Monday, August 23, 2021

Gissar Military Aerodrome — India’s first overseas base that came to the rescue in Afghan crisis

New Delhi: Gissar Military Aerodrome (GMA), India’s first overseas base operated along with Tajikistan and aimed at giving a strategic heft to their military operations and training, has come in handy in India’s effort to evacuate hundreds of its citizens and Afghans from Kabul, overrun by the Taliban since last Sunday.

The GMA, popularly known as the Ayni airbase named after the village Ayni, is just west of the Tajik capital Dushanbe. It has been administered by India along with Tajikistan for nearly two decades, sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and former Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa had a key role in setting up the base, which was funded by the Ministry of External Affairs, sources said.

Though outside the public eye, the base has come under the spotlight because of the ongoing evacuation process from Afghanistan during which C-17 and C-130 J transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force besides an Air India aircraft have used the Tajikistan airbase, reported ANI.

A C-130 J aircraft, for instance, airlifted 87 Indians from Kabul and landed in Tajikistan. The evacuees were eventually picked up by an Air India flight that took off from the Ayni airbase and brought back to India.

Similarly, when India evacuated its embassy staff from Kabul along with stranded Indians on August 17, the C 17 was waiting at the GMA for clearance from the Americans to fly in and evacuate them. This was because the aircraft could not remain at the Kabul airport since it would have taken up the already scarce place on the tarmac, sources said.

The GMA is often confused with another Farkhor base. Farkhor in southern Tajikistan — near the border with northern Afghanistan — is a city where India ran a hospital in the 1990s.

It is at the same hospital that the powerful Afghan Tajik guerrilla leader, the late Ahmed Shah Masood of the Northern Alliance — which fought the Soviets and later the Taliban — was brought in for treatment after a suicide bomber blew himself up near him in 2001. However, the military doctors at the hospital could not save him despite all efforts.

23/08/21 Snehesh Alex Philip/Print

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