India maintains strategic air base in Central Asia



New Delhi: India is in talks with Tajikistan to set up a military hospital there even as it maintains an airbase in Ayni there, the country's only such facility overseas.

India has collaborated with Tajikistan to "reconstruct and recreate" the airbase which is strategically significant due to its location next to Afghanistan, government sources said here today.

While New Delhi maintains that reconstruction of the air base is part of the assistance programme to Tajikistan, the nature of such facilities is significant due to its presence in oil-rich Central Asia.

The facility also assumes significance in view of the presence major international players like the US, Russia and others in the region. There are two more air bases in the region which are manned by Americans and Russians.

Sources said the Russian government had also shown interest in using the facility but the air base was clinched by Defence Minister A K Antony during his visit to Tajikistan in October this year.

Antony had also made a technical halt at the base on way to Russia in October last year.

According to reports, India has spent USD 70 million to upgrade the base which was one of the major air hubs in the erstwhile USSR Central Command.

The abandoned Soviet air base is just 10km away from Dushanbe and was modernised by India as part of aid to Tajikistan in building its armed forces.

Sources said India is also discussing a proposal with Tajikistan to set up a military hospital there.

PTI