Both countries have signed several framework agreements, including on culture, trade and economic cooperation. Joint Special Forces Exercise ‘Khanjar’ has now become an annual affair.
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
On April 16, 2021, the Indo-Kyrgyz Joint Special Forces Exercise “Khanjar” was inaugurated at the Special Forces Brigade of National Guards of Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek. This was eighth in the series of joint exercise of Special Forces between the two countries, the first such exercise having been initiated in 2011. Named ‘Khanjar’, this two-week long exercise focuses on high-altitude warfare, mountain warfare and counter-extremism exercises. In his opening remarks Colonel Ergeshov Talantbek, Commander of Kyrgyz National Guards, commended the high-altitude resilience of the elite troops from both nations and lauded the interoperability level of camaraderie they shared. India’s Ambassador to Kyrgyz Republic Ambassador Alok A. Dimri recalled India-Kyrgyz civilization bonds and welcomed the Indian contingent for the exercise felicitating their role as a bridge in promoting shared mountain and nomadic heritage of the two nations. A ceremonial parade was held as part of inauguration ceremony, along with a display of equipment and weapons plus a visit to the training arena and barracks.
Kyrgyz Republic is a landlocked country that shares its border with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. Its eastern border is next to China’s Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. Kyrgyz Republic is one of the smaller Central Asian states with its territory extending about 900 km from east to west and 410 km from north to south. The borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the Fergana Valley are difficult terrain. Kyrgyz Republic’s terrain is dominated by the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain systems, which constitutes some 65 percent territory of the country. Kyrgyz Republic’s average elevation is 2,750m (9,020 ft), ranging from 7,439m (24,406 ft) at Peak Jengish Chokusu to 394m (1,293 ft) in the Fergana Valley near Osh. Almost 90 per cent of the country lies more than 1,500m (4,900 ft) above sea level.
In recent years, armed forces of Kyrgyz Republic have begun developing better relations with Russia and have also signed modernisation deals with Russia worth $1.1 billion
The armed forces of Kyrgyz Republic were formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The military had been working with the US Armed Forces while the US had leased a facility named the Transit Centre at Manas at Manas International Airport near Bishkek. In 2009, Kyrgyz Republic declared imminent closure of the US military base at Manas; the only US base in Central Asia. However, with negotiations and increase of annual rent from $17.4 million to $60 million, the US military was permitted to use it till 2014, when it was finally shut down. In recent years, armed forces of Kyrgyz Republic have begun developing better relations with Russia, participating in joint exercises and they have also signed modernisation deals with Russia worth $1.1 billion. Interestingly in August 2019, the Special Forces of Kyrgyz Republic were tasked to launch an operation against the residence of former President Almazbek Atambayev who was facing charges of corruption.
After the independence of Kyrgyz Republic on August 31, 1991, India was among the first to establish diplomatic relations with Krygyz Republic on March 18, 1992
After the independence of Kyrgyz Republic on August 31, 1991, India was among the first to establish diplomatic relations with Krygyz Republic on March 18, 1992. Kyrgyz Republic supported India in securing full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and also supports India’s bid for permanent seat at UNSC. Both countries have signed several framework agreements, including on culture, trade and economic cooperation, civil aviation, investment promotion and protection, avoidance of double taxation, consular convention and the like. Bilateral trade between India and Kyrgyz Republic in 2018-19 was about $32.60 million. Connectivity remains one of the biggest challenges for trade between India and Kyrgyz Republic. Air Manas (Pegasus Asia Airline) started direct flights on the Bishkek-Delhi-Bishkek sector since February 20, 2015. The flight operates thrice a week.
Kyrgyz Republic supported India in securing full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and also supports India’s bid for permanent seat at UNSC
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kyrgyz Republic in July 2015 and again in June 2019, first to attend the meeting of Council of Heads of State of SCO followed by official visit to the Kyrgyz Republic. During the visit in June 2019, India and the Kyrgyz Republic established Strategic Partnership and signed the Joint Declaration on Establishing Strategic Partnership. An agreement on Defence Cooperation, signed during the visit of Prime Minister Modi in July 2015, has become an important milestone that has laid the framework for defence cooperation between the two sides. Joint Special Forces Exercise ‘Khanjar’ has now become an annual affair.
Indian Special Forces have been undertaking joint exercises with Special Forces of multiple countries, Kyrgyz Republic being one of them. Joint exercises enhance interoperability and would come in handy in the future especially in counter-terrorist operations. India and Kyrgyz Republic have long history of relations, both are important to each other and their defence cooperation should expand further.