Tajiks are worrying that an Uzbek plan to build a new railway bypassing Tajikistan will further isolate their country, increasing hardship in the region’s poorest state.
The new railway would link Tashkent to Uzbekistan’s densely populated Ferghana Valley regions via the 2,200-meter Kamchik Pass. Once completed, Uzbek authorities could abandon use of a Soviet-era, 110-kilometer-long spur that cuts across Tajikistan's northern Sughd Province. Uzbekistan is already shipping freight to and from the Ferghana Valley by road, only using the international rail route for moving oil and petroleum products. Uzbekistan reportedly pays about $25 million a year in transit fees to Tajikistan – so the new rail link would deal Dushanbe a considerable economic blow.
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Murat Sadykov is the pseudonym for a journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.