Photo: Tehran Times

Iran and Tajikistan Waive Visa Requirements to Improve Regional Connectivity

In a move to increase regional connectivity, Iran and Tajikistan agreed on visa-free travel between the two countries. Iranian president, Ibrahim Raisi, signed the agreement during his one-day visit to Dushanbe on November 7th.

According to the Iranian president’s office, the visa waiver agreement was part of a larger package of bilateral treaties bundled as a roadmap for bilateral trade and economic cooperation until 2030. It includes cooperation in transportation, the establishment of free economic zones, anti-drug trafficking efforts, and crisis management.

Central Asian countries have bolstered their efforts in recent years to increase regional integration. However, these efforts have not extended to countries beyond the Amu Darya, not the least because of political instability in Afghanistan. Iran shares a border with only one Central Asian nation, Turkmenistan, which is not particularly open to outsiders. Tajikistan, on the other hand, is located on the eastern end of Central Asia, bordering Kyrgyzstan and China. Both Iran and Tajikistan speak Persian and consider themselves part of a larger ancient civilizational identity that also included Afghanistan.

Both countries have raised concerns over the exclusion of Farsi-speaking populations under Taliban rule. Since August 2021, Dushanbe has become the host to a small anti-Taliban group known as the National Resistance Front (NRF), led by former anti-Taliban guerilla fighter, Ahmad Shah Masoud’s son, Ahmad Masoud. The younger Masoud commands some popularity in Tajikistan and Iran, where he spent the early decade of his life before moving to London.

This week in his address at the ECO summit in Uzbekistan’s capital city of Tashkent, Iranian President Raisi once again reiterated the need for an inclusive government in Afghanistan to reflect the diversity of the country.

According to the Iranian State News Agency, IRNA, the Iranian President and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, underscored the need to enhance bilateral ties, particularly in the fields of mining, health, agriculture, technology, hydroelectric power, culture, and sciences. 

Both leaders said their goal is to increase their volume of trade to $500 million. Currently, according to data from the Tajikistan government, during the past nine months, the trade value between Iran and Tajikistan reached $175.19 million, with Iran importing $63.03 million and exporting $122.17 million.

Both Iran and Tajikistan have some of the weakest passports in the world. As of November 2023, Iran’s passport ranks 184th in the world, meaning that Iranian citizens can travel to 16 countries and territories without a visa. Tajikistan’s passport ranks 138th in the world, allowing Tajik citizens to travel to 25 countries without a visa.