India will provide 4 Mi-24 choppers to Kabul, says Afghan envoy
India will underwrite the delivery of four gunship helicopters by Belarus to Afghanistan ahead of the war-torn country’s spring fighting season, the second time New Delhi has supplied lethal military equipment to Kabul.
Afghanistan, Belarus and India inked a trilateral pact for the refurbished Mi-24 helicopters earlier this month, Afghan ambassador Shaida Abdali said in an interview on Monday. “We recently were able to sign a trilateral MoU…India will be paying for the four Mi-24s (which will be delivered) in the next few months. All the four helicopters (will be) paid (for) by India,” he said.
Afghanistan has a four-year military transition plan backed by the US to modernise its air force, but the country reached out to India for assistance in acquiring some helicopters needed immediately for counter-terrorism operations. “India has been kind enough to agree to that request… Afghanistan will have ready helicopters that will be used in the coming season,” Abdali said.
India supplied four Mi-24s to the Afghan Air Force during 2015-16, marking a significant shift from its earlier reluctance to provide lethal military equipment. However, some of these helicopters had been grounded because of the lack of spares and India is working on plans to help repair and refurbish these Mi-24s and other Russian-origin helicopters and transport aircraft of the Afghan Air Force, Abdali added.
Despite the pressure exerted on Pakistan by the US after the unveiling of President Donald Trump’s South Asia policy last year, the envoy said Islamabad continued to drag its feet in taking action against terror groups.
“No one can shy away from the fact that terrorism continues to spread from within Pakistan,” Abdali said. “The fact of the matter is terrorist groups still have found the place to live freely, and to cross and to then hurt others.”
He said terror attacks in Afghanistan had increased after the US announced its South Asia policy. “More terrorist activity has just one message for me personally - to look at this as if (it’s a) no to a call that don’t use terrorism. The ball is in the world community’s court and we have to respond,” he said.
Asked about the Pakistan Army’s demand that Afghanistan “end” India’s influence in the country in return for help in controlling the Taliban, as detailed in Steve Coll’s book Directorate S, Abdali said: “It’s quite distressing to see expectations of this nature from one neighbour to another neighbour…Can Pakistan accept, for example, Afghanistan’s demand to cut its ties with China? No way, and we will never ask.”
He added, “We have heard for years a desire that we should have no ties with India. The Afghanistan that I know and belong to will never ever surrender to anyone’s demand of this nature, whether this is vis a vis India or any other nation.”