Indo-Russian cooperation on Afghanistan has increased with SCO membership: Nikolay

Ambassador said the SCO summit in June 2017, where both India and Pakistan were admitted as members, enabled more such cooperation.

Updated - December 21, 2017 07:19 pm IST

Published - December 21, 2017 06:44 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Russia’s new envoy to India Nikolay Kudashev.

Russia’s new envoy to India Nikolay Kudashev.

India’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has increased Indo-Russian cooperation on Afghanistan, said Russia’s new envoy to India Nikolay Kudashev. Reacting to a story in The Hindu about an Indian proposal to buy Russian-made second-hand Mi-35 helicopters, Mr. Kudashev said that it was “imperative” to improve the capabilities of the Afghanistan airforce in order to combat terrorism.

“It is the vital task of the international community to continue to support the Afghan government and, particularly, the army and security forces in their fight against terrorism. Enhancing air capabilities of the ADF (Afghan Defence Forces) is one of the most important imperatives in this regard,” Mr. Kudashev said, replying to a question about the plan, which involves procuring the Mi-35 attack helicopters off the shelf from east-european countries like Serbia and Ukraine for use by the Afghan National Security Defence Forces (ANSDF).

The batch of helicopters would replace seven helicopters, including 4 Mi-25/35s and 3 ‘Cheetal’ utility helicopters that the Indian Air Force had transferred from its own hardware inventory. Those helicopters, that were transferred in 2015-2016 are now in need of repairs and have been grounded, officials said. The Ambassador did not respond to a specific question about whether Russia would clear spare parts for the helicopters as well as permission for their maintenance and restoration, for which a request has been pending for several months, saying only that they were being “worked on by relevant bodies and arrangements”.

However, the Ambassador said the SCO summit in June 2017, where both India and Pakistan were admitted as members, enabled more such cooperation.

“After India’s accession to the SCO as the full-fledged member we have got expanded opportunities for cooperation in Afghanistan,” Mr. Kudashev said, adding that the next meeting of the revived ‘SCO-Afghanistan’ Contact group would take place in early 2018 in China.

Dismissing reports that Russia is supporting the Taliban, the Ambassador also said that India and Russia share “common red-lines” on the nature of a political settlement in Afghanistan.

“Political solution, including negotiations with terrorist groups, must be carried out only with those who are ready to stop terrorism and violence, respect the Constitution of Afghanistan and various minorities’ rights. These are our common “red lines”, Mr. Kudashev said in remarks exclusively to The Hindu .

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