WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India
Jan 03, 2018, 11.28 AM
In a bid to strengthen Afghanistan’s air force, India is reportedly planning to purchase used Russian-made Mi-35 helicopter gunships for the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF).
The purchase was considered at the special request of the Afghan government headed by Ashraf Ghani.
The move signals closer cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow to bolster Afghanistan's air capabilities.
It also highlights the growing military cooperation between India and Afghanistan.
An Indian Defence Ministry team is expected to travel to an East European country, possibly Serbia or Ukraine, that still operate Soviet-era aircraft, and an Afghan defence team is expected in Delhi shortly to follow up on the discussions.
As per media reports, there was heightened urgency for the helicopter transaction, as all seven of the old Mi-25/35 attack helicopters and Cheetal utility helicopters transferred by New Delhi to Kabul in 2016, have been grounded and need repairs.
NATO countries cannot purchase Russian-made hardware–including the parts needed to repair Soviet-era helicopters–due to Western-imposed sanctions on Russia.
As a result, the Indian initiative will be of particular importance.
If reports are to be believed, Russia has already agreed to take over maintenance of the Indian-supplied Mi-25s and M-17 transport helicopters.