India Ready To Repair ‘Grounded’ Afghan Fighter Jets

The changing political equations in South Asia have prompted India to bolster defence ties with Afghanistan.
A week after China revealed its plan to scale up defence co-operation with Pakistan to co-produce ballistic missiles; India hinted that it would counter China and Pakistan’s influence in the region with the help of Afghanistan. Foreign policy experts believe that China made such a decision in an apparent retaliation to India developing the nuclear-capable ‘Agni V’ missile with a range of over 5,000km, covering whole of the Asian country. However, the Indian External Affairs Ministry believes that Beijing’s action is aimed at cornering the South Asian powerhouse in the sub-continent.
Earlier this week, Indian Ambassador to Kabul Manpreet Vohra announced that New Delhi might sign a deal with the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul in order to strengthen defence ties. The envoy said that the deal would allow India to repair the Afghan Air Force’s grounded helicopters and transport planes. According to Vohra, the Narendra Modi administration in New Delhi has sanctioned USD 50 million for the repair work, as the Afghan Air Force has 11 grounded Soviet-made Mi-35 helicopters and seven transport aircraft.
In the past, the war-ravaged country urged India to increase military assistance and help Kabul fight Taliban insurgents. India responded positively and sent a team of defence experts to assess the Afghan Air Force’s needs in 2016. After coming back from Afghanistan, the team of experts submitted a report to the Indian government in which they explained the security scenario in the neighbouring country. Experts clearly mentioned in the report that other major powers (including Russia and China), too, were ready to increase their influence in Afghanistan. The Modi government wasted no time in announcing that India would provide more military help to Kabul.
In the Afghan capital, Ambassador Vohra told the press: “We have been looking at the scale of the challenge the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) faces, particularly in one segment, close air support.” He said: “We are trying to see how we can help. They have a large number of attack helicopters and transport aircraft grounded for want of spares, for expiry of certification.”
The Indian envoy, who will soon meet the Afghan air chief, criticised neighbouring Pakistan for not taking any step to stop Islamist militants operating on its territory. These militants are involved in anti-Afghan activities, he stressed.
New Delhi’s close ties with Kabul irked Islamabad in the past. Islamabad had previously warned that India should not be allowed to use Afghan soil to create instability in Pakistan. However, India ignored the Pak warning and remained a close partner of Afghanistan. India, one of Afghanistan’s biggest allies in the war against the Taliban, not only trained thousands of Afghan security personnel, but also sanctioned an additional USD 1 billion as aid. Currently, the Indian engineers construct a (nearly USD 300 million) hydroelectric dam in the neighbouring country.

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