New Delhi: Four Mi-25 gunship helicopters promised by India to Afghanistan in July last year are likely to be delivered this June, diplomatic sources told ThePrint.
However, with India preparing for its mammoth elections due in April and heightened tensions with Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack, questions were being raised in Kabul on whether India will be able to deliver the choppers by June or not, the sources said.
India had promised to supply the four attack choppers in July last year. The delivery, however, did not take place owing to a “time-consuming process” — India will procure the choppers from Russia and then supply them to Afghanistan through Belarus.
During the visit of Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib to India in January, India is believed to have assured him of the delivery in two tranches — the first pair to be supplied by April and the remaining by June, the sources said. India had made the same promise to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani during his visit in September last year.
Afghanistan is also expecting the supply of Chinook choppers from the US around the same time, the sources said.
The country is keen to get these choppers by May-June for their air force because with the onset of summer, the fight between Afghan forces and the Taliban reaches its peak.
In December 2016, India had supplied four Mi-25 choppers to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). All four helicopters were financed by India.
The AAF is one of the weakest points of the Afghan military. So, countries such as the US, Germany, the UK and India are more focused on supporting the AAF with choppers and warplanes as part of their military cooperation to support the fight against the Taliban.
India’s military aid to Kabul
In 2011, India and Afghanistan had signed a strategic partnership agreement under which New Delhi was expected to provide all kinds of military support to Kabul.
But, it was only under the Narendra Modi government that India began to supply lethal military equipment to the war-torn region, much to the displeasure of Pakistan. Washington has also been maintaining a stance that India should not give too many arms to Afghanistan keeping in mind its sensitivities with Pakistan.
The latest supply, if it goes through, will come at a time when India is pushing the US to not allow the formation of an interim government in Kabul. The US is focused on withdrawing its troops from Kabul while bringing an end to the 18-year ‘war on terror’ even though a so-called peace deal between America and the Taliban is nowhere in sight.
Completing his last round of talks with the Taliban leaders in Doha, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said both sides have now agreed to a draft proposal on counter-terrorism assurance and troop withdrawal.
During his meeting with Khalilzad last week, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had made it clear to the US that India will not support any interim or caretaker government in Kabul, sources said.
The peace talks are being brokered by Pakistan.
Afghanistan is headed for the Presidential elections in July. But the Ashraf Ghani government is miffed with the recent statements made by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that a “good government will be established in Afghanistan” soon.
“War will end and peace will be established there,” Khan said, triggering suspicion in Afghanistan and India that Pakistan is trying to help Taliban capture power in Kabul in collusion with the US.