India, Once Hoping For Airbase In Tajikistan, Now Settles For Hospital
A top Indian Air Force official visited Tajikistan last week and announced that "India is ready to build and equip a modern hospital for Tajik military officers," Asia Plus reports. When we used to discuss India's military and Tajikistan it was about the prospect of India setting up an airbase at Ayni. But Russia appears to have put the kibosh on those plans, and Tajikistan officials said that Ayni was not a topic of discussion during the Indian delegation's visit:
Tajik Foreign Ministry said current visit of India’s top military officials to Tajikistan is not connected to possible transfer of Tajikistan’s Ayni military airdrome to India.
Davlat Nazriev, Head of the Tajik Foreign Ministry’s Information Department, said this issue will not be discussed during India’s top air force officials visit to Tajikistan.
Setting up a military hospital, though, seems to be in line with the Indian military's new soft power strategy in Central Asia. A few weeks ago, India's defense minister announced that the country would be establishing a high-altitude military research center in Kyrgyzstan, as well as to begin training Kyrgyzstan's soldiers for United Nations peacekeeping missions. That seems to be a smart tack for India: they'll build relationships with the region's militaries without provoking Russia into reacting against them. It's not as splashy as an airbase, but in the long run it will probably be more productive for them.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.
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