Significance of Tajikistan-Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan Summit
Dr Pravesh Kumar Gupta, Associate Fellow, VIF

On a historical and unusual note, the first trilateral summit meeting between the presidents of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan took place in Ashgabat on August 4, 2023. Serdar Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, and Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan issued a joint statement following the Summit. This joint statement seems to be an ambitious document demonstrating the signatory parties’ support for a strong political will and ability to accomplish their objectives.[1]

The three main areas of the framework for cooperation outlined in the statement are transportation, which broadly includes transit and logistics, energy (oil, gas, and power), and water resources and associated issues. The joint statement made extensive reference to trade and economic development. These elements have been highlighted because it relies heavily on efficient and cost-effective logistics and reliable and economical energy supply. The topic of sourcing from the region was raised at this trilateral Summit, as it is at every bilateral and multilateral gathering in Central Asia. The idea is that anything obtained locally ought to avoid being bought from abroad.

Energy resource cooperation (oil, gas, power) exists in some form among these countries. It is worth noting that Uzbekistan has been purchasing Tajik electricity based on demand since April 2018.[2] Uzbekistan has also been receiving electricity from Turkmenistan.[3] The energy cooperation among these countries is expected to take shape when the heads of the three countries’ energy departments meet in the latter half of this year. It will function as a sub-mechanism inside this trilateral framework.[4]

Another emphasis of the trilateral Summit was transportation development. Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are landlocked Central Asian countries, while Uzbekistan is doubly landlocked. They have been attempting to diversify their external trade by accessing external markets via transit through a neighbouring country. Ashgabat is in a distinctive situation because it shares a border with Iran and the Caspian Sea. Increased transportation and logistics cooperation with Turkmenistan may help Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The three leaders have agreed to host a meeting of the three nations’ transport authorities before the end of the year. Within the trilateral framework, this will also function as a supporting mechanism and bolster cooperation in this sector. Cooperation in transport and transit is not new in the region. So much is already being done to promote corridors and the hard and soft infrastructure required for them to succeed. The Trilateral Summit gives it some more vigour.

In industrial cooperation, partnership in the transportation-transit and energy sectors is particularly relevant to the textiles, chemicals, and construction industries. It is somewhat obvious from the way the unified statement is structured. The joint statement also includes agricultural cooperation to strengthen mutual food security. Because food prices are predicted to remain low until the end of 2024, now is the ideal moment to capitalise on the opportunity. Along with these elements, the joint statement emphasised the importance of improving environmental and ecology cooperation. Because there have been repeated ecological challenges in the region, such as glacier melting in Tajikistan and the Aral Sea crisis in Uzbekistan, cooperation in this sector is critical for these countries.

The joint statement devotes much attention to addressing the management and utilisation of the shared water resources in the Amu Darya Basin. The consequences of changes in the course of water distribution of this river basin are extremely vast. The joint statement demands “an effective water resource management, protection, and rational use.” The leaders noted that significant investments are required, and a complete update to agriculture’s science and art might be necessary in addition to the things as mentioned above. There is a sense of urgency, which the joint statement implicitly admits. This imperative has been emphasised by the Taliban’s arbitrary action over the use of Amu Darya water in the recent past.

On the multilateral front, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to maintain a unified position at international and regional forums such as the United Nations. This is quite interesting because these countries’ foreign policy goals and priorities are significantly varied, and it comes just in time for the United Nations General Assembly Session, which begins in a few weeks. The promises reached this meeting will also elevate the potential of the recently finished First GCC+CA meeting in Jeddah. The outcome of this trilateral meeting is usual, but the format itself is highly symbolic. If the promises made in the joint declaration are taken seriously, it will add a new dimension to regional geopolitics.

What is the Significance of this Trilateral Summit?

This Summit is a significant development in the changing regional dynamics of Central Asia. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan share a long and direct border with Afghanistan. Since the Taliban came into power, these countries have managed their relations. However, problems have emerged between the Taliban and these countries concerning the sharing of water of the Amu Darya River. Talban has started building a massive canal that will withdraw a large amount of water from the Amu Darya River. This will have an impact on the water supply in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The Qosh Tepa Canal, which takes its name from the Jawzjan province’s Qosh Tepa district, will be 285 km long and 100 m wide. This will assist in irrigating 55000 hectares (1.35 million acres, or 5500 square km) of land, but it will be highly detrimental to agriculture and irrigation in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.[5]

It is important to note that all three countries have taken different approaches in dealing with the Taliban since it came into power in August 2021. Though they haven’t recognized the Taliban regime, they maintained economic linkages. Tajikistan remained mostly hostile though it continued providing electricity to Kabul. Turkmenistan also maintained economic relations with the Taliban. On the other hand, Uzbekistan played a proactive role by advocating the world to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, bringing Afghanistan into economic development initiatives, and unfreezing Afghan assets worldwide. However, the Taliban’s attitude has not changed. They are not keeping their promises to the international community and causing problems for their neighbours by complicating unnecessarily water issues. Recently, they had a violent dispute with Iran about sharing water from the Helmand River. As stated, they are arbitrarily building a canal that will drastically divert water from the Amu Darya. The Trilateral Summit made water-related concerns one of its key points of attention. It is reasonable to expect that a coordinated strategy of Afghanistan’s neighbouring Central Asian countries will be more practical than having one-sided responses to the Taliban’s illicit actions.

Moreover, regional issues need regional solutions. Border disputes are the most concerning of the many factors that have prevented regional cooperation in Central Asia for a long time. Except for a dispute between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, this issue has already been resolved, and Central Asia is currently experiencing a favourable regional environment. They started consultative meetings to discuss the issues of regional importance, which had some positive outcomes like increasing regional trade and investments, etc. And with the help of this trilateral format, more regional issues will be discussed and resolved, further fostering regional cooperation in Central Asia.


In conclusion, this trilateral Summit provided an essential forum for discussing the important issues the Central Asian countries must solve to maintain regional peace and the promising areas of cooperation. The main themes of the Summit (Energy, Transportation, and water issues) underscore the region’s complex tapestry of challenges that interconnect security, economics, and geopolitical factors and have broader implications.

End Notes

[1] ‘Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan Trilateral Summit — Joint Statement’, News Central Asia,
August 4, 2023.
[2] ‘Tajik electric power reportedly improves energy supply in neighboring Uzbekistan’
January 20, 2023.
[4]‘Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will cooperate in the field of gas and electricity’, August 4, 2023.
[5] ‘What Afghanistan’s Qosh Tepa Canal Means for Central Asia, the diplomat’, April 19, 2023.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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