June 25, 2013: Strategy Page
India is giving Tajikistan two Mi-17 helicopters next month. India has been providing Tajikistan with such support for over two decades. This recently included a fifty bed hospital set up by India to treat Tajik civilians.
For over a decade India has been using (after rebuilding) a Cold War era Soviet airbase in Tajikistan near the Afghan border (at Farkhor). A squadron (about a dozen Indian MiG-29 fighters) have been based at Farkhor (now called Ayni), along with a hundred or so Indian military personnel. A major rebuilding effort left the airbase looking good as new by 2006. From 1997 to 2001, the Indian army had a military hospital in Tajikistan, to help care for Afghan rebels (mainly Afghan Tajiks) who were fighting the Taliban led Pushtuns who were running Afghanistan at the time.
The Tajiks, Pushtuns and Indians are all ethnically related (members of the Indo-Aryan peoples found from India, through Central Asia, to Western Europe). While the Tajiks are a minority in Afghanistan, they are a majority in neighboring Tajikistan (you could kind of tell by the name of the country.) After over a century of Russian control, Tajikistan became independent in 1991, and began looking for allies. India was a natural, even though nearly all Tajiks are Moslem, and most Indians are Hindu. Both countries are fearful of Russian or Pakistani interference in Central Asia, and the Indians like the idea of having an air base north of Pakistan. This annoys Pakistan and the Afghans don’t seem much to care, as they also welcome Indian aid and the fact that this makes the Pakistanis angry.