Uzbekistan to Cut Tajikistan-Bound Gas
Relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are about to grow a little colder. Tashkent has said that from April 1 it will cut all natural gas supply to Tajikistan, again. This time, the story is that Uzbekistan needs to reroute the gas to fulfill its obligations to China.But under an agreement signed in January, Tashkent would send Dushanbe 200 million cubic meters of natural gas annually. To put this in perspective, Uzbekistan produces 200 million cubic meters of natural gas a day. So, Tajik authorities are suspicious that the threat is not so much about gas shortages as politics. Tashkent has a record of withholding gas from Dushanbe. For example, on January 4, Uzbekistan cut all gas to Tajikistan. After a brief visit from the Tajik vice prime minister, the gas was turned back on.Local news agencies in Dushanbe have speculated that Tashkent is attempting to punish its upstream neighbor. The two countries have long been at odds over hydropower projects in Tajikistan. In November, an explosion at a bridge on the Galaba-Amuzang railroad, which routes supplies into southern Tajikistan, left the line inoperable. A few days later, the Uzbek government claimed the explosion was an act of terrorism and vowed it would repair the bridge. But the railroad remains closed. As of February, an official with Tajikistan’s state railroad company said that 298 wagons of material bound for southern Tajikistan have been marooned in Uzbekistan and that three and a half million residents of southern Tajikistan are living under an economic blockade. A EurasiaNet correspondent visiting the area in December found local officials discounting the terrorist theory. Uzbek authorities say that bad weather and freezing temperatures have prevented them from being able to fix the bridge—but speculation abounds that the disruption is economic arm-wrestling, as Uzbekistan attempts to isolate its upstream neighbor.