India is keeping a close watch as Pakistan tries to sell arms to Tajikistan, New Delhi’s traditional and longtime partner in Central Asia, in what may be Islamabad’s maiden venture in the resource-rich region’s defence market.
Pakistan’s decision to sell arms to Tajikistan was announced on Wednesday during Tajik President’s visit to Islamabad. Addressing a joint press conference at the Pakistan PM’s Office with the Tajik President after their meeting Imran Khan said, “It is very important to improve our defence ties.”
Khan also said that they discussed and signed MoUs on how to meet Tajikistan’s need for the kind of weapons that Pakistan makes. Attempts to sell weapons to Tajikistan is part of Pakistan’s strategy to increase outreach in Central Asia as part of their plan to expand influence in Afghanistan, Central Asian experts told ET. Also, the experts highlighted that Tajikistan lacks enough funds to buy foreign arms, so it is unclear how they will pay for the purchases.
Tajikistan is strategically situated and could be key to stability in Afghanistan once the US troops depart. It has been a close security partner for the past few decades and played an important role during the days of the Northern Alliance amid Taliban rule in Kabul. Tajikistan also hosts India’s first military base abroad.
India has been maintaining high-level contacts with Tajikistan and in March Foreign Minister S Jaishankar visited the Central Asian country and met the top leadership.