New Delhi, External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr. S. Jaishankar will visit Tajikistan on July 13-14 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin to take part in the meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers.
The meeting will discuss the achievements of the organisation as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of its formation in this year. It will also assess the preparation for the upcoming SCO Council of Heads of States in Dushanbe on September 16-17 and exchange views on current international and regional issues.
Dr. Jaishankar will also participate in the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan that will meet on July 14 with the participation of the Afghanistan Government.
India’s military presence and activities have been significant, beginning with India’s extensive support to the anti-Taliban Afghan Northern Alliance (ANA). In 2002, India built a hospital at the Farkhor Air Base, located 60 km from the Afghan border, to treat wounded ANA fighters; the leader of the ANA Ahmed Shah Massoud had been rushed there after the fatal attack on his life.
After the United States declined Tajikistan‘s offer to use the base, the Indian government began talks over using the base, and the then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed an agreement with the Tajik president Emomali Rahmon to that effect on November 14, 2003.
India began renovating the base and stationed aircraft of the Indian Air Force there. The use of the base was speculated to include the acquisition of military and energy assets from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, given India’s primary reliance on Soviet/Russian weaponry. India also sees the base providing access to the oil and energy resources of Central Asia.
It also promised to aid in Tajikistan’s defence and is providing training to the Tajikistan Air Force. Indian presence at Farkhor has been objected to by Pakistan, which sees it as a threat. The Farkhor Air Base became fully operational in 2006, and 12 MiG-29 fighters and trainer aircraft are planned to be stationed there.
India is the fourth nation after the US, Russia and Germany to have a military base in Central Asia. India has established a military hospital in southern Tajikistan. The hospital with capacity of 50 beds will treat military personnel as well as civilians.