Tajik president comes calling with new name
When Emamoli Rahmon lands in New Delhi on Sunday, Indian officials will be more careful than usual about the protocol. For the last time the President of Tajikistan visited in 2006, he was Emamoli Rahmonov. He has since shed the "-ov" to indicate a break from the Russian identity — Tajikistan was a Soviet Republic — and make it more Muslim-sounding to, many say, project his Islamic credentials.
So, the Foreign Ministry has told officials to be extra-careful about not referring to the Tajik president, who has visited India four times since 1995, as Rahmonov.
New Delhi is laying out a red-carpet for Rahmon for strategic reasons: India has a significant presence at Ayni air base and is looking to re-establish the Indian field hospital at Farkhor on the Tajik-Afghan border.
During his four-day visit, Rahmon will also visit Goa and the Infosys office in Bangalore. He will meet President Pranab Mukherjee — it will be Mukherjee's first banquet for a visiting dignitary — and PM Manmohan Singh Monday and call on Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Minister S M Krishna.
New Delhi is not talking about the outcome on defence cooperation ahead of the visit but a "robust paragraph" is certain to figure in the joint statement. India's strategic interest in Tajikistan can be gauged from the fact that MoS for Defence M M Pallam Raju will be the minister-in-waiting. Afghanistan, which shares border with Tajikistan, will be an important subject of talks. "Tajikistan is fighting the battle for us on the Afghan border. Every terrorist they manage to kill is our potential enemy," an official said.
India is also keen on strengthening its presence in Tajikistan to get a foothold in Afghanistan once the Americans leave in 2014; much to the discomfiture of Pakistan, which has been lodging protests with Dushanbe against the presence of Indian troops stationed in Tajikistan.
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