India has decided to supply four Mi-35 attack helicopters to Afghanistan over the next four months to help the war-ravaged nation intensify its anti-terror operations against the Pakistan-backed Taliban, Afghan diplomatic sources said.
Sources said India proposed to go in for outright purchase of the Russian-made helicopters from Belarus since it would have taken a long time to procure the choppers if it were to place an order for their supplies.
India had supplied four Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan in 2015-16 to bolster the strength of the Afghan forces while refusing to make any compromise on its long-standing stand that there shall be no Indian boots on the ground in the embattled country. Lately, India has been deeply concerned over an upsurge in violence in Afghanistan unleashed by the Taliban, which continues to receive support from the Pakistani establishment.
Sources said India’s decision to supply four more helicopters to Afghanistan was taken after the US and other key Western powers nudged New Delhi to play a pro-active role in stabilising the situation in the country. India is already giving training to nearly 1,000 Afghan soldiers in its premier defence institutions.
The US has found itself handicapped in assisting the Afghan forces because most of the lethal military equipment with them is of Russian origin. Quite a few helicopters with the Afghan forces have been grounded due to lack of spare parts.
The US and NATO member countries are prohibited from purchasing Russian-made military hardware, including the parts needed to repair the helicopters given the Western-imposed sanctions on Russia. Consequently, the US government has repeatedly requested Indian military assistance to the AAF since 2014.
Sources, meanwhile, said India and Afghanistan also propose to soon hold in Kabul the next meeting of the strategic council between them to consider ways to enhance the fighting prowess of the Afghan forces. The council had held its last meeting in New Delhi last year.
Sources said the US, too, has started implementing its four-year defence plan in Afghanistan. Under the plan, the strength of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) will be increased three-fold. The capability of Afghan special forces will also be enhanced substantially.
On the air corridor established between India and Afghanistan last year to circumvent the problems being created by Pakistan for trade between them, sources said it had indeed helped the two countries increase trade and commercial links. As a result, trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan had decreased considerably.