The following are excerpts from a recent interview with Ambassador Yusuf Sharifzoda of Tajikistan in Seoul.—Ed.
Question: What is the status of relationship between Korea and Tajikistan?
Answer: Historically, ancestors of Tajik people and Koreans have interacted through “Silk Road” trade starting from the Silla Kingdom period as exemplified by Indo-Iranian influence on early Korean art and ceramics. So, one can surely state that our relations began more than two thousand years ago.
In more recent times, after the Republic of Tajikistan gained its independence, the Republic of Korea was among the first countries to recognize our young state. Officially, the diplomatic relations between our countries were established on April 27, 1992. However, due to ensuing civil war and a period of national reconciliation in Tajikistan bilateral relations between our country and Korea remained limited.
The turning point that gave a new impetus to the development of our mutual ties was the first official
visit of the Founder of Peace and National Unity – Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon in May 23-25, 2005 to the Republic of Korea. This visit positively affected the inter-state cooperation moving bilateral relations to a more dynamic level and resultied in signing documents that provided a solid legal basis for the development of bilateral ties in various spheres of cooperation.
Tajikistan places a special importance to deepening its cooperation with Korea and the opening of the Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in Seoul by the Founder of Peace and National Unity - Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon on April 13, 2015 further reiterates the strategic importance of Korea in Tajikistan’s international relations. Notably, the opening of our embassy was aligned with our leader’s official visit and participation in the World Water Forum-2015 in the Republic of Korea that demonstrated Korea’s crucial role in increasingly challenging global water issues.
For the past two years, the Embassy has been primarily engaged with solving various organizational matters and I am the first ever resident ambassador of the Republic of Tajikistan in Korea. As such, the Embassy has just begun to fully function and my mission as my nation’s first resident envoy is to boost mutually beneficial cooperation between Tajikistan and Korea in all fields.
Q: How’s the relationship of your country with other countries of the world?
A: The development of multilateral and mutually fruitful relations with all countries of the world is one of the most important priorities for our country. Tajikistan officially proclaimed “Open Doors” policy thus expressing readiness for transparent cooperation based on trusting and constructive relationships. Tajikistan is an active member of the world international organizations. The country is actively
promoting its initiatives at the UN on international cooperation in the water resources and has earned the role of one of the “water policy” world centers. It is encouraging that Tajikistan has recently joined the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for 2017-2018, which will provide the country with new opportunities to make a greater contribution to the development of the UN social and economic programs.
At the regional level Tajikistan is the member of a number of prestigious organizations, one of which is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The success of the SCO summit in Dushanbe in 2014 once again confirmed our country’s commitment to the goals and objectives of this influential organization in maintaining peace and promoting international development.
Q: Please introduce the Head of Government of your country:
A: The Founder of Peace and National Unity - Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon enjoys popular support among our nation and pursues an open-door policy in the international relations. In these efforts, he has the door of the Republic of Tajikistan wide open to all the countries of the world for the promotion of mutually beneficial relations and cooperation.
Tajikistan’s foreign policy is the product of independence period in its full sense, the founder and designer of which is the Founder of Peace and National Unity, Leader of Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon. Establishment of relations with the foreign countries and introduction of Tajikistan as an independent country in international arena was one of the most important aspects of state building at the beginning of our independence. In September 1993, the Tajik Leader Emomali Rahmon for the first time delivered a statement at the United Nations, in which he introduced Tajikistan’s constructive plans and desires, peace-loving political objectives, its intention to achieve national unity as well as strengthening and widening of cooperation with all friendly and peace-loving countries of the world.
Q: What is the volume of trade between Korea and Tajiksta?
A: The present volume of bilateral commerce is around US$56 million and efforts are being increasingly made on both sides to boost the volume and range of economic cooperation between our two countries. Tajikistan has a huge untapped potential for hydropower development. Along with the large growing demand for electricity consumption in the region, it creates good opportunities for investment in this area. Necessary infrastructure to export electricity from Tajikistan to the south part of the region is currently under construction and this in turn requires a lot of work in different areas of the economy – from building of transmission lines to consulting, high technology, training and education. I believe it could be a particular area of interest for foreign investments. Tajikistan is mainly an agricultural country, but we also have rich natural resources like gold, silver, aluminum etc. Some Korean companies have already started cooperation with companies in aluminum business in Tajikistan. Cotton is also one of the important products of Tajikistan. We are producing 400,000 tons of cotton a year which is of very high quality and which is used in a wide range of textile products. Tajikistan also has large reserves of precious and semiprecious stones, and is a rich country in terms of deposits of various other mineral and natural resources.
Q: How is the present status of the Korea-Tajikistan relations?
A: Bilateral relations between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Korea are in the process of progressive development. Tajikistan attaches great importance to the development and deepening of cooperation with the Republic of Korea. Expansion of relations with Korea is one of the priorities of our foreign policy, and we are considering Korea as a friendly country and a reliable partner in the international arena. In historical aspects, our countries share long-standing commercial and cultural ties, which, it is gratifying to note, revived today on a new basis and tend to further develop in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres. The most striking event in bilateral relations was the visit of the Founder of Peace and National Unity - Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon in April 12-17, 2015 to the Republic of Korea for participation in the Seventh World Water Forum, in Daegu. During this visit the Tajikistan-Korea summit was held leading to signing five cooperation documents in various sectors, such as aviation, the economy, science, technology, sports, foreign affairs and culture and the arts. Tajikistan and Korea also effectively cooperate within international and regional organizations. We have the same position on many issues of international and regional agenda.
Q: Please introduce the tourist attractions of your country.
A: It is worth to note that Forbes recently ranked Tajikistan as one of the fifteen most unique and interesting places of the former Soviet Union and truly, Tajikistan is a land of immense diversity. Many foreigners visit Tajikistan as eco-tourists. One of the largest mountain ranges in the world, the Pamir Mountains, is located in the eastern part of Tajikistan. Tourists are attracted by the spectacular views and hiking opportunities available in that region. Over 93% of the country is covered by mountains. Consequently, we have thousands of small and medium sized rivers that are great for white water rafting. There are also great hunting opportunities. Beyond the beautiful nature of Tajikistan, I would encourage tourists to immerse themselves in our ancient cultural heritage, which spans several thousand years. For instance, the biggest and the only “sleeping” ancient Buddha statute in the world is at the National Museum of Tajikistan and not many foreigners know about this fact yet. Starting from June 1, 2016, an electronic visa system «e-Visa» allows foreign citizens to receive Tajikistan visa online, relieving them from need to stand in queues in Tajikistan consulates abroad or at the border. The new system is designed to facilitate the process of obtaining a visa to Tajikistan by foreign citizens, increase the number of tourists visiting Tajikistan, as well as to simplify visa procedures for businessmen. We also want to save time and relieve the workload of the personnel involved in the visa issuing process.
Question: Please introduce the "Nowruz" New Year’s festival, which is solemnly celebrated in early spring. What is the significance of this traditional holiday?
A: Nawruz is celebrated in Tajikistan from March 20th until March 25th every year for many thousands years. Astronomically, Nowruz comes to the period of the spring equinox and symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, a new beginning, hopes and aspirations since May 10, 2010 Nowruz is recognized by decision of the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations as an international Nowruz Day. In its resolution, the General Assembly determined that "Nowruz is a spring festival that has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years by more than 300 million people in Central Asia, on the Balkan Peninsula in the Black Sea region, in the Caucasus and the Middle East".
Tajikistan, along with other countries in the Nowruz basin, contributed to the international recognition of this festival. "Nowruz" plays an important role as an expression of the unity of the cultural heritage and century-old traditions. The aim is to strengthen the links between peoples on the basis of mutual respect and the ideals of peace and good neighborliness.
Q: What is the outlook of the bilateral relations between Korea and Tajikistan?
A: I can say with confidence that there are many unexplored opportunities for further expansion and strengthening of bilateral relations between Tajikistan and Korea. This year is the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. This is a milestone anniversary and a good reason to revitalize our cooperation. Availing myself of this opportunity, I would like to extend my congratulations to people of our two friendly countries and wish them the best of health, prosperity and every success in their work.