India has for some time now perceived the Central Asian region as a whole as its strategic neighbourhood. However, its proximity to Tajikistan, which, in turn, has common borders with China and Afghanistan as well as Kyrgyztan and Uzbekistan, and the crucial role that country played as a Northern Alliance base during the Afghan war, has seen New Delhi establishing special relations with Dushanbe. India had even set up a hospital at Farkohar near the Afghan border, which catered to injured Alliance fighters, and sometime in February this year, Indian defence personnel had visited that country for joint military exercises, followed by a India-Tajik defence pact in April. Now with the refurbishing of the Ayni air base, ostensibly to support its energy security interests in the region, Tajikistan will be the only Central Asian country which will have Indian forces permanently stationed there, despite Islamabads stated concerns regarding its encirclement by its eastern neighbour. While Indias interest in establishing a military presence in the region are obvious, Dushanbe too has reasons to welcome such an alliance. With reports of the re-grouping of Taliban/Al Qaeda forces, and given the US preoccupation with Iraq, there is every chance of a renewal of conflict in Afghanistan which, in turn, could lead to the possible fragmentation of that country. In such an eventuality, Dushanbe could once again become a major player in the Afghan theatre. For once, India has moved swiftly to safeguard its strategic interests in the region.