The operationalisation of India’s maiden off-shore air base in Ayni, Tajikistan, might be the beginning of a new era. Located strategically close to Pakistan, this base would serve the dual purpose of safeguarding India’s growing investments in the oil and gas fields of Central Asia as well as making sure that next time, if, an IC-814-like incident happens (the infamous hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Afghanistan in December 1999) India is not left without options.To start with, India would deploy a squadron of Mi-17 helicopters along with combat planes of the Russian Air Force. Needless to say that they would not be sitting ducks and would be complimented with a lethal combination of Special Forces and deadly ground attack arsenal. This base not only marks India’s footprints in one of the most geopolitically important areas, but also takes Indo-Russian strategic relationship to a higher level. Further, as India becomes the third largest consumer of oil in Asia (after China & Japan), with recent reports suggesting that by 2025 India would have to import 85% of its oil requirement, the Rs 800 million investment in the Ayni base does not seem uncalled for.
Ayni is important not only for the security of oil and gas pipelines in the region, but also for keeping India’s role in the great game of Central Asia intact and safe for future. This preparation for war is for longterm peace.