DUSHANBE, August 6, 2011, Asia-Plus  --An Indian delegation, led by Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCA) Kishan Kumar Nohwar, is expected to arrive in Dushanbe on August 11 for a two-day working visit, Davlat Nazriyev, a spokesman for the Tajik MFA, said.

According to him, the Indian delegation will discus with Tajik officials issues related to military and military-technical cooperation between the two countries as well as training of personnel for Tajik national army in India.

According to the data from the Ministry of Defense (MoD), some 40 Tajik military cadets are currently studying various military disciplines at military schools in India.

The MFA spokesman stressed that the upcoming visit of the Indian delegation was not connected with the Ayni military airfield and the use of the Ayni airfield would not be discussed.

The Ayni airfield belonging to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) is located in Hisor district, some 25 kilometers west of Dushanbe.  It was used as a military base during the Soviet era, but its infrastructure has deteriorated significantly since then.  The airfield was renovated in mid 2000s under financial support and technical assistance of India.

According to the Tajik presidential press service, some 70 million U.S. dollars have been spent by the Tajik and Indian sides for rehabilitation of the airfield.

The airfield now has state-of-the-art navigational and defense technology; its runway was extended to 3,200 meters so that all types of aircraft can land there.

New Delhi’s support in upgrading the Ayni airfield provoked widespread speculation that India intended to use the facility as its first ever foreign military base.  There were reports that the Indian defense ministry allegedly planned to deploy twelve MiG-29 at the Ayni air base.

In the meantime, official Dushanbe has repeatedly denied holding talks on the use of the facility with any country other than Russia.  In a report released at a news conference in Dushanbe, Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi reveled on July 18 that Tajikistan and Russia have not yet agreed on the use of the Ayni airfield and continued presence of a Russian military base in Tajikistan.

India’s ties with the Tajik military have not been limited to renovating the airfield. In 2003, New Delhi conducted its first Central Asian military exercise with Tajikistan.  An article “India’s Relations with Tajikistan: Beyond the Airbase” by Alexander Sodiqov (Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 36, February 22, 2011) notes that India’s donations to the Tajik defense ministry have included two Mi-8 helicopters along with critical spare parts, trucks and other vehicles, about 10,000 uniforms, and computers.  In addition, hundreds of Tajik military cadets and officers have been trained at India’s National Defence Academy since 1998.  India also funded the refurbishment of the Tajik Military Institute in Dushanbe.

Meanwhile, Air Marshal Kishan Kumar Nohwar who will head the Indian delegation took over as the Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) on August 1.  He has succeeded Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne who took over as the chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on July 31.

In his previous assignment, veteran fighter pilot Nohwar was commanding the Shillong-based Eastern Air Command, India’s NDTV reported.

Born in Ambala on May 7, 1952, Nohwar is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy. He was commissioned into the fighter stream on June 24, 1972.

With over 3,400 flying hours under his belt, he has flown the MiG-21s and later commanded a MiG-27 squadron.  He is also a qualified flying instructor, fighter combat leader, and an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College and Air War College (USA).

His command appointments include Commandant of Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE) and Air Officer Commanding of a fighter airbase.  His important staff assignments include Chief Operations Officer, Deputy Commandant, College of Air Warfare, Principal Director, Air Staff Inspection and Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Plans).