New Delhi: India has stepped up security cooperation with Afghanistan a week ahead of the Heart of Asia meet in Amritsar, handing over a Mi-24 helicopter gunship to Kabul as part of deal to supply four such gunships to the landlocked country to fight Taliban.
The first three gunships were handed over before Narendra Modi’s Kabul trip last December. The supply of the fourth one was delayed due to non-availability of spare parts that was later procured from Russia.
The decision for the delivery of the fourth Mi-24 gunship helicopter was concluded during the recent visit of Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar to Delhi ahead of the Heart of Asia meet.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will pitch for making India a stakeholder across various aspects including security in stabilisation of the landlocked country at the summit.
The Afghan Air Force (AAF) said the last of the 4 Mi-24 gunships was delivered to the Afghan Air Force on Saturday (November 26). A number of the Indian Air Force personnel also arrived in Kabul to complete the delivery of the final gunship, Afghan government sources said.
The fourth helicopter needed spares to be made fully operational and the spares came from Russia. “There was an issue with the spares. It was sorted out and delivery was done,” an Afghan government source said. These helicopters have originally been manufactured in Russia.
India is also looking to provide longterm spares and support to Soviet-era military copters in Afghanistan with support from Russia. The matter could be discussed when Ghani meets Modi on the sidelines of Heart of Asia meet. Russia is also among 14 stakeholders in the Heart of Asia formation aimed at stabilising Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has 40-50 helicopters of various types and some An-32 medium transport aircraft which have been grounded for the need of spares. It is understood that teams from India visited Kabul recently to discuss refurbishment process with Russian support.
India may work on a model where Russia provides technical parts and Delhi would pay for it.
Afghanistan’s wish list to India include supply of utility and attack helicopters, tanks, artillery, ammunition and spares, besides assistance in reviving some of the Soviet-era equipment.