On July 13, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon received Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was making a tour of Central Asia.
According to Spokesman of the Tajik Foreign Ministry Abdulfaiz Atoev, Rahmon and Modi discussed Tajik-Indian relations, regional security problems, the situation in Afghanistan and joint actions against terrorism and extremism. Modi also attended a conference of farmers as well as the unveiling of a bust of Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in literature.
Before the Rahmon-Modi meeting some Indian mass media claimed that the key topic would the rent of the Tajik Ayni Air Base. In 2007, the Indians spent $70mn to repair the base in hope that they would get it on long-term lease. But the deal failed – reportedly because of Russia’s pressure. The Indians were also supposed to train Tajik military pilots in exchange for the permit to deploy a squadron of Mi-17 helicopters at Ayni.
Some Indian mass media claim that while attending the SCO summit in Dushanbe last Sept, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj urged the Tajik authorities to meet their obligations on Ayni, but the Tajiks say that Ayni was not even mentioned then. In any case, the Indians have little hope to get the air base as not only Russia but China and especially Pakistan are against their plans. In 2012, the Pakistanis promised the Tajiks to repair their two inoperative air bases and to train their pilots free of change if they refused to give Ayni to India.
But despite these problems, India still has a chance to get Ayni as it has a strong foothold in Tajikistan. Since 1992, the Indians and the Tajiks have signed over 50 agreements. In Q1 2015 alone, their trade turnover exceeded $4mn. In recent years, the Indians have invested as much as $25mn in the Tajik economy and have stakes in as many as 53 Tajik companies.