Shanghai Cooperation Organization Foreign Ministers Council was recently held in Tajikistan. It was an opportunity for the Indian External Affairs Minister to network with foreign ministers of several Central Asian countries, many of whom border Afghanistan. One of the crucial meetings held was between the foreign ministers of India and Tajikistan.
India is a natural ally of Tajikistan. They both share common interests and concerns, and it reflected in the meeting between the Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin. Various bilateral matters, including bolstering trade, investments, scientific and technical cooperation and collaboration in industry, energy, culture and education, were part of the talks.
Besides, both India and Tajikistan are exploring the possibility of developing a surface road in cooperation with neighbouring countries. In line with it, Tajikistan has backed the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which is proposed to connect Mumbai with Moscow. The INSTC is seen as a counter to China BRI.
Importantly, Tajikistan is also a long term strategic partner of India. Tajikistan’s Farkhor Airbase is operated jointly by the Tajik and the Indian Air Force. The location of Farkhor gives India strategic leverage with respect to not only Pakistan but also China, Afghanistan and Central Asia. India has secured this Tajik airbase with assistance from Russia.
Talking about Tajikistan and Russia, the Taliban’s rampage in Afghanistan has alarmed Tajikistan. It has also disturbed Russia, especially after the Taliban seized a vital border crossing along the Tajik border last month. Moreover, the Taliban now reportedly controls 70% of the Tajik-Afghan border. Consequently, just a fortnight back, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon and assured necessary security assistance. Russia already operates a military base in Tajikistan.
All this makes it quite clear that India is engaging neighbours of Afghanistan as the Taliban look to gain power in this region. Under these circumstances, the grand-old ties between India and Russia could play a constructive role for Afghanistan, and Tajikistan will bring added advantage to it.