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Farkhor Air Base is a military air base located near the town of Farkhor in Tajikistan, and is operated by the Indian Air Force in collaboration with the Tajik Air Force.

As we can see in the map, there are 4 possible routes:

  1. The shortest route India can take would use Pakistani airspace.

  2. The next shortest uses Chinese airspace.

  3. To avoid both, India would have to use either Iran airspace plus Afghan airspace, or

  4. Iran plus Turkmenistan plus Uzbekistan airspace.

Which route does the Indian Air Force use?
This question is more political than just logistics - this is not about civilian aircraft, but military ones. If it was just logistics, the best solution would be to fly over Pakistani Territory - the shortest path - however, that isn't possible because of the involved politics. Military base and overflight arrangements are a good indicator of relations between countries.

A few of immediate, implicit political questions in the above are:
India-China relations aren't as bad as India-Pakistan. Maybe flying over Chinese territory is allowed?
Are India-Iran, India-Turkmen, India-Uzbek relations good enough for that route?
Does India fly over Afghanistan given that they don't recognize the Taliban and that the Taliban do not have the means to control airspace?

Credits: Google Maps

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  • 3
    I am not sure if this is a political question but more of a military one.
    – Joe W
    Jan 7, 2023 at 1:43
  • 2
    @JoeW The political situation in central asia is complicated. Politics is involved in military decisions. International Relations matter.
    – whoisit
    Jan 7, 2023 at 1:46
  • 2
    I know it is complicated but I still think this is a military logistics question and not a political one
    – Joe W
    Jan 7, 2023 at 1:47
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    Obviously, w 4 close votes, this is heading for the big Q graveyard in th sky. Still, I would not dismiss this Q at a political level. Military base and overflight arrangements are a good indicator of relations between countries. At some point post 9/11 the US was operating bases in Tajik. and Uzbek. RU was OK w it. And similarly, the availability or not of ground based transportation through Pakistan to Afghanistan for NATO forces was a good indicator of Pakistani-Western relations at any point in time. So, yes, it would be interesting to know the logistics here, for political reasons Jan 7, 2023 at 20:26
  • 3
    "Which route does the Indian Air Force use?" This is not a question about politics but about military logistics. In order to make it about one, one could ask how these access rights are typically solved or if there are any other politically interesting aspects of flying over other countries not yet asked here. I disagree with the commenter directly above. The question does not yet contain enough politics to be useful here. Jan 9, 2023 at 7:49

1 Answer 1

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India does not operate an Air Base in Tajikistan.

India does desire a military presence in Tajikistan as it borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and China - the 3 countries from where they perceive a major threat to India. A base in Tajikistan would allow India to open a second front against both Pakistan and China and make them quite vulnerable. It does operate a hospital - The India-Tajik Friendship Hospital - in Farkhor, Tajikistan that is used to treat Tajik military personnel and Afghans fighting the Taliban. India has also spent some money developing 2 airbases in Tajikistan and did want to operate there.

However, Tajikistan falls under Russia's 'sphere of influence' where they too have a military presence since the Soviet era (Tajikistan is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation). Due to India's tilt towards the west, and protests from Russia's ally China, Russia has pressured Tajikistan not to lease the air bases to India.

As for how India would bring its fighter aircraft to Tajikistan if it does get to lease and operate an air base, there is an established international convention on how military aircrafts are supposed to operate in foreign space:

The 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation, better known as the “Chicago Convention,” defines state aircraft as “aircraft used in military, customs, and police services” and explicitly declares that “no state aircraft of a contracting State shall fly over the territory of another State or land thereon without authorization by special agreement or otherwise, and in accordance with the terms thereof.” Thus, military aircraft must receive explicit permission from another country before flying over or landing in its territory. Note that there is no exception made or distinction drawn between peacetime and wartime, nor the intent of the aircraft. However, as some legal scholars point out, this “fundamental” principle is “subject to a few exceptions . . . such as right of transit passage, archipelagic sea lanes passage, entry in cases of distress, and force majeure.” - Above or Beyond: Overflight Considerations for U.S. Military Aircraft

In other words, India would have to seek permission from other countries to fly their jets to Tajikistan. And it would obviously get that from friendly countries. Russia is also another route it can use and the Indian Air Force routinely trains its pilots in Russia, for the fighter jets it purchases from there.

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