Staunton, June 25 – Demarcation of the state border between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – that is the installation of border posts, fences and signage -- may prove as difficult and politically explosive as delimitation -- that is, agreement on where the line is between the two states – was, especially because it is being conducted in anything but a transparent manner.
Earlier this year, the two countries announced that they had completely delimited the border, a statement that many took as the end of the story, even though they immediately said they would now address the question of demarcation by means of working groups (cabar.asia/ru/kak-proishodyat-peregovory-po-granitse-mezhdu-tadzhikistanom-i-uzbekistanom and asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/politics/20210524/dushanbe-i-tashkent-zavershayut-demarkatsiyu-granitsi-mezhdu-stranami).
The presidents of the two countries made clear that they view demarcation as a technical issue, but experts in both countries warn that if it is not handled in an open way with the population along the frontier involved, it can be just as explosive as delimitation has proved to be in the region.
The agreement on delimitation occurred, Uzbek and Tajik political scientists say, largely because of the personal involvement of the presidents; but the work on demarcation by its very nature is not something they will be directly involved with. As a result, there will be a tendency on both sides to avoid anything that looks like a concession to the other.
If that happens, much of the progress that has been achieved will be vitiated; and there is even a risk that if demarcation does not occur quickly and in a completely open manner, the whole question of the border, delimitation as well as demarcation will be reopened, quite possibly with clashes between members of the two nations.
‘ The experts urge that Tashkent and Bishkek push for the working groups to open their deliberations to the public and to complete their work as soon as possible. The problem is that the first not only runs against what is the norm in both capitals but also risks delaying a final agreement.
Consequently, the work of the five demarcation commissions now deserves just as much close attention as did the earlier meetings about delimitation.