India’s Relations With Tajikistan: Beyond the Airbase

Ayni airfield

India’s pursuit of a stronger global role and its competition with Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan has over the past two decades pushed New Delhi towards closer engagement with Central Asia. Tajikistan has become India’s main point of entry into the region, mainly due to Dushanbe’s proximity –and a special relationship– with Kabul.

New Delhi’s close cooperation with Dushanbe originates from the late 1990’s when both countries supported the anti-Taliban resistance forces, the Northern Alliance, in Afghanistan. Tajikistan provided Indian military advisers with access to the ethnic Tajik leadership of the Northern Alliance. Until 2002, Dushanbe hosted a medical facility set up by the Indian army to treat injured anti-Taliban resistance fighters at the Farkhor airfield, on Tajikistan’s southern border with Afghanistan. India also used the airfield to supply the Northern Alliance with military equipment, munitions and intelligence, and to repair its combat helicopters (, August 12, 2006).

Security ties between India and Tajikistan strengthened after the two countries signed a bilateral defense agreement in 2002. Based on that deal, New Delhi refurbished a Soviet-built airfield at Ayni, 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Dushanbe. The renovation, which cost India over $70 million, included upgrading the runway, construction of the traffic control tower, hangars, and administrative buildings (, September 3, 2010). Indian specialists handed over the refurbished facility to the Tajik defense ministry in 2010.

New Delhi’s support in upgrading the Ayni airfield provoked widespread speculation that India intended to use the facility as its first ever foreign military base. The Indian defense ministry reportedly planned to deploy MiG-29 (NATO name: Fulcrum) fighter jets and Mi-17 multi-purpose helicopters at the airbase (, December 1, 2010). The deployment of elements of the Indian air force in Tajikistan made perfect sense as this would improve New Delhi’s response capability to potential crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and help it become a major player in energy-rich Central Asia. However, neither New Delhi nor Dushanbe ever confirmed India’s interest in establishing an airbase at Ayni. On the contrary, senior Tajik government officials have repeatedly denied holding talks on the use of the facility with any country other than Russia. Many analysts believe that Dushanbe refused to host an Indian air base under pressure from Moscow, China and Pakistan (, September 16, 2009). Visiting Dushanbe in November 2010, Indian army chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh, neither confirmed nor denied that New Delhi had sought an airbase in Tajikistan, suggesting that a decision to lease the facility to foreign states was a prerogative of the Tajik government (, November 11, 2010).

India’s ties with the Tajik military have not been limited to revamping the airfield. In 2003, New Delhi conducted its first Central Asian military exercise with Tajikistan. India’s donations to the Tajik defense ministry have included two Mi-8 helicopters along with critical spare parts, trucks and other vehicles, about 10,000 uniforms, and computers. In addition, hundreds of Tajik military cadets and officers have been trained at India’s National Defence Academy since 1998. India also funded the refurbishment of the Tajik Military Institute in Dushanbe (, July 30, 2010).

Despite increasingly close political and military ties, India’s economic cooperation with Tajikistan has remained very low. Annual trade between the two countries was slightly over $30 million in 2009 and 2010, rising only marginally from previous years. Indian companies have invested $17 million in upgrading a hydropower station near Dushanbe and about $5 million in hotel construction in the Tajik capital. Following Indian President, Pratibha Patil’s, visit to Dushanbe in September 2009, it was announced that Indian firms intended to invest $28 million in the construction of a cement plant and the development of gas fields in southern Tajikistan. However, these plans have not been implemented. There was also speculation concerning New Delhi’s interest in Tajikistan’s uranium deposits (, September 16, 2009). The major impediment to closer economic ties has been the lack of convenient transportation routes between the two countries.

Unable to become a major economic player in Tajikistan, India has maintained its influence by providing aid to Dushanbe. Indian specialists upgraded a large fruit processing plant and opened a modern IT center in Dushanbe in 2006. During the harsh winter in 2008, New Delhi provided the Tajik government with cash and material aid worth $2 million. Following the 2010 polio outbreak in Tajikistan, India donated two million doses of polio vaccine to Dushanbe. Moreover, New Delhi annually sends about 100 Tajik citizens, mostly public servants, to India for short-term training programs in various fields, ranging from English to rural development. In addition, New Delhi provides 30-35 full scholarships per year for Tajik students to pursue master and doctoral level studies in India. In return, Tajikistan has provided scholarships for 300 Indian students, who are currently enrolled at a medical university in Dushanbe (

As New Delhi aspires to play a stronger role in Central Asia, its defense and security ties with Dushanbe should be matched with adequate economic cooperation and financial support for the cash-stripped Tajik government. Without achieving this balance, India will remain only a marginal player in the region.

(By Alexander Sodiqov, Eurasia Daily Monitor, vol. 8, issue 36, February 22, 2011)



Filed under Defense, Tajik-Indian relations, Tajikistan

11 responses to “India’s Relations With Tajikistan: Beyond the Airbase

  1. Alexander Sodiqov

    Tajikistan banking on re-introduction of direct flights to increase Indian tourist arrivals

    By Maansi Sharma,, March 2, 2011

    In an attempt to increase tourist traffic from India visiting Tajikistan, Saidbeg Saidov, Ambassador, Republic of Tajikistan in India recently made a presentation, on the destination and its tourism offerings, at the Indian Merchants Chambers (IMC), Mumbai. Arvind Pradhan, Director General, IMC; Suresh Kotak, Past President IMC; Pradip Madhavji, Chairman, Travel and Tourism Committee, IMC; Clarence Fernandes, Chairman, IMC; Jitendra Sanghvi, Dy. Director General, IMC; and Dr. Dhananjay Samant, Chief Economist, IMC; were present to greet the Ambassador and his wife, introduce the IMC, and provide inputs to successfully promote Tajikistan tourism to the Indian market.

    Speaking on the sidelines of the presentation, Saidov said, “Currently Indian tourists’ arrival in Tajikistan is approximately 1,000 per year. In an attempt to improve these numbers, we have a tourist committee set up in Tajikistan to make Visa processing quicker and hassle-free. We also have plans for direct air connectivity between the two countries.

    In 2003, the national carrier, Tajik Air, used to run once-a-week flights between Delhi-Daushanbe-Sharjah, that would fly out of Delhi on Tuesday and return from Sharjah on Wednesday, with stopovers at Tajikistan’s capital. These flights were eventually stopped. However, to help facilitate growth in tourist numbers, the airline is ready to introduce carriers that will fly directly between the two capitals. This year the airline will begin once a week flights from Delhi to Daushanbe.”

    The existence of four Indian restaurants has eliminated the problem of availability of Indian food, and more importantly, vegetarian cuisine. Lalit Malhotra, an Indian entrepreneur, is also in the process of establishing a five-star hotel in Tajikistan.

    Providing inputs on strategies to be adopted to promote Tajikistan in the Indian market, Pradip Madhavji said, “By 2012 there will be 25 million Indians travelling abroad, with special demand for middle haul destinations like Tajikistan. Hence, marketing strategies need to be chalked out for the year, especially targeting the MICE segment as trade seems to be the main target for tourism. A representative company who will provide potential tourists with information on Tajikistan should be appointed and be situated in Mumbai, as the Western region, that is Maharashtra and Mumbai in particular, has the biggest outbound tourist market.”

  2. Alexander Sodiqov

    Таджикистан и Индия выступили за ускорение работ по модернизации Варзобской ГЭС-1

    Avesta.Tj | 17.06.2011 | Вопросы развития таджикско-индийских отношений в сферах энергетики, промышленности обсуждены на встрече министра энергетики и промышленности Таджикистана Гула Шерали с послом Индии в Таджикистане Асит Кумаром Бхаттарчарджи сегодня 17 июня в Душанбе.

    Как сообщили «Авесте» в пресс-центре Минэнергопрома республики, в ходе встречи были затронуты вопросы налаживания производства и переработки фруктов, производства соков, молочной продукции, обуви в Таджикистане.

    По словам источника, стороны выступили за ускорение модернизации Варзобской ГЭС-1, которую осуществят индийские компании. Напомним, согласно достигнутым ранее договоренностям, модернизацией Варзобской ГЭС-1 займутся индийские компании Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) и National Power Corporation (NHPC). Правительством Индии на осуществление данного проекта выделен грант в размере $17 млн.

    Модернизация позволит увеличить мощность ГЭС с 7,3 до 9,4 МВт, и продлит работоспособность гидроузла еще на 50 лет. Варзобская ГЭС-1 обеспечивает электричеством и питьевой водой Варзобский район и частично город Душанбе.
    Каскад Варзобских ГЭС состоит из трех станций, причем самой крупной по установленной мощности является ГЭС-2 – 14,76 МВт.

    Проектная мощность ГЭС-1 составляет 7,3 МВт, а ГЭС-3 – 3,52 МВт. Варзобская ГЭС-1 была первой ГЭС, введенной в эксплуатацию в советском Таджикистане в 1936 году.

  3. Alexander Sodiqov

    India Boosts Military Ties With Kyrgyzstan, July 5, 2011

    India may have been thwarted in its attempt to set up an air base in Tajikistan, but now it’s building military ties with Kyrgyzstan, agreeing to train UN peacekeeping troops and establishing a joint high-altitude military research center in Bishkek.

    India’s defense minister, AK Antony, has been visiting Bishkek the last two days and announced those two initiatives. The altitude research center will host about 20 Indian soldiers at a time, and be based in Bishkek with a field station in the mountains outside the city, reports The Economic Times:

    The centre has a field station at Tuya Ashu, located at a height of 3,200 metre. Akpay Sarybaev, a leading cardiologist and expert in mountain medicine, has been nominated as the centre’s director.

    The proposal for joint collaboration in the area of mountain medicine and to establish the centre was mooted during talks between then Kyrghyz President A. Akaev and then Indian president A.P.J Abdul Kalam in November 2003.

    “The realisation of that shared vision has finally culminated in the establishment of this centre. The joint endeavour of our scientists will provide a platform to utilise the expertise of both the institutes in a holistic manner to evaluate, as well as improve the performance and enhance the process of acclimatisation at high altitudes using psychological, biochemical and molecular research tools,” Antony said at the event.

    The peacekeeping training will start by the end of this month. From The Hindustan Times:

    Antony, who held talks with his Kyrgyz counterpart Maj Gen Abibilla Kudayberdiev, said the current level of military engagement with Kyrgyzstan was “rather limited,” but there was scope to expand it to “military training, defence research and development and production of armaments.”

    What does this mean? Defense News makes some obvious points:

    “India desires to have a greater role in Afghanistan after the allied forces leave. New Delhi [also] is trying to build ties with Central Asian countries, which are rich in natural resources,” said Mahindra Singh, a defense analyst based [in New Delhi].”

    It would also seem to be part of an effort by Kyrgyzstan’s president, Roza Otunbayeva (who was at the announcement of the mountain research center) to lessen the country’s reliance on Russia. And as such, it seems a better fit for India than Tajikistan, which was more susceptible to Russian pressure to not allow India’s use of the air base that they paid to renovate. But if India is still interested in a base in Central Asia, and decides to focus on Kyrgyzstan rather than Tajikistan, that would certainly get interesting quickly.

  4. Alexander Sodiqov

    India Boosts Its Presence in Kyrgyzstan

    Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 131, July 8, 2011, by Erica Marat

    New Delhi’s presence has suddenly expanded in Kyrgyzstan following Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony visit to Bishkek on July 4-5 to meet with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Abibilla Kudayberdiyev, to discuss bilateral cooperation on security issues.

    It was agreed that by the end of July, Indian peacekeepers will begin training Kyrgyz army conscripts to make them suitable to participate in UN operations. “India has offered assistance to Kyrgyzstan to strengthen its defense and security capabilities. The training team is the first step,” Antony said in Bishkek (, July 5). India will also provide English language training to the Kyrgyz army.

    Furthermore, India will open a joint Mountain Biomedical Research Center in Tuya Ashu village. The center will host 20 Indian soldiers and conduct research on the mechanism of short term and long term high altitude adaptation, Antony said (, July 6). “We can explore areas for cooperation in research and development in high-altitude base agriculture, plantation, animal husbandry, poultry and food processing that would also help generate rural employment and remove poverty,” the Indian defense minister added.

    Kyrgyz President, Roza Otunbayeva, praised the growing cooperation with India, saying that “the new center must become a leader in Kyrgyzstan’s sciences. National professionals will study genetic aspects of the formation and development of mountain diseases.” She also said that the new center is a watershed in the 20-year history of cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and India (, July 5). Overall, however, unlike international media outlets, the Kyrgyz press largely ignored Antony’s visit to Bishkek.

    The potential to play a role in post-NATO Afghanistan is the major driving force behind India’s expansion into Central Asia. India has already expressed strong interest in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which also recently unveiled its new Afghanistan policy. However, one difficulty the SCO faces is maintaining a balanced approach towards India and Pakistan.

    For several years the heads of India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan have held observer status with the SCO, while Belarus and Sri Lanka are SCO’s “dialogue partners.” The SCO plays a “constructive and forward looking role in contributing towards peace in Afghanistan,” India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said during the SCO summit in Astana last month (, June 16).

    According to the Indian press, New Delhi has sought to strengthen ties with Kyrgyzstan since the reign of former President Askar Akayev. India’s President A.P.J Abdul Kalam and Akayev met in November 2003 to discuss the possibility of launching a mountain medical center (, July 5).

    India helped in the construction of the airbase in Ayni, Tajikistan, and is known for its lack of any practical use. New Delhi has also sought to build stronger ties with other Central Asian states on issues other than regional security. The Indian government is also planning to build a pipeline to import gas from Turkmenistan’s Yoloten-Osman field (, July 5).

    Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian state to provide both ground transportation and an airbase for the Northern Distribution Network that supplies the US and NATO campaigns in Afghanistan. The country also hosts a Russian airbase in Kant city. In the past Bishkek had to balance its relations between the United States and Russia. Since the regime change in April 2010, however, Kyrgyzstan has been more receptive to foreign influence. There is no one government body that is responsible for foreign policy decisions. Otunbayeva pursues a more Western leaning policy, while Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev (a potential presidential candidate) favors cooperation with Russia. Individual members of parliament have also boosted ties with various foreign partners – ranging from Washington to Jakarta.

    Against this background, India enjoys a special status of being on good terms both with the West and Russia. Any of India’s advances into the Central Asian states might compete mostly with the interests of Pakistan and China. Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy is likely to become more focused after the presidential election scheduled for October 30.

    India’s indirect economic impact on Kyrgyzstan and in the wider Central Asian region has expanded mainly due to shuttle traders importing goods from India, as well as student exchange programs. However, despite the geographic proximity between India and Kyrgyzstan, India still remains a much more difficult place to travel to when compared to Russia. For now, there are far more routes connecting Bishkek with Moscow than New Delhi. This is unlikely to change in the coming years.

  5. Alexander Sodiqov

    МИД РТ: С представителями ВВС Индии вопрос об аренде аэродрома Айни обсуждаться не будет

    Душанбе. 6 августа. «Азия-Плюс» – | В Душанбе 11 августа с двухдневным визитом прибывает индийская делегация во главе с заместителем начальника Штаба Военно-Воздушных Сил Индии Кишеном Кумаром Нахором.

    Как сообщил «АП» Давлат Назриев, руководитель департамента информации, прессы, анализа и внешнеполитического планирования МИД Таджикистана, в ходе визита индийской делегации будут обсуждены вопросы сотрудничества сторон в военном, военно-техническом направлениях, а также подготовки таджикских офицеров в учебных заведениях Индии.

    Согласно информации Минобороны Таджикистана, на сегодняшний день в военных ВУЗах Индии проходят обучение около 40 граждан нашей страны.

    Д. Назриев подчеркнул, что данный визит никак не связан с муссирующимися в отдельных СМИ сообщениями о возможной передаче Таджикистаном в аренду Индии военного аэродрома Айни. «Этот вопрос обсуждаться не будет», – отметил Назриев.

    Аэродром Айни расположен близ города Гиссара – это 25 км на запад от Душанбе. До распада СССР здесь был вертолеторемонтный завод со взлетно-посадочной полосой. Однако после 1991 года он не эксплуатировался. Хотя в целях безопасности военный объект Айни для дислокации приспособлен хорошо – скрытен, находится в малолюдной местности.

    После визита в Дели в августе 2006 года президента Эмомали Рахмона, в индийских СМИ стала подниматься тема о превращении Айни в военно-воздушную базу Индии. Это, якобы, будет первый большой индийский военный объект за пределами страны. Газета Asia Times, к примеру, утверждала, что Индия строит три ангара в Айни, два из которых будут эксплуатироваться индийской авиацией. И, мол, там Индия разместит 12 боевых самолетов МиГ-29.

    Однако официальный Душанбе каждый раз опровергает информацию индийских СМИ. На последней пресс-конференции в конце июля 2011 года глава МИД Таджикистана Хамрохон Зарифи заявил журналистам, что по вопросу передачи в аренду аэродрома Айни Таджикистан ведет переговоры только с Россией.

    При этом глава внешнеполитического ведомства страны подчеркнул, что «таджикская земля никому не будет сдана в аренду бесплатно».

  6. Alexander Sodiqov

    Индия построит для Минобороны Таджикистана современный госпиталь

    Душанбе. 11 августа. «Азия-Плюс» – | Министр обороны Таджикистана генерал-полковник Шерали Хайруллоев встретился сегодня в Душанбе с заместителем начальника Штаба Военно-Воздушных Сил Индии маршалом авиации Кишеном Кумаром Нахором. Темой встречи стали вопросы сотрудничества сторон в военном, военно-техническом направлениях, а также подготовки таджикских офицеров в учебных заведениях Индии.

    Как сообщил «АП» начальник пресс-службы оборонного ведомства Таджикистана Фаридун Махмадалиев, ежегодно в военные вузы Индии на учебу направляются 15-20 выпускников военного лицея при Минобороны.

    По его словам, стороны также обсудили ситуацию в регионе, вопрос оказания Индией технической помощи Вооруженным силам Таджикистана, а также проведения совместных учений оборонных ведомств двух стран, направленных против международного терроризма.

    В Минобороны подчеркнули, что индийская сторона выразила готовность построить и оснастить в Таджикистане современный госпиталь для военнослужащих национальной армии.

    По данным МИД Таджикистана, визит высокопоставленных индийских военных в Душанбе никак не связан с муссируемыми в отдельных СМИ сообщениями о возможной передаче Таджикистаном в аренду Индии военного аэродрома Айни.

    Глава департамента информации внешнеполитического ведомства страны Давлат Назриев заявил, что этот вопрос в ходе пребывания делегации ВВС Индии в Таджикистан обсуждаться не будет.

  7. Alexander Sodiqov

    Tajikistan’s special gesture to Antony

    India and Tajikistan on Monday exchanged views on regional and global security situation, including Afghanistan, during an unscheduled meeting between Defence Minister A.K. Antony and his Tajik counterpart, Colonel General Khayrulloev Sherali Khayrulleovich, in Dushanbe.

    Mr. Antony, who was on his way to Moscow for a meeting of the 11th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Technical Cooperation, was greeted at the airport by the Tajik Defence Minister.

    Defence Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar told The Hindu on the phone from Dushanbe that Mr. Antony had a pleasant surprise in store when his special aircraft landed in Tajikistan for a brief technical halt.

    “The Tajikistan Defence Minister chose to miss the ongoing Parliament session to call on Mr. Antony at the airport, rolling out the red-carpet and offering the traditional bread and honey welcome,” Mr. Kar said.

    The gesture was seen as a measure of warmth in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. The two Defence Ministers had a working lunch, during which they discussed issues of mutual interest.

    The Tajikistan Defence Minister saw Mr. Antony and his delegation off as they resumed their journey after extending invitation to spend more time on the return leg.

  8. Alexander Sodiqov

    India’s Tajikistan Air Base Dreams Die Hard

    October 7, 2011 – 3:54pm, by Joshua Kucera

    India’s defense minister AK Antony visited Tajikistan this week on his way to Russia, which served as an occasion to revive rumors that India might yet use the Ayni air base near Dushanbe. One would think those rumors would have died once Tajikistan publicly said that India wouldn’t be using the base, and that it was negotiating only with Russia on the use of the base. Yet, on Antony’s visit he demurred when asked about the base, the Press Trust of India reported:

    India, Tajikistan and Russia are in negotiations on the joint use of the Ayni Air Base, close to the Tajik capital Dushanbe which is set to acquire strategic significance after US withdrawal from Afghanistan, sources said here.

    Though Defence Minister A K Antony made a technical halt at the Base, on way to Russia he did not divulge whether a trilateral understanding had been reached to develop the base, one of the biggest in Central Asia during his parleys here.

    But, sources said that in talks with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov, the issue, including working out modalities of joint use of the base was discussed.

    When asked if India was a partner in the use of the base, Antony merely described Ayni as the best air base in entire Central Asia.

    So is India still in the running? Probably not. But some Wikileaks cables shed light on why these rumors refuse to die. One cable, from the embassy in New Delhi in 2007, says that India has an interest in keeping the rumors flowing, in order to send signals to China and Pakistan:

    While the [Indian Ministry of External Affairs] steadfastly denies that India is planning to establish a military base in Central Asia, the recurrent rumors serve to make Pakistan and China nervous. The possibility that these stories are leaked from the GOI itself and reflect its hopes cannot be ruled out…

    Another cable from 2009 suggested that Tajik sources might be ginning up rumors about the base (in this case, that the U.S. could use it) in order to tweak Russia:

    In the July 7 issue the next day, Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta alleged the Government of Tajikistan had offered [Assistant Secretary for Central and South Asian Affairs Robert] Blake the use of the Ayni airbase outside Dushanbe, citing a source within the Tajik government. The embassy denied the report in response to queries from local reporters. It is plausible that a Tajik source had made the claim, to use as a lever in negotiations with Russia…

    Though, it should be noted, apparently less than a year later Tajikistan did make this offer, according to another cable. And Antony certainly was received cordially in Dushanbe. So perhaps the lesson is, never say never.

  9. Forces await govt nod for Tajikistan field hospital

    Indian Express, Dec 31 2011

    The armed forces have readied a team of over 70 medical personnel, including 10 specialist doctors, to set up a field hospital in Tajikistan and are now awaiting orders from the government on when to establish the facility.

    While a timeline for setting up the hospital has not been fixed, a team has been kept on high alert and would be ready to move within hours of a government order. “We are ready and as soon as we get the orders, the field hospital would be set up there,” Director General of Army Forces Medical Corps (AFMC) Lieutenant General H L Kakria said on Friday.

    The senior officer also said India has resumed full-fledged medical services in Afghanistan that had been disrupted last year after a deadly attack on the Indian medical team in Kabul. “We are back to full strength in Afghanistan and the work of our doctors has been appreciated,” Kakria said.

  10. India’s Central Asia Soft Power

    September 03, 2011

    India may not have got the airbase it planned in Tajikistan. But hospital and research initiatives offer a chance of influence – without upsetting Russia.

    After its ambitious plans for an air base in Tajikistan were thwarted, India appears to be reorienting its military strategy in Central Asia toward a more modest, soft power approach.

    India began renovating an airfield at Ayni, just outside Tajikistan’s capital of Dushanbe, in 2004. While it never publicly announced its intentions for the base, Indian press reports said New Delhi planned to station a squadron of MiG-29 fighter jets there. It would have been India’s first foreign military base, and a dramatic entrance into the geopolitically volatile Central Asian region.

    Indian analysts have spoken about the base’s opening in grand terms. ‘Once called the white elephant of Asia, India’s strategic aspirations have now finally come of age,’ wrote Shiv Aroor, an Indian journalist who obtained classified information about India’s plans in 2007. ‘The country’s first military base in a foreign country will be declared ready for use next month…Bare minutes from Tajikistan’s border with war-torn Afghanistan, the base gives India a footprint for the first time ever in the region’s troubled history.’

    In 2001, India set up a small field hospital in Farkhor, Tajikistan, just two kilometres from the border with Afghanistan, to treat the Northern Alliance fighters India was backing against the Pakistan-supported Taliban. But the US defeat of the Taliban obviated the need for that facility, and India was thought to be seeking a way to strategically balance Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan.

    Work by Indian engineers at Ayni continued at least through last year, and has included renovations of the airfield’s runways and hangars. India reportedly spent $70 million on the base. But at the end of last year, Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi announced that the country was negotiating with Russia – and no one else – over the use of the air base.

    Tajikistan is heavily dependent on Russian aid, and its fragile economy is kept afloat by remittances from Tajik labour migrants in Russia. Moscow has used that as a form of leverage over Dushanbe, occasionally threatening to restrict visas for the labour migrants if it doesn’t get its way in Tajikistan. And it’s a widespread – though uncorroborated – belief in Tajikistan that Russia pressured the government to not allow India to use the base. Some believe that Tajikistan’s president, Emomali Rahmon, never intended to allow India to use the base but used New Delhi’s interest as a bargaining chip with Russia: Now that Russia is the only apparent candidate for Ayni, Rahmon is demanding that Russia, which uses other military bases in the country at no charge, start to pay rent on them.

    And last month, when a top Indian Air Force officer, Air Marshal Kishen Kumar Nakhor, visited Dushanbe, Tajikistan foreign ministry officials said ahead of time that the issue of Ayni wouldn’t even be on the table.

    Since that setback, though, India has shown signs of changing tack in its military outreach strategy in Central Asia. During Nakhor’s visit to Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s defence ministry announced that India would build and equip a hospital for Tajikistan’s military officers. And in July, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony visited neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and announced plans to open a joint high-altitude military research centre there, as well as an initiative to train Kyrgyzstani soldiers to serve in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

    Those may seem like unimpressive efforts, especially compared with the prestige of a foreign airbase, and indeed they do seem to signal a reduction in ambition. But unlike the air base, they are likely to bear fruit. India, which has a long history of military ties with the Soviet Union and Russia, doesn’t set off the same alarm bells in the Kremlin as does the United States, whose military forays into Central Asia have been steadfastly opposed by Russia. But even so, the prospect of an Indian air base in what Russia considers to be its sphere of influence was a bridge too far.

    Russia still wields considerable influence in Central Asian capitals and especially in the region’s militaries. But lower-profile initiatives like military hospitals and research centres will allow Indian military officers to build relationships with their Central Asian counterparts in a manner less threatening to Russia. This may not cause the same splash as an airbase, but in the long run, it’s more likely to be successful.

    • Esad Ali Junejo

      Why india is trying to invest in Tajikistan and Afghanistan which is thousand miles away from there own country and having no any boundry with both of them.its a matter of thinking. İndia is trying hard and just finding there way in which she can week Pakistan not only Economically but also wants to make Pakistan alone by depicting Pakistan as a terroirist country . so Tajikistan should favour Pakistan , why because if you people will think from the other perspecative Pakistan has much more to give you than india which is just enhancing there relation for there benefits. We are more closer to each other by culture , relegion , and geographically.
      so long live Tajik-Pak friendship.

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