Tajikistan agrees to more intelligence exchanges with China

China's President Xi Jinping (L) and Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon attend a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s foreign ministry on Friday announced an agreement with Tajikistan to establish exchanges of security intelligence as part of an upgrade to diplomatic relations during a state visit by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon to China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Rahmon on Thursday established a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two countries, according to a statement released on the foreign ministry’s website.

The two sides agreed to bolster efforts to combat the threats of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism, as well as international criminal groups and drug trafficking by launching professional intelligence exchanges, the posting said.

“Both sides will strengthen communications between defense, security and law enforcement departments and deepen intelligence exchanges,” it said.

China’s plan to rebuild the ancient Silk Road by reconnecting trade routes from its borders into Central and South East Asia, dubbed the Belt and Road Initiative, has raised new security concerns for the country and its companies.

Beijing has worked to deepen security cooperation with countries in Central Asia and elsewhere to make up for shortfalls in its own intelligence and security measures to combat terror groups and other threats in the region.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security bloc established in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to fight radical Islam, has expanded to now include nearly twenty states as members or partners.

In September last year, China agreed to finance and build several outposts for Tajik border guards and other facilities along the porous 1,345-km border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Tom Hogue