Harball Sales: Russia Forcing India out of Taijikistan?
Confronted by a waffling buyer, most vendors don’t immediately think of hostile acts a preferred sales tactic to close the deal. Putin’s Russia, on the other hand, seems to be taking exactly that approach as India remains locked in price negotiations over the former Admiral Gorshkov carrier and SU-30MKI fighters, and considers non-Russian aircraft in its MMRCA medium fighter competition.
Plans called for rotating Indo-Russian joint operation of the Ayni air base, located just 15km from Tajikstan’s capital. Its location above Afghanistan and Pakistan, and next to Uzbekistan et. al., makes it an important forward base for India to project special forces into the region, and send aid to Afghanistan over land routes. In July 2007, however…
Sify reports that under pressure from a ‘displeased’ regime in Moscow, Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrahon Zaripov declared that the government was no longer negotiating with New Delhi about Ayni, and that India did not have usage rights at the base.
Russia maintains a motorized division in Tajikistan for “logistical support,” and has a close relationship built on large foreign debts and security assistance. Russia’s share of India’s defense market has dwindled significantly since its golden days as India’s sole major foreign supplier, however; and India is working hard to diversify its alliances and establish strong relations with other countries, including the USA. This has reportedly been a point of friction involving Ayni. Senior Indian delegations continue to shuttle to Moscow for meetings, and Putin is scheduled to visit India by year end.
Geopolitical hardball has been known to work in this industry, and perhaps it will work again. Then again, it has also been known to fail, and to accelerate the very trends one was hoping to reverse.
- CIA Factbook – Tajikistan
- Sify News (Sept 20/07) – India faces eviction from Tajik military base
- Associated Press of Pakistan (Sept 20/07) – India to be evicted from its Tajikistan’s base under Russian pressure