Policy Memos

Central Asia’s Cold War? Water and Politics in Uzbek-Tajik Relations

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At the end of 2011, Louise Arbour, head of the International Crisis Group (ICG), listed Central Asia among the top ten crisis areas in the world and a region that has the potential to see war in 2012. This turned out nearly prophetic. Within several months, the already-troubled relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan drastically deteriorated, triggering such labels as “economic blockade”, “rail war,” and “cold war.” Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are the two most densely populated Central Asian states. They border Afghanistan and serve as key transit states for the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). Both states are ruled by unaccountable autocratic regimes that have not been willing or able to discuss pressing bilateral issues—energy, transportation, border disputes, and, most importantly, the management of water resources. Tension between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is heavily politicized and shows no sign of easing. [...]

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About the author

Marie Curie Fellow
University of St. Andrews, Scotland