alliances, Turkey by economy and Turkish identity, Saudi Arabia by religious fundamentalism, China and India by economic development, US by establishing military bases and financial aid and Israel by sets of investments. Iran as a neighbor of central Asia with a wide historical and cultural links with this region, especially Tajikistan, is so inevitably involved, the Central Asia for Iran can be the sword to Damocles and in any case of activism in this region could threaten Iran. Thus, Iran has to invest in Tajikistan’s dam construction technology to catch existing opportunities to secure its national interests besides all the threatening circumstances.
The research method
The present study used documentary research to collect information and has portrayed a clear feature of Central Asia resources and their role in forming the relations of republics in this region based on the existing data and information. The research method has also been based on analytical and descriptive method.
The research findings
The existing data shows that Amu Darya and Syr Darya supply almost 90% of the water in Aral Lake which reaches to 125 cubic kilometers per year. The remaining 10 percent of the water comes from rivers and other small springs. Tajikistan is the main source of water supply. More than 55.4 percent of the total flows are originated in this country. Therefore, Tajikistan has the capacity to build 100,000 MW hydroelectric power plant and it can alone supply 5 percent of the world’s electricity.
This dispersion of water resources shows that nearly 60% of the whole Amu Darya storage capacity and 9% of the total Syr Drya storage capacity are in control of Tajikistan. Although Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are the main suppliers and controllers of water flows, their overall water usage is less than 15 percent. On the contrary, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan use 71 percent of the accessible water, though they have less share of the water in this region. Most of this water is used for irrigation of cotton fields.
 In terms of access and exploitation of freshwater, Central Asian countries can be categorized as follows: Countries which have a lot of water, such as Tajikistan (64 km cubic meters, equivalent to 55.4% of the flowing waters of the Aral Lake) and countries with a small amount of water, such as Uzbekistan (8.8 km cubic meters or 7.6%), and Turkmenistan that supplies water entirely from outside of its borders.
Among Central Asian countries, nearly 100% of Kyrgyzstan's and Tajikistan's water is supplied from domestic resources. However, all Turkmenistan's water consumption and 50% of Uzbekistan's water are supplied from abroad.
Summary and conclusions
Tajikistan is one of the few countries in the world that can be a strategic alliance of Iran and also the most important country in Central Asia which can lead to the presence of Iran in the region. On the other hand, Iran is one of the few countries in the world that can defend Tajikistan against the adaptation of Russian and Turkish culture. The strong cultural share of the two countries will allow them to abandon many visa and business restrictions in the future and sign a military, economic, and cultural agreement.
 Tajikistan is the smallest country in terms of geographical extent and also the poorest in Central Asia. Therefore, both economically and nationally, there is a severe weakness in this country. The identity of this country is being threatened by the interference of the neighboring countries and the youth people immigrate abroad to find jobs. It has a large supply of hydroelectric power, which can also improve its economy by attracting foreign investment and by maintaining a balance of power in its national security area. Meanwhile, Iran is the largest Persian speaking country and is the heir to a great civilization among consanguineous countries and therefore responsible for their defense against Russian and Turkish full cultural adaptation. On the other hand, by investing in hydroelectric power, the country can engage and compete with its rivals, interregional and outsourcing rivals in Central Asia, while securing its economic interests and keep away the threats made by these countries.
But the presence of Iran in the central area requires the abandonment of the ideological view of the region and with a realistic insight and emphasis on cultural and linguistic relations should play a role in Central Asia and Tajikistan. Losing Tajikistan and pushing the country into regional rivals like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, Israel and Uzbekistan could lead to a complete cessation of Iran's presence in Central Asia. Although Tehran has good relations with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, these two countries cannot be reliable and trustworthy partners for Iran, and if their interests are changed, they will easily reduce their relations with Iran.
By investing in Tajikistan's economy, especially its water resources, Iran can establish unbreakable ties with Dushanbe, in addition to strengthening the Tajik economy and supplying Iran's water resources. Therefore, Iran can strengthen its presence in Central Asia by using Tajikistan's position, which will reduce the influence of its rivals and enhance the bargaining power of Iran. Therefore, it can be said that hydro-politics is a good field for Iran’s role in Central Asia.


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