Afghan Neighbor Tajikistan Ratifies Base Deal with Russia
Moscow – Tajikistan’s parliament ratified a deal with Russia on Tuesday to extend by three decades Moscow’s military presence in the volatile Central Asian nation, which may face new security threats after NATO troops leave neighbouring Afghanistan. The agreement to prolong the rent-free lease on Base 201 – Russia’s biggest military deployment abroad – was signed in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmon last October.
But it took a year for Tajikistan to win better terms for 1 million of its migrant workers in Russia and ensure duty-free imports of 1 million tonnes a year of Russian oil products in exchange for keeping the base on its soil, sources close to the deal said. “This agreement is in line with the principles of strategic partnership (with Russia). It guarantees stability in the region and security in Tajikistan,” Tajik Defence Minister Sherali Khairulloyev said before the vote.
All 57 deputies who were present in the lower chamber voted for the base deal. A forthcoming vote in the docile upper house is seen as a formality in Tajikistan, where Rakhmon wields vast powers. Migrant workers, mainly those in Russia, are the backbone of the rickety economy, whose other cash earners are aluminum and cotton exports. Worker remittances totalled $3.3 billion, or 43.3 percent of Tajikistan’s gross domestic product, in 2012. Russia will also help modernize Tajikistan’s army with equipment and officer training, Khairulloyev told reporters. (Reuters)