India, Tajikistan to hold military exercises

Thursday, 13 February 2003, 08:00 Hrs   |    1 Comments
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NEW DELHI: Indian military officials are expected to visit Dushanbe soon to firm up plans for a joint military exercise with Tajikistan, the first such war-game by Indian troops in Central Asia. Sources in the defence ministry said the proposed exercise -- which would involve Indian Air Force (IAF) transport aircraft and a small complement of Indian commandos -- was in keeping with New Delhi's initiative to forge stronger ties with the hydrocarbon-rich region. "The Central Asian republics, with which India had strong ties during the Soviet Era, occupy an important place in India's security calculus," said a defence ministry official who did not want to be named. "Besides, both India and these republics are facing the threat of terrorism by radical Islamic groups. It is important to forge linkages with these largely Islamic republics and to have their moderate leadership as India's allies." The officials said dates for the war-game, which would involve para-dropping of Indian and Tajik army personnel from aircraft, would be decided during the Indian team's visit. "The exercise will be held this year, may be very soon," said one official. Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes has personally overseen the careful cultivation of military ties with Tajikistan, which India uses as a logistics base for its aircraft carrying humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials for Afghanistan. A small Indian team, including IAF personnel, has been based in Tajikistan for providing logistics support ever since India and Pakistan imposed mutual bans on overflights in December 2001. India and Tajikistan also signed an agreement to enhance military-technical cooperation and exchange information in the fight against global terrorism when the Tajik Defence Minister, Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev, visited the country in December 2001. At that time, the two sides decided to have regular exchanges of defence delegations and dialogue on security issues. Subsequently, Fernandes visited Tajikistan in April last year to carry forward the relations. "Obviously, a vacuum was created in our ties with the Central Asian republics after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and there is a need to close this gap," said a defence ministry official. The base for the current military cooperation was laid when India, Tajikistan, Russia and Iran backed the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in its fight against the erstwhile Taliban regime. Indian Army doctors then operated a field hospital at Farkhor in Tajikistan, close to the Afghan border, to treat injured Northern Alliance fighters. Indian military and foreign policy planners also see Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics as a part of the country's extended neighbourhood. Military diplomacy in the form of joint exercises will also help in maintaining peace and stability in the region, they say.
Source: IANS