Tag Archives: ayni

The Limits of Indian Military’s Role in Tajikistan

Speaking at a government meeting on January 18, Tajikistan’s Defense Minister Sherali Khayrulloyev said India has become one of his ministry’s key international partners. This statement reflects deepening defense cooperation between India and Tajikistan. The strong ties between the two militaries date back to the early 2000s, when New Delhi and Dushanbe jointly provided support to the anti-Taliban resistance forces, the Northern Alliance, in Afghanistan. Tajikistan is India’s closest neighbor in Central Asia, the region, which strategists in New Delhi view as part of their “extended neighborhood.” India’s growing engagement with the country has been interpreted by some analysts as signifying New Delhi’s intention to use Tajikistan as a potential springboard for its military in the region.

Yet India’s role in Tajikistan is more limited than many journalists and experts have suggested. A great deal of speculation about the allegedly growing presence of the Indian military in the country has been fuelled by India’s renovation of the Ayni airfield, 25 kilometers west of Dushanbe. The $70 million overhaul was completed in 2010, and included an extension of the runway and the construction of hangars, air traffic control tower, and administrative buildings (www.khovar.tj, September 3, 2010).

The Indian military’s role in renovating the airfield provoked speculation that New Delhi intended to establish a military foothold in Tajikistan. Responding to such claims, Tajik authorities have insisted that they do not intend to grant New Delhi basing rights, and that the only country with which they hold talks on the use of the Ayni base is Russia. Indian officials, however, have not explicitly denied their interest in the airfield, suggesting instead that it was up to Dushanbe to decide who would receive permission to use the facility (www.news.tj, November 11, 2010).
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Filed under Foreign affairs, Politics, Tajik-Indian relations, Tajik-Russian relations, Tajikistan

Dushanbe and Moscow Disagree over Russia’s Use of Ayni Airbase

Speaking to journalists on January 27, Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister, Khamrokhon Zarifi, announced that Dushanbe and Moscow will continue talks on Russia’s possible use of the recently renovated Ayni airfield, 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of the Tajik capital. According to Zarifi, the two countries have different views on “certain issues” related to the use of the facility (www.khovar.tj, January 27).

Zarifi also restated the Tajik government’s position that Russia is the only country with which Dushanbe is holding talks on the airfield (Shabakai Yakum TV, January 27). The facility hosted a Soviet helicopter repair facility before falling into disuse after Tajikistan’s independence. Between 2004 and 2010, India helped to refurbish the airfield, spending about $70 million on upgrading the runway, building and equipping hangars and administrative buildings (www.khovar.tj, September 3, 2010). India’s renovation of the Ayni airfield prompted speculation that New Delhi intended to use the facility as its first ever foreign airbase. However, neither Dushanbe nor New Delhi have confirmed India’s interest in the airfield, particularly amidst diplomatic protests by Pakistan and pressure from Russia, which continues to view Tajikistan as part of its sphere of “privileged interest.”
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Filed under Defense, Tajik-Russian relations, Tajikistan