Indian Air Force allied with Tajikistan and Claimed Farkhor and Ayni Air Bases in Tajikistan

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.

With Farkhor Air Base, India became only the 4th country after the US, Russia and Germany to have a military base in Central Asia. India-Tajikistan relations are set to further prosper with the meeting of Tajik Foreign Minister – Sirodzhiddin Aslov and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, MJ Akbar, who met in the Tajik Capital, Dushanbe, today on 3rd May 2018.   

Reports :

Farkhor Air Base is a military air base located near the town of Farkhor in Tajikistan, 130 kilometres south east of the capital Dushanbe. It is operated by the Indian Air Force in collaboration with the Tajikistan Air Force. Farkhor is India’s first and only military base outside its territory. Following Pakistan’s ban of Indian overflights, India started operating the Farkhor base in May 2002, with Russian acquiescence, to support Indian relief and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

Currently, in the Farkhor Air base there are unconfirmed reports of IAF stationing a squadron of Mig 29 Fighter Bombers.
Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh, India

2. There are unconfirmed reports that Indian Mi-17 helicopters are also stationed at the Ayni Airbase

However, an Indian official directly involved in renovating the airfield told World Politics Review that an Indian air force contingent, including Indian Mi-17 helicopters and leased Russian fighter jets, is currently deployed to the base under joint Indo-Tajik control. The Russian equipment will be maintained by Russian contractors, creating “a sort of joint control over these assets.” His comments echo recent reports of negotiations between the three parties for joint use of the base.

Jha also theorizes on why everyone is keeping this quiet: to avoid offending China and Pakistan.

India has spent almost $70 million, including equipment costs, to completely repave and extend the runway at Ayni, set up air traffic control and perimeter fencing and build three hardened shelters — all, the Indian official confirmed, with an eye to supporting fighter-jet operations. That might be the real reason behind Tajikistan’s reticence to officially clarify the status of the base.

While Ayni will allow India to watch over northern Afghanistan in the aftermath of a NATO withdrawal, it can also provide coverage for Indian fighter aircraft over northern Pakistan and western China, areas that lack robust air defense networks. Tajik officials might be downplaying their involvement in the base out of deference to Beijing and Islamabad’s sensitivities.

Source: India Reportedly Basing Helicopters, Fighter Jets In Tajikistan

3. After the utter apathy of the Congress Government towards expanding Indian Military’s foreign capabilities, there has been a recent surge in activities due to MEA and Modi who are trying to get more bases under IAF control

Source: Modi to ask Tajikistan for lease of former Soviet airbase

Strategic Importance:

The MiG-29 has a ferry range of 1,500 km without external fuel tanks, and 2,100 km with external tanks

The distance between Farkhor and Islamabad is definitely less than 900 kms as seen from the above image. That means Islamabad is well within striking distance without the fear of heavy air defenses, SAM sites and counter attacks, because of the following reasons:

Pakistan doesn’t consider the Afghanistan Air Force as a threat, therefore all of the Air defenses and SAM sites are positioned towards the Indian Border.
Most of the Pakistani Airbases are towards the Punjab, LOC and Rajasthan border, to counter major IAF bases such as Pathankot, Jammu, Srinagar etc.
Now in this case, Pakistan is totally unprepared for any attack from Afghanistan side of the border, and it is totally impractical to shift the tons and tons of air defenses already positioned towards India

Potential importance:

Suppose another 26/11 happens, and India wants to punish the perpetrators, and with full political backing, there can be two options:

Infiltrate the LOC, maneuvering through heavy land mines, barbed wires, check posts and cantonments to reach Rawalpindi or Peshawar, and even if you successfully eliminate the target, you definitely can’t escape back to LOC
You inflitrate through the porous Af-Pak border but you need logistical support. Maybe a stealth helicopter to pick up and drop near the Af-Pak Border?
Future Importance:

In response to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which links Gwadar Port to China through the Karakoram Highway, and can facilitate rapid deployment of Chinese troops into Pakistani territory, India needs a counter foil.

Indian Government is trying to develop the Chabhar – Delaram route to connect directly with the central asian countries

India has already invested significantly in the development of Chabhar port, and now is working on developing the highway to Delaram from Chabhar.

Once it is complete, there can be direct movement of heavy military equipment and tanks to completely encircle Pakistan from all sides

In case of War with Pakistan:

Indian Navy blocks Gwadar & Karachi Ports
Indian Air Force launches sneak attacks from across Af-Pak borders
Indian Army moves heavy tank divisions from Chabhar port into Balochistan
With powerful ministers like Modi & Parrikar, I am sure India will move forward in leaps & bounds to achieve this superiority using foreign countries as allies and deliver the death punch to Pakistan in case of any military conflict

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