Foreign Policy Blogs

Tajikistan: Refurbished air force base

What in the West we consider to be the Central Asian state furthest from international access, India is calling "the fulcrum of regional geopolitics."

In a move little noted elsewhere, India has developed its first foreign air base‚ in Tajikistan.  The Ayni base is a former Soviet airbase used to supply the Soviet-Afghanistan war, but had fallen into disrepair in the intervening years of Tajikistani independence.  The base will hold military helicopters only.

The base arrangement is a partial result of talks between the two states in August of last year.  The new base strengthens new, deeper ties between Dushanbe and India, with probably beneficial effects for Tajikstan's infrastructure and development.  Indian engineers have experience with energy transmission and hydropower development, skills that Tajikistan needs to raise its energy security.

For India, it gives them not just new relations within Central Asia, but some tactical ability with Pakistan's troubled North West Frontier Province (NWFP).  Helicopters may not have the range of fighter jets, but with Pakistan a mere 30km away from Tajikistan, it would allow India to make limited attacks on Pakistan's back side, or insert special forces into Pakistan.

As in most Central Asian security affairs, the third-party sponsorship of either Russia or China was required.  Ayni will also be used by Russian and Tajikistani security forces, with base management held on a rotating basis by Russia, India, and Tajikistan.

The entire article: India makes soft landing in Tajikistan