Interview with H.E. Erkinkhon Rahmatullozoda Ambassador of the Republic of Tajikistan 

The realization of the New Silk Road project could foster a role model that has been played by the ancient Silk Road, where people were involved not only in trade but also in cultural, intellectual,
educational, and religious exchanges.

Mr. Ambassador, On November 10, 2017, the EU High Representative and foreign ministers of Central Asian countries, including Tajikistan gathered in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) for a new regional rapprochement. What is the importance of this event for your country?

Well, I would like to begin by reminding that a quarter century ago the countries of Central Asia and the European Union embarked on the formation and development of their relations based on the principles of mutual respect and trust to each other.

Since then, the countries of Central Asia and the EU have experienced different stages of cooperation, however, the Samarkand meeting expressed the sides’ intention to jump-start their relations and give them the attention they deserve.

The Central Asian countries’ vision to leverage their potential for drastic transformation and the EU’s strong interest in stable and economically prosperous regions are the factors that drive both sides towards the completion of common tasks.

The importance of this event for Tajikistan was the affirmation of a strong willingness of all participants to pursue and enhance further regional and bilateral cooperation. We consider this political development as an important element in our relations and believe that a comprehensive and enhanced partnership between the EU and the countries of Central Asia will positively impact the regional prosperity.

My Government has developed the National Development Strategy-2030, which covers all aspects of the development of Tajikistan, to improve the well-being of the people of the country. This document identifies the role of foreign partners’ significance in the implementation of the NDS. Tajikistan expects that foreign partners will increase their contribution to the priority areas of the Strategy.

Therefore, Tajikistan considers strong regional and international ties as the main factor to impact the socio-economic development of our region as whole, and each country individually.

This platform is supposed to assist Central Asian countries in gaining better benefits from China’s New Silk Road initiative. What does Tajikistan expect from the New Silk Road?

You know well that more than 2.000 years ago the Silk Road was established to link China to the Middle East and Europe through Central Asia. The New Silk Road initiative is supposed to be a modern equivalent, aiming to create a network of economic, trade and policy cooperation.

Thus, Central Asia has preserved its historical importance as a bridge between China and Europe. Moreover, in the recent years, the region has been a zone of close attention of the world community and business structures, which undoubtedly is a positive thing.

Several megaprojects have been launched from China to Europe with the involvement of Central Asian states, which include new roads, railroads and pipelines. Taking into account the above mentioned points, cooperation between the countries of the region and the EU on this platform can help make the development of Central Asia more effective.

Our leadership attaches great importance to the modern economic integration processes, therefore, comprehensive cooperation with the countries of Central Asia, the EU and China is a strategic goal of my Government.

Tajikistan regards the New Silk Road as a promising initiative for mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields. The introduced projects will facilitate economic transformation, offering multiple benefits to our societies. Tajikistan can serve as a transit nation in China’s projects and benefit from it. The construction of the Tajik section of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline is a vivid example.

China has already started, and completed a number of the New Silk Road projects in Tajikistan and we expect significant Chinese investment into our infrastructure projects.

Can it again help flourish not only commerce, but also culture and dialogue of civilizations in Eurasia?

History, culture, and spiritual values as well as centuries-old traditions are the basic principles of nations, and they play a vital role in development of countries.

Such a role has been played by the ancient Silk Road, where people were involved not only in trade but also in cultural, intellectual, educational, and religious exchanges. The Central Asian intellectuals had played a key role in the development of world nations. The great poet Abu Abdullah Rudaki, philosopher and mathematician Al-Farabi, the greatest scholar Abualli Ibn Sino (Avicenna) and many others had considerably contributed to the development of world’s civilizations. Today, globalization processes, in particular technical and economic development progresses, rapidly impact on cultural interchange and facilitate global communications.

Thus, economic and social development of the regions will significantly expand the possibilities for promoting cultural and intellectual ties. The realization of the Silk Road projects, which aim to connect Asia and Europe, will foster intercultural exchanges and strengthen the relationship between the nations.

Will this initiative promote stability in the region and ensure prosperity?

It is noted that Central Asia is in close proximity to unstable zones, and therefore, ensuring security and stability in the region is a primary task of the local governments.

Central Asians recognize that socio-economic development of societies is the most important factor of peace and stability in the region. Hence, national strategies of the countries of the region are directed towards the socio-economic development to improve the living conditions of the people of the region.

In Tajikistan, we are confident that strengthening security, further positive and progressive development, continuation of the reform of the various sectors of economy, raising the living standards and a gradual transition to the formation of the middle class are the main driving factors of stability. In this regards, the Government is making every effort to ensure the stable development of the economy, based on the needs of its population.

To this end, implementation of the One Belt One Road projects with the involvement of Central Asia and neighboring regions can open up new possibilities for promotion of national economies and creation of employment. This will improve the living conditions of all societies and contribute to strengthening of peace and stability in the area.

In Europe, some experts think Tajikistan like other Central Asian countries will gain more benefits from Europe if there are better relations and cooperation between the countries of the region. What is your opinion on this topic?

Indeed, we have to recognize that in today’s interdependent world and globalised challenges a country will not be able to ensure its security and economic development on its own. Joint coordination and consensuses will aid in creating a better environment for addressing regional and global challenges.

I am of the opinion that a joint action could bring more benefits for Central Asia. The common history, culture, traditions, and spiritual values will greatly contribute to the processes of our development. The regional economic integration can be a key factor for stable development. Central Asia has enormous potential, and could act as an economic bridge between Asia and Europe and provide opportunities for our prosperity. That would contribute to Afghanistan’s development as well.

In view of the recent positive developments in the area, I believe that a joint approach to our regional priorities, which is in line with the policy and aims of our European partners, would considerably benefit the countries of Central Asia.

President Emomali Rahmon has declared 2018 as the Year of Tourism in Tajikistan. What is the aim of this initiative?

Thanks to consistent efforts of President Emomali Rahmon, Tajikistan has made remarkable achievements in its domestic and foreign affairs. It is of particular importance to the Government to enhance economic growth through prioritizing each sector of the national economy.

To that end, the President has signed a decree on declaring 2018 as the Year of Tourism and Folk Crafts in Tajikistan to promote development of tourism in the country.

In fact, Tajikistan has a fabulous and beautiful landscape and nature and is one of the best tourist destinations in the world. The hospitability, climate, weather, landscape, sky-high mountains, delicious fruits, wonderful glaciers, healing waters, lakes and springs with pure water, flora and fauna make the country one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations. Therefore, it would be appropriate to mention that the BBC News Agency placed Tajikistan among 10 top tourist destinations in the field of adventure tourism.

The Government has been making a lot of efforts to develop tourism infrastructure by constructing new terminals and hotels. It has adopted the National Tourism Development Program and created Tourism Development Zones. One of the practical steps that the Government has taken was the launch of the electronic visa system “e-Visa” to increase the number of tourists visiting Tajikistan. This system will allow foreign citizens to receive Tajikistan visa online, relieving them from unnecessary arrangements in the Tajikistan consulates or at the borders.

Tajikistan has the opportunity to develop different types of tourism, however, since the country has one of the highest peaks in the world, which is about 7.000 meters above sea level, the focus is given to mountaineering and hunting.

The Pamirs — a big node almost in the center of the Asian continent — is situated among the biggest mountain systems: Tien Shan, Hindu Kush, Kunlin, and Karakorum. Almost the entire territory of the Western Pamir is occupied with ridges of latitudinal directions. A wide high mountain desert has stretched from the southern slopes of the Zaalay ridge in the north to the banks of the river Pyanj in the south as well. The Tajik National Park, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the largest mountainous terrains in the world. Also, the longest and the most powerful glaciers of Central Asia are nested here.

It should be noted that there are about 1450 lakes in the territory of Tajikistan. Some of them are located at the height of more than four thousand meters above sea level. The country is rich with wonderful lakes that have various origins. There are many unique areas in Tajikistan such as the Seven Lakes, which reflect different colors.

The ancient Penjikent City, also known as the Pompeii of Central Asia, which was once an important historical town on the Great Silk Road, the Hissar Fortress and other historical places are the best archeological sites to visit.

Tajikistan has a collection of mineral waters, which consist of 72 cold, warm, and hot springs of different chemical composition, saturated with carbon and nitrogen gases. The temperature in warm and hot springs, such as Garmchashma, varies from 35° to 62°C. Tourists visit these and many other balneological resorts to get cured.

Also, tourists can enjoy the beauty of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, which is known for its full-grown tree lined avenues, public parks, museums, and the traditional tea houses. Kokhi Navruz, the grandest and largest tea house in Central Asia, is in Dushanbe.

It should be noted that mainly tourists from the European Union and the USA have visited the country during the last years. It is gratifying to see the increase in the number of European tourists coming to Tajikistan.

In March we celebrate Navruz, one of the most important and beautiful holidays in Tajikistan. You may know that on these days the people go to the squares to watch shows, serve guests with traditional dishes, and finally the Tajik mountains can be seen in their glory.

Well, I invite everyone to visit Tajikistan during the Navruz Holidays and discover the incredible beauty of my country.