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China Ratifies Border Agreement with Tajikistan and Afghanistan

Friday 26 October 2012

BEIJING (Xinhua) – The China-Tajikistan-Afghanistan agreement on the definition of the tri-junction point for national boundaries was ratified on Friday by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature.

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The zone of disputed territories in Pamir Mountains
Historically, the Pamir Mountains were considered a strategic trade route between Kashgar and Kokand on the Northern Silk Road and have been subject to numerous territorial conquests. The Northern Silk Road (about 2,600 km in length) connected the ancient Chinese capital of Xian to the west over the Pamir Mountains to emerge in Kashgar before linking to ancient Parthia. In the 20th century, they have been the setting for Tajikistan Civil War, border disputes between China and Soviet Union, establishment of US, Russian, and Indian military bases, and renewed interest in trade development and resource exploration.

The settlement is based on relevant border pacts with Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and it was obtained through negotiations between the three nations, said Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who was appointed by the State Council to defend the agreement to the NPC Standing Committee. “The ratification of the agreement is of great significance to maintain peace along the border areas, and will further promote friendship among the three countries,” he said.

In 2010, China held border negotiations and signed a draft agreement with Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In June 2012, the foreign ministers from the three countries signed the agreement in Beijing.

At the time of independence, portions of the Tajik boundary with the People’s Republic of China were not defined. Since 1991, China signed several border treaties with Russia and the newly independent states, demarcating the borders between China and all the post-Soviet successor states: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

However, in the past years, China sought to get better from these treaties by reclaiming from Central Asian states previously conceded territory. The most recent instance of this practice is the Sino-Tajik agreement that was ratified in January 2011 which cedes to China 1,158 km² (0,8% of Tajikistan) in the sparsely populated Pamir Mountains.

The territorial concessions China made to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in order to reach border agreements with them was prompted by a sharp surge in separatist violence in Xinjiang province in the early 1990s.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as independent states put fuel on long- flaming Uighur nationalism in Xinjiang and encouraged Uighurs to ask their independence. This yielded fear in Beijing that Xinjiang would secede. China’s strategy to deal with Uighur separatism involved to obtain support from countries bordering Xinjiang – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Their cooperation was essential to get them to crack down on Uighur separatists taking sanctuary on their soil as well as to build robust trade ties that were needed for economic development in Xinjiang. Beijing thus traded territorial concessions for support from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in its strategy to quell Uighur separatism.

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