September 04, 2011

Tajik airbase status could be decided next year: Report

MOSCOW (PTI): Russia, Tajikistan and India are expected to finalise next year the status and plans for joint use of the Tajik airbase Ayni, which New Delhi modernised at a reported cost of USD 70 million, a media report said here.

India had completed the reconstruction and modernisation of the abandoned Soviet-era airbase, near the Tajik capital Dushanbe in September 2010 and there had been speculations about deployment of a squadron of Indian Air Force's MiG-29 fighters and Mi-17 helicopters.

"The decision on Ayni will be found next year, when Tajikistan, Russia and India are expected to hold negotiations on the status of this object and work out the plan for its joint use. In this case Ayni will not be a purely Russian base,"Kommersant business daily reported quoting an 'informed' source.

Commenting on Friday’s talks in Dushanbe between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon, who agreed to close a deal early next year on extending the Russian 201st military base's lease for 49 years, the news daily reported that Ayni airbase will not be part of this Russian-Tajik military pact.

Back in December 2005, the Russian Vice Premier and the then Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov after talks with the then National Security Advisor M K Narayanan had declared that Russia and India will share the Ayni base at which Russia will deploy its fighters and helicopter gunships.

According to another source quoted by Kommersant, Tajikistan was asking USD 300 million for the lease of Ayni airbase to Russia, which Moscow is not willing to pay.

However, quoting Foreign Ministry sources, the daily said Moscow was in a hurry to decide the status of Ayni before “others claim a stake.”

There had been various reports about the US and France seeking this base in the close proximity of northern Afghanistan, an anti-Taliban stronghold, after NATO pullout from the volatile Afghanistan, although Washington had denied such plans.

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