By Paul Goble
The Kyrgyzstan government has been pushing for the resolution of border disputes with its neighbors in order to lower the political temperature inside that much-troubled country, but now another problem has arisen that may exacerbate tensions even if the borders are fully delimited and demarcated.
There are increasingly frequent reports that Tajik officials are checking the documents of ethnic Kyrgyz living in Tajikistan and pressing them to leave that country and move to Kyrgyzstan, a problem that has now been taken up at the level of the foreign ministers of the two (barometr.kg/etnicheskih-kyrgyzov-v-tadzhikistane-vynuzhdayut-vyehat-iz-strany).
No statistics are available about how many people have been affected either by being checked or by being pushed to leave, but the fact that both are now being taken seriously enough for senior officials to get involved suggests that the problem is systemic rather than the result of some overly aggressive local bureaucrats.
Not only do such reports inevitably increase ethnic tensions in both countries, but they call into question plans for territorial swaps between them in which Kyrgyzstan would take control of the Tajik enclave of Vorukh by giving Tajikistan roughly equal parcels of land elsewhere along the state border (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/02/for-first-time-ever-kyrgyzstan-and.html).
Most border changes are proposed in order to limit the number of people who will have to move to be residents of a country they identify with, but this new problem is a reminder that even if borders are changed, the intermixture of nations is so great in some places that some movement of people will be required to make things work.
But when officials on one or the other side or both start down that road, it is almost inevitable that they will go further than required and that the result will be to exacerbate tensions that border agreements are supposed to reduce. That appears to be happening in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan now.