Since year 2000, on and off one keeps hearing that Indian Air Force has got itself a strategic air base in Tajikistan. This is always followed by more news articles where this information is refuted either by media itself or as cited by media "by an undisclosed source from Indian Air Force". Then, there comes more news that Indian Air Force has secretly deployed Mi 35 Attack Helicopters, followed by another news that a squadron of Mig 29 Fighter Aircraft has been deployed.
If confusion has been only limited to existence or non-existence of this Foreign Air Base or type-of-aircraft that have been deployed, it would still be fine; however, confusion does not stop here. Most of the media is confused as which Tajik Air Base they are actually talking about, some mentions it as Ayni Air Base, where as others mention it as Farkhor Air Base.
Indian Air Force IL 76 Cargo Aircraft at Farkhor Air Base (Image Courtesy - satrapia.com )
The truth is that these two names are actually name for two entirely different Air Bases. Ayni is just 10 kms away from Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, while Farkhor is more than 100 kms away. Also, there were rumors that Russia is blocking India to make these Air Bases operational by Indian Air Force Fighter Aircraft. How could Russia benefit from blocking Indian Access to these Air Bases, both Russia and India have been allies for decades and Central Asia has always been a Russian area of influence. In fact, Russia which has now regained its superpower status, looks up to India as a guarantor of peace in Asian region, and a natural counter-balance to Chinese rapid expansion in Central Asia. India will never be a party to anything which goes against Russian interests, while same thing cannot be said about China. Chinese themselves have brazenly stolen Russian technology and are now competing with Russia herself by offering illegal copies of Russian Mig's and Sukhoi's to African nations.
To sum it up on Indian Air Force's deployment at Tajik Air Bases, there has been lot of confusion for years now and even till date overall picture is still hazy, nothing is clear, no official confirmation or denial from Indian Air Force. So what is the reality on the ground? Well, those who are talking about it, does not have the exact picture; and those who have the exact picture are not talking about it.
As it looks, Indian Air Force has got something going on both these Air Bases. India is known in the world as a nation, which has never shown aggression against any another nation since independence. Hence, the access to these Air Bases is purely strategic in nature, to counter any military threats and to protect nation's political and financial interests in the Central Asian Region. So, operational Air Bases of Indian Air Force at Ayni or Farkhor or both, should not be an alarming news for any nation in Asia or even around the world.
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