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Tajikistan’s Special Gesture to Indian Defence Minister

Tuesday 4 October 2011

DUSHANBE (The Hindu) – India and Tajikistan on Monday exchanged views on regional and global security situation, including Afghanistan, during an unscheduled meeting between Defence Minister A.K. Antony and his Tajik counterpart, Colonel General Khayrulloev Sherali Khayrulleovich, in Dushanbe.

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Defence Minister A.K. Antony being accorded traditional Bread and Honey welcome at Dushanbe airport by Tajikstan Defence Minister Col. General Sherali Khairyulleov. Mr. Antony who is heading a delegation for talks with Russia made a brief stopover enroute Moscow on Monday.
(Photo: Sitanshu Kar, DPR, Defence Ministry)

Mr. Antony, who was on his way to Moscow for a meeting of the 11th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Technical Cooperation, was greeted at the airport by the Tajik Defence Minister.

Defence Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar told The Hindu on the phone from Dushanbe that Mr. Antony had a pleasant surprise in store when his special aircraft landed in Tajikistan for a brief technical halt. “The Tajikistan Defence Minister chose to miss the ongoing Parliament session to call on Mr. Antony at the airport, rolling out the red-carpet and offering the traditional bread and honey welcome,” Mr. Kar said.

The gesture was seen as a measure of warmth in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. The two Defence Ministers had a working lunch, during which they discussed issues of mutual interest.

The bilateral relations between the Republic of India and the Republic of Tajikistan have developed considerably owing to both nations’ cooperation on security and strategic issues. Tajikistan has allowed India to set up its first overseas military base.

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 on September 10, 2001. After the United States declined Tajikistan’s offer to use the base, the Indian government began talks over utilizing the base, and the then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed an agreement with the Tajik president 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 bases providing access to the oil and energy resources of Central Asia. India also promised to aid in Tajikistan’s defence and is providing training to the Tajikistan Air Force. However, 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 bombers and trainer aircraft are planned to be stationed there.

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