Gandhi Who? Ahimsa?
India flexes its muscles with first foreign military base
Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Wednesday April 26, 2006
India is to open its first overseas military base this year in the impoverished central Asian country of Tajikistan - a testament to its emerging status on the world stage.
The Indian air force will station up to two squadrons of MiG-29s at the refurbished former Soviet airbase of Farkhor more than 60 miles from the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, Jane's Defence Weekly said, citing defence officials. A control tower is already in place, Indian media reported.
The Indian army had a military hospital there from 1997 to 2001, where it treated Northern Alliance guerrillas fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The 12 Russian built MiG-29s will be staffed by about 40 personnel and use two aircraft hangars, Jane's said. The base's third hangar will be used by the Tajik air force which is also being trained by the Indians.
Tajik officials would not comment on the reports. Igor Sattorov, spokesman for the Tajik foreign ministry, said: "I can neither deny nor confirm this information. Let's be cautious about this."
India will become the fourth economic power to compete for influence in central Asia. Russia has a military base in Tajikistan and one in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. The US also has a base in Kyrgyzstan and Germany has a base at Termez, in southern Uzbekistan, both of which are used to assist operations in Afghanistan.
India has stepped up its activity in central Asia, eager to gain access to its gas supplies. Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, is expected to meet with Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, during a visit to the capital, Tashkent, which began yesterday.
Mr Karimov has become an international pariah since his troops shot dead hundreds of protesters in the southern town of Andijan a year ago, and Mr Singh's critics will seize upon the visit as an unprincipled play for oil. India currently needs 1.9m barrels of oil a day, but this is forecast to rise to 4m by 2010.