India is wary of a request made by Afghanistan to refurbish its Soviet-era MI-35 helicopters and the provision of tankers to refuel the country’s military and civilian aircraft at airports.
During the recent visit of Afghanistan’s Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, a verbal request was made by Kabul for both refurbishment of the choppers and the supply of fuel tankers, official sources said.
New Delhi, which is not keen on extending itself into the military sphere of cooperation with Afghanistan, is learnt to have asked Kabul to place a concrete proposal before it on these two specific issues.
As of last year, India had pledged more than $650 million in assistance to Afghanistan and has been involved in several high-profile projects, including the construction of the Zaranj-Delaram road. New Delhi is also aware that its Border Roads Organisation (BRO) personnel, who are under Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) protection, have come under increasing attack from Taliban-Al Qaeda elements.
Soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, India had offered military assistance to Afghanistan, but Western nations chose not to accept it on account of Pakistani sensitivities.
Now, of course, Western nations see India as a “key player” and there have been informal suggestions from visiting parliamentarians, not Ministers, that New Delhi should “do more” in Afghanistan.
At a time when the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements have sharpened their attacks in the country, India does not appear to be keen on entering the domain of providing military assistance to Afghanistan.
Since the beginning of this year, at least three Indian nationals working on the Zaranj-Delaram road in southern Afghanistan have been killed. In a rude reminder of the realities of the Afghan scene, another Indian national was abducted on Monday in Heart province.
In off-the-record conversations, Indian officials have spoken to this correspondent about the disturbing security trends in Afghanistan and the inability of the NATO-led troops to arrest these developments.