Ayni Air Base
|Ayni Air Force Base|
|Type||Air force base|
|Controlled by||Military of Tajikistan|
|Occupants||Military of Tajikistan|
During the Cold War era, Ayni served as a major military base of the Soviet Union. However, following Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the base's infrastructure deteriorated significantly. Between 2002 and 2010, India spent nearly US$70 million to renovate the air base — the runway was extended to 3,200 meters and state-of-the-art navigational and air defense equipment were installed. It was speculated by some media outlets that India was keen on establishing a military base in Ayni so as to gain a strategic foothold in Central Asia.
In January 2011, Tajik Foreign Minister, Hamrohan Zarifi, officially launched negotiations with Russia to discuss possible deployment of Russian military at Ayni. Zarifi also ruled out deployment of Indian or American forces at Ayni.
Reports began circulating in early 2000s that India would establish air bases at Ayni and Farkhor in Tajikistan. Both Indian and Tajik officials issued immediate denials, but they did admit that India had been renovating the bases since 2002. India eventually did establish itself at Farkhor, but not Ayni. When fully operational, the Indian base was expected to host 12 to 14 MiG-29 fighter bombers, according to various reports.
Strategic location and geopolitical implications
The Indian military presence in Tajikistan would give India the required depth and range in seeking a larger role in South Asia and is a tangible manifestation of India’s move to project its power in Central Asia, a policy goal formally enunciated in 2003–2004.
The potential implications of such moves would go far beyond the Indo-Pakistani rivalry on the subcontinent. Russia, the principal economic and political partner of Tajikistan, has also expressed its opposition to any military presence in Tajikistan other than its own.
According to media reports, an Indian air force contingent, including Indian Mi-17 helicopters and leased Russian fighter jets, are currently deployed to the base under joint Indo-Tajik control. The Russian equipment is maintained by Russian contractors, creating a sort of joint control over these assets.
- Geostrategy in Central Asia
- Farkhor Air Base, another Tajik military base which was renovated by India
- Ayni Air Force Base on Google Maps. Retrieved on 8 May 2009
- Tajik Military Air Base Completed With Indian Help
- India air base grounded in Tajikistan
- Tajiks likely to grant Russia access to Ayni air base, says analyst
- Asia Times Online: South Asia news - India's foray into Central Asia
- EurasiaNet: Why is Tajikistan's Ayni Air Base Idle?
- Vajpayee’s Tajikistan visit : Security aspect