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‘Will pull India into a vortex’ — why Delhi is unlikely to heed ‘Afghan demand for air support’

While no active military aid is being discussed, ‘benign support’ like maintenance of equipment, training and spare parts has been under discussion between India and Afghanistan.

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New Delhi: India is unlikely to heed any request from the Afghanistan government for active military aid amid the Taliban’s rapid advances in the country, ThePrint has learnt.

Government sources said any active Indian military intervention in Afghanistan is not being considered at any level, adding that the focus right now is to ensure peace is maintained through dialogue.

However, sources added, “benign support”, like maintenance of military equipment, training and spare parts are issues that are always under discussion.

Sources in the government as well as the security and defence establishment said any military involvement in the war-torn country will “pull India into a vortex”. 

The comments follow requests from the Afghan government that India provide “robust air support” — airpower is seen to be a crucial factor in the battle against the Taliban — to aid Kabul’s efforts to address the nation’s deteriorating security situation. 

The demand is being “aggressively pushed” by Kabul in light of concerns that the Taliban will escalate the level of violence once international troops complete their drawdown by 31 August, Afghan officials had told ThePrint earlier on the condition of anonymity.

Indian government sources didn’t respond to a query on whether such a request has been made by Kabul. However, they pointed out that the official stand is that there will be no Indian boots on the ground in Afghanistan.

In 2017, then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had made the same statement amid US calls for Indian participation in strengthening Afghanistan’s security situation.

The stand was reiterated by Army chief General M.M. Naravane earlier this year.

Also Read: India right to wait till Taliban comes in full view. No need to rush into an ‘Afghan strategy’

‘Benign support vs active support’

Sources said India, which has also initiated talks with the Taliban, would not like to be “overtly seen doing anything” in Afghanistan. “Right now, the approach is to talk to everybody and actively observe the developments,” a source said.

Last month, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaeen said in an interview that India should not give any military support to the current Afghan government.

Sources in the government had earlier made it clear that while New Delhi may look at extending any technical help the Afghan forces need to maintain the equipment India had given them in the past, there are no plans to send any fresh military systems.

Over the past few years, India has gifted four Mi-24V attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force as well as three Cheetah light utility helicopters, among other equipment.

Discussing India’s potential role in Afghanistan in the coming days, sources said training and maintenance issues are something that could be looked into. Afghan military officers do get trained in India at various training establishments.

Sources said India providing any kind of air support in Afghanistan is not going to be the solution. “The US has been bombing for the last 20 years. Why would India want to replace it,” a second source said.

What Afghanistan needs, a third source said, is “peace and cessation of fighting”.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: Five myths about Afghanistan that India must overcome, along with its timidity


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