Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is visiting Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, seeking to strengthen relations between Tehran and Dushanbe. During his visit, Raisi and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon signed 18 cooperation documents and a joint statement, outlining their commitment to deepening relations.
They included an MoU on a roadmap for trade and economic cooperation from 2023 to 2030, a visa-free travel by citizens of both countries, fighting drug trafficking, transportation and transit, crisis management, creating a joint free zone, as well as cooperation in the fields of culture and art.
Raisi’s visit to Tajikistan marks his second trip as President of Iran, following his attendance at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in 2021. The current visit can be seen as part of Iran’s efforts to expand business opportunities in Central Asia, but it also included consultations on the issue of Palestine and Gaza. In a joint press conference with Rahmon, Raisi highlighted the shared concern of “all conscientious people” over the fate of the Palestinians in Gaza, describing it as an issue of utmost importance for Islam and humanity.
The economic dimension of Iran-Tajikistan relations is significant, with both countries being members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The presidents are expected to participate in the upcoming ECO Summit in Uzbekistan, where they will discuss strengthening trade, economic, investment, transportation, and humanitarian cooperation within ECO.
Tajikistan has expressed a keen interest in advancing its transportation infrastructure in collaboration with Iran. The proposed expansion of these infrastructure networks along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran route, as well as the Tajikistan-Central Asia-Iran route, holds the potential to elevate Tajikistan into a pivotal international transit hub linking the East and West. Notably, Tajikistan is positioned as one of the pivotal stations within the Five-Nation Rail Corridor (FNRC), integrating Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China. Notably, the ongoing implementation of this corridor includes the upcoming completion and operationalization of the Khaf-Herat railway between Iran and Afghanistan later this year.
Political and security links
Economic interests and incentives are the main drivers for the enhancement of bilateral relations between the two countries in the new era. Tajikistan offers a lucrative market for Iranian entrepreneurs. However, this relationship is situated within a broader context of strategic objectives. Iran views Tajikistan as part of its cultural geography, and as a vital component of its geopolitical and geo-cultural interests, in the midst of the global geopolitical competition that is unfolding in Central Asia. Many observers contend that, despite occasional divergences between Tehran and Dushanbe, the ties between Iran and Tajikistan are endowed with unique indicators, characteristics and links that reinforce this relationship, and that Tajikistan should be regarded as part of Iran’s backyard.
Similarly, Iran and Tajikistan seek to expand their military and security cooperation by identifying common threats, the most salient of which are drug trafficking, terrorism and extremism. Iran and Tajikistan have signed several agreements on defense and security cooperation. In these agreements, the parties stressed the importance of deepening and strengthening the defense and security relations between Iran and Tajikistan, and considered it a crucial factor for establishing peace and stability in the region. Defense, educational and technical cooperation are other aspects of these agreements.
Another example of the military-security cooperation between the two countries is the establishment of a joint factory for the production of the Ababil-2 reconnaissance drone. The Iranian UAV production line was inaugurated in Tajikistan on May 17, 2022, with the presence of the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces.