India-Tajikistan to be connected by 14 weekly flights



Dushanbe: India and the mineral-rich central Asian country of Tajikistan will be connected by air for the first time, as over a dozen weekly flights will start soon in order to further people-to-people and trade contacts between the two nations.

As many as 14 flights will be made operational by a Tajik private air carrier to connect both the countries from May this year, an Indian Foreign Ministry official said.

"There will be 14 flights a week between India and Tajikistan. The flights will be operated by Somon Air starting May," the official said.

Somon Air is the first private airline of Tajikistan, and operates flights to over 20 locations.

The decision was taken during Vice President Hamid Ansari's visit to Tajikistan, where he held a series of meetings with Tajik leadership.

India will also discuss possibility of roping in Indian private and government-owned air carriers to run commercial flights to connect Delhi with Dushanbe, the official said.

"There is a huge potential to increase trade between India and Tajikistan. At present, it is very low due to poor connectivity. The decision to have air-connectivity will help in bolstering commercial relations," he said.

"Should any of this be a matter of surprise after we have noted, and digested, the fact that the distance from Delhi to Dushanbe is 1,369 km while it is 1,394 km from Delhi to Mumbai on India's west coast and 2,244 km from Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram in our southernmost state of Kerala," Ansari has said during his four-day visit to Tajikistan.

The total trade between India and Tajikistan was USD 34.16 million between 2012-13 (April-December).

Tajikistan is a land-locked country, surrounded by mountains. The central Asian country lacks an easy route to India for trade and the existing links via Iran and other countries are expensive.

Tajikistan is also in talks with Afghanistan and Pakistan for creation of a common corridor to India in order to easily facilitate trade.=

It shares a 520-km border with China, 1,420-km with Afghanistan and a 16-km Afghan-Wakhan corridor, which is the least distance between Tajikistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

India and Tajikistan have agreed to strengthen their relations in energy sector, Information Technology, health, education and in the establishment of small and micro industries in Tajikistan during Ansari's visit between April 14-17.

PTI