Last Friday’s terror attack at an Army base at Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan in which nearly 140 people were killed has triggered a fresh debate in Indian circles on whether New Delhi should assist Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in boosting their capabilities to defend the war-ravaged nation.
Source here confirmed that Afghanistan has been nudging India to play a role in strengthening the hands of Afghan security forces as they struggle to fight Taliban insurgents who have launched a series of audacious attacks in recent months, bringing to naught all efforts by the international community to stabilise the security situation in the country.
"The fast deteriorating situation in Afghanistan is a threat to the whole region…it has accentuated the need for strengthening the hands of security agencies in Afghanistan,’’ he added.
As the first step, Kabul is learnt to have suggested to India to repair the grounded Afghan Air Force planes. At the insistence of Kabul, India had sent to Afghanistan last year a technical team to review the needs of the Afghan forces. The team had inspected the grounded planes, including 11 Mi-35 gunships and seven transport planes. It was of the view that the repair would cost around 50 million dollars.
The source said "the well-wishers of Afghanistan" had been assessing the scale of the challenge to the ANSF, particularly in the segment of close air support. Afghanistan has a large number of attack helicopters and transport aircraft grounded for want of spares.
The United States also, meanwhile, is said to be working on plans to replace the transport helicopters being used by the Afghan Air Force with the modern UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.
India has been one of the largest contributors to Afghanistan since 2001. It has provided two billion dollars in economic aid and pledged another 1 billion dollars over the next few years. Unfazed by terror attacks orchestrated by Pakistan against Indian nationals working there, India has also undertaken major reconstruction projects, like the Parliament building and the Salma Dam, in the war-torn country, earning the love and respect of the Afghan citizens.
In 2011, India signed a historic Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) with the then Hamid Karzai Government in Afghanistan, making New Delhi the first strategic partner of Kabul in the post-Taliban era. Although under the terms of the agreement, India had agreed to assist ANSF in training and capacity building, it has been reluctant to do so practically for fear of backlash from Pakistan.
at an event here on Tuesday, Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida Abdali indirectly blamed Pakistan for using terrorism as a tool against India and Afghanistan. ‘’State sponsorship of terrorism has become an old fact. We are hoping for this ground reality to change,’’ he added. He also stressed that the time had come to revive the India-Afghanistan-US trilateral to address pressing issues facing the region.