Farkhor Air Base (फ़र्ख़ार एयर बैस) is an Indian Airbase located in Farkhor/Ayni in Tajikistan,130 kilometres (80 miles) south east of the capital Dushanbe. It is the only Indian military base situated in a foreign country and just 2 km from the Tajik-Afghan border. The agreement between India and Tajikistan for the base was signed in 2003 and ratified in late 2004. It stipulates the presence of the Indian Air Force and Indian Army to be permanently stationed there, and ward off any external threat to the country's security. Work on the base commenced immediately and the air base is now in full operational readiness since early 2007. Details of the composition of the base are not known but it is speculated that Indian military matériel acquired from Central Asia might be stationed there. Almost seventy percent of India's arms are procured from Russia and former Soviet republics.
Reports began circulating in April 2006 that the Indian air base at Farkhor/Ayni in Tajikistan was operational. Both Indian and Tajik officials issued immediate denials, but they did admit that India had been renovating the base since 2002. Moreover, Russian sources confirmed that indeed such a base existed and that it was co-located with the Russian air base at Ayni, which is part of Russia’s own determined drive to rebuild its military presence and capabilities in Central Asia. When fully operational, the Indian base is expected to host 12 to 14 MiG-29 fighter bombers, according to various reports.
The exact origins of the offer of the Farkhor/Ayni base to India are not clearly known, but the Indian Ministry of External Affairs passed on the offer to the Ministry of Defence, headed by then Defence Minister George Fernandes who seized on the opportunity. The agreement was signed by former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmonov during Vajpayee's visit to that country in 2002. Tajikistan and India share close relations, with the Tajik President visiting India many times. Common issues between the two nations include peace, security and stability to the region around Afghanistan. India has also invested in hydroelectric power and is a major donor to Tajikistan.
The potential implications of this base go far beyond the Indo-Pakistani rivalry on the subcontinent. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, has raised his concern to the Tajik government on the fact that Indian planes can reach Pakistan within minutes.
The Farkhor/Ayni base represents a major element in India’s efforts to promote stability in Afghanistan, and to enhance New Delhi’s ability to get oil both in South Asia and Central Asia. India obviously will not accept being confined to an exclusively South Asian geo-strategic role any longer.
India’s determination to project power throughout Central Asia is not just for military purposes. Access to Central Asian energy is vitally important for India. New Delhi seeks access to Kazakh oil and gas and involvement in "mega-projects," such as an Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline and another linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Either or both of these pipelines would substantially improve India’s reliable access to energy supplies, while encouraging better Indo-Pakistani relations.
India wants to develop a new power grid that integrates Central Asian states with those of the subcontinent, an idea that has received strong backing from the United States of late. While India would use a new grid to enhance its overall economic profile in Central Asia, Washington sees the project as a way to counter the growing economic and political influence of China in Central Asia.
The importance of India’s Farkhor/Ayni base does not end here. Its appearance suggests that India’s long-standing strategic ties with Russia remain on a sound footing. In the strategic sphere, India and Russia share a common enemy in terrorism , and India needs Russian energy.
Although both India and Pakistan are observers in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, China is undoubtedly wary of the Indian presence at Farkhor/Ayni. Moreover, Indian policy intellectuals continue to view China as a strategic rival.