From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Batken Region
Mains level : Not Much
Nearly 100 people have been killed and scores injured in violent border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over the last week.
What is the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict?
- The clashes are replaying old pre- and post-Soviet era legacies.
- The borders of the two republics were demarcated under Joseph Stalin’s leadership.
- Historically, the Kyrgyz and Tajik populations enjoyed common rights over natural resources.
- The issue of the delimitation of the border is a relic of the Soviet era.
- While regular talks have tried to resolve the issue, one of the crucial points of disagreement remains over the map which should be used for demarcation purposes.
- Almost half of its close to a 1000 km border is disputed.
Genesis of the dispute
- The creation of the Soviet Union saw the large-scale redistribution of livestock to collective and state farms, which upset the existing status quo.
- Unfortunately, there was only so much land to go around.
- The Tajik territory of Batken saw their livestock increase, and with scarce grazing land, agreements were signed between the two populations over the utilisation of Kyrgyz territory by the Tajiks’ livestock.
What is happening now at the border?
- The last few weeks have seen constant shelling, violent confrontations by local communities, and active engagement by security forces on either side.
- The Batken region of Kyrgyzstan is seeing families being moved out and getting relocated.
- According to Kyrgyzstan, close to 1,50,000 people out of the 5,50,000 odd population of the Batken region have either fled the area or have been relocated by the state.
- The situation in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, is no different. The highly militarised borders also add to tensions.
Significance of Batken
- The Batken region, bordering Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the south of the country, is one of the seven regions of Kyrgyzstan with its natural underground and water resources, natural beauty, smooth transit routes and a population of around 500,000.
- Located 750 kilometers (466.02 miles) from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, and in the southwest of the country, the Batken region is located on the edge of the famous Fergana Valley in Central Asia.
- Fergana Valley includes Fergana, Namangan, Andijan in Uzbekistan, Hocand in Tajikistan, Osh, Jalalabad and Batken in Kyrgyzstan.
- The Batken region borders the Republic of Uzbekistan in the northeast and the Republic of Tajikistan in the southwest and north.
- Covering 8.5% of Kyrgyzstan’s land, the region has agricultural, underground, water and energy resources, as well as oil and natural gas resources, albeit small.
What led to the current flare-up?
- The ideological basis of the current set of clashes is reinforced by developmental issues, thus providing a fertile ground for the entire geopolitical space to become a hotbed of multiple minor conflicts and clashes.
- The groups from either side planted trees in disputed areas and engaged in a physical confrontation using agricultural equipment as weapons.
Why are the clashes occurring now?
- The collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dissolution of the then-existing water and land agreements saw the creation of multiple smaller independent farms.
- This has led to a marked increase in water consumption patterns among the farmers.
- Both countries share multiple water channels with undulating trajectories and flow, which upset equitable access to water on both sides.
- As a result, small-scale conflicts occur practically every year during the crucial irrigation period.
What is the road ahead?
- The path to resolution of the conflict will require groups to agree upon a common map.
- Russia often brokers between the two.
- The international community will have to make efforts to solve the dispute by involving elders in the communities, as historically, elders have been used to resolve conflicts.
- The informal small-scale governance mechanisms would also have to be further strengthened through a concerted effort by the respective countries to stabilize the geopolitical dynamics.