May 13, 2006:
For the first time in its history, India is establishing a military base outside its borders. This will be at a former Soviet air base (Farkhor) about a hundred kilometers north of the capital of Tajikistan. About a dozen Indian MiG-29 fighters will be based at Farkhor, along with fewer than a hundred Indian military personnel. 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.