Finding used copters for Kabul

India eyes at cooperation with Russia on military support, with the U.S. on development support.   | Photo Credit: AFP

In a bid to bolster Afghanistan's air capabilities, India is considering buying several second-hand Russian-made Mi35s for the Afghan National Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) from other countries, a move that signals closer cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow on Afghanistan, Indian and Afghan officials confirmed to The Hindu.

The proposal comes after a request from the Ghani government, including during a visit to Delhi by Afghanistan's National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar in October, and follows several visits to Moscow by Indian officials to discuss the logistics.

An Indian Defence Ministry team is also expected to travel to an East European country, possibly Serbia or Ukraine, that still operate Soviet-era aircraft, and an Afghan defence team is expected in Delhi "shortly" to follow up on the discussions, a diplomat said.

Officials also said that there was heightened urgency for the helicopter transaction, as all seven of the old Mi-25/35 attack helicopters and Cheetal utility helicopters transferred by New Delhi to Kabul in 2015-2016, have been grounded and need repairs.

Asked about the proposal, Afghanistan's Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali said that he was "looking forward" to closer India-Russia cooperation that will benefit Afghanistan.

“The Afghan forces are in a much better situation now and things will happen soon to help with the transition process [from Soviet-era to U.S. hardware]. India has been very helpful to fill the gap that exists for helicopters, as well as in getting the existing aircraft off the ground.”

The helicopters and the promise to repair hardware for the ANDSF is part of a larger strategic tightrope India is walking, given traditional ties with Russia, and increasingly close ties with the United States as a part of U.S. President Donald Trump's South Asia policy.

Effectively the plan will see New Delhi cooperating with Russia on military support for Afghanistan, with the U.S. on development support, and with Iran on trade cooperation for goods to Afghanistan.

India is already training military officers including a batch of women officers at its military academies, and Afghan officials said they are hopeful that India would scale up the training for more "strategic-level" officers, as well as training the Medical corps of the ANDSF.

Afghanistan is in the midst of a full transition from its old hardware, and Soviet–era generals, to U.S. hardware, and a next-generation NATO-model Army by 2022.

By 2019, the ANDSF will begin to receive the first of a total 159 American Black Hawk helicopters, and the Mi-35 (Hind) series India is procuring will be integral to anti-terror operations in the country in the interim period.

(With Dinakar Peri)

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 4:21:16 PM |

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