AT Monitoring Desk
KABUL: India is expected to supply four gunship helicopters to Afghanistan by July, with the deliveries falling almost a year behind schedule, people familiar with developments told Indian media on Tuesday.
As first reported by Hindustan Times in March 2018, Afghanistan, Belarus and India had inked a trilateral pact to supply the refurbished Mi-24 helicopters. Belarus was to upgrade the helicopters, which were to be paid for by India, the then Afghan envoy, Shaida Abdali, had said.
“It is now expected that two helicopters will be delivered to Afghanistan in April. The other two are expected to be handed over in June or July,” a person familiar with discussions on the matter said.
This is only the second instance of India supplying lethal military equipment to Afghanistan. India had provided four Mi-24s to the Afghan armed forces during 2015-16, marking a significant shift from its earlier position of supplying only non-lethal equipment.
However, some of the helicopters provided earlier had been grounded because of a lack of spares and India was also working on plans to help repair and refurbish the Mi-24s and other Russian-origin helicopters and transport aircraft of the Afghan Air Force, officials had said earlier.
The issue of the four additional helicopters and other military assistance had figured in Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib’s discussions with Indian officials during his visit to New Delhi in January.
India has committed $3 billion in aid to Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban were removed from power. It has also trained personnel from the Afghan National Security Forces and Afghan National Police.
The four additional helicopters are expected to play a role in fighting between the Afghan forces and the Taliban, who have continued their attacks despite engaging the US in peace talks.