Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon in New Delhi
Tajikistan's president Emomali Rahmon has wrapped up an official visit to India, where leaders of the two countries agreed on a "strategic partnership." India has given plenty of signs it intends to be more active in Central Asia, including announcing a "Connect Central Asia" policy this summer, and the joint statement signed by both presidents calls for lots of new cooperation in trade, energy and security.
And what of the hottest issue between the two countries, India's perpetual hope for an air base in Central Asia? Not much, reports the Times of India:
"President Rahmon and I agreed that in view of the broad progress made in our bilateral relations, particularly in defence and security cooperation, we should elevate our relations to a strategic partnership,'' said [Indian Prime Minister Manmohan] Singh as he described Tajikistan as a key partner of India in the central Asian region.
Official sources said that the strategic partnership emanated mainly from Tajikistan's fear of the Taliban and the possibility of their comeback in Kabul after the drawdown of international forces in 2014. While there was barely any mention of the Ayni airfield, which India helped rebuilt, the two sides agreed that New Delhi would build a Friendship Hospital in southern Tajikistan for both military and civilian use.
The Indian Express has a bit more on the Friendship Hospital:
[T]he two sides said they agreed to set up an “India-Tajik Friendship Hospital” in Tajikistan.
The location is not being disclosed now, but the hospital will not be at Farkhor, it is learnt. Unlike the Farkhor hospital, which was set up to service the Northern Alliance troops fighting the Taliban, this hospital will cater to both military and civilians.
Last year, the hospital was being discussed as a solely military one, it's not clear why that might have changed. The joint statement also included some vague, but intriguing, language on expanding defense cooperation:
The sides expressed satisfaction at the continuing expansion of defence cooperation. Noting that the recently concluded Joint Working Group meeting in Dushanbe provided a fillip to this cooperation, they expressed confidence that this cooperation would contribute to regional security and stability. The Tajik side expressed gratitude for India’s assistance in defence capacity building and infrastructure and welcomed India’s further contribution in this strategic sector of cooperation.
What will be the "continuing expansion of defense cooperation," one wonders.