Afghans push India for more arms, despite Pakistan's wary eye

Published: August 23, 2016
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A helicopter donated by India is parked at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

A helicopter donated by India is parked at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

India is set to deliver more arms to Afghanistan to help it fight militants, Kabul’s envoy to New Delhi said, even if Pakistan is wary of closer military cooperation between countries lying to its east and west.

India has provided a little over $2 billion in economic assistance to Afghanistan in the last 15 years, but has been more measured in providing weapons in order to avoid a backlash from Pakistan, which sees Afghanistan as its area of influence.

Last December, after years of dragging its feet, New Delhi announced the supply of four attack helicopters in India’s first transfer of lethal equipment to the government in Kabul since the hardline Taliban movement was toppled.

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Kabul immediately deployed three of the Russian Mi-25 attack helicopters to go after insurgents, and the fourth will be inducted in the next few weeks.

Shaida Mohammad Abdali, the Afghan ambassador to India, said regional security was deteriorating and Afghan national forces were in dire need of military supplies to tackle the Taliban, Islamic State and other militant groups.

“We are grateful for the four helicopters. But we need more, we need much more. Today we are heading into a situation that is worrisome for everyone in the region including India,” he told Reuters in an interview.

On Aug. 29, the head of the Afghan army, General Qadam Shah Shahim, is expected in New Delhi to submit a list of military equipment drawn up in consultation with the US military, Indian defense officials said.

It is not yet clear how much would be paid for and how much would be handed over for free.

The equipment includes more Mi-25s, smaller helicopters used for transporting troops and medical emergencies, and spares for existing Russian-origin aircraft in the Afghan air force fleet.

“The agenda for the army chief’s visit is clear. We will be finalizing the enhancement of defense ties,” Abdali said. India, he added, had told the Afghans that it would do whatever it could to meet the security forces’ requirements.

INDIAN LEADER RANKLES PAKISTAN

The fact that much of the proposed equipment originates from Russia need not be a stumbling block to an agreement, the United States has said, despite Western sanctions against Moscow.

Russia and the United States share a common goal in stabilizing Afghanistan, and India can act as a go-between to help re-equip Afghan forces which fall well short of the capacity required despite billions of dollars in US spending.

The Afghan government lost control or influence of nearly 5 percent of its territory between January and May, the US government’s top watchdog on Afghanistan said in a report, highlighting the challenges its forces are facing.

If Afghanistan collapses…

But the move to increase cooperation with Afghanistan is likely to aggravate fears in Pakistan of being wedged between two hostile neighbors.

Relations with both countries have cooled lately.

Afghanistan says Pakistan must do more to stop militants operating on its territory, while India has blamed Pakistan for unrest in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned up the dial a notch by making a rare reference to Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province in a recent speech.

Asked about the prospect of closer military ties between Afghanistan and India, a Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman said the government did not comment on bilateral ties between two countries.

But he warned against attempts to destabilize Pakistan, which, like its arch-rival India, has a nuclear arsenal.

“Our expectation is that India should not be allowed to use Afghan soil to create instability in Pakistan.”

According to an Indian defense ministry official, discussions with Kabul included the possibility of increasing the number of Afghan officers being trained in Indian military institutions each year from around 800 now.

US SUPPORT

The United States, which has allocated more than $68 billion to train and equip the Afghan security forces since 2002, has welcomed greater Indian military assistance to fill shortfalls in hardware and personnel.

Earlier this month, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, held talks with Indian officials to find ways in which New Delhi could help the Afghan air force, which is struggling to maintain aging Russian aircraft because of sanctions on Moscow.

Nicholson said donor nations had contributed $4.5 billion to Afghanistan, but those funds could not be used to buy Russian aircraft or spare parts because of the restrictions triggered by the conflict in Ukraine.

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India is not constrained by such considerations and can export Russian-made equipment it already owns or source hardware and spares from Russia to send on to Afghanistan.

“Any additional aircraft or spare parts that India can provide Afghanistan would be greatly appreciated and welcomed by them to help build and maintain the Afghan Air Force,” Nicholson said at the end of his trip.

A Russian diplomat said Moscow supported efforts to strengthen Afghan forces, even if it cannot directly equip it.

“Our policy is simple; we would not like to be involved directly, but we would support any initiative that strengthens the ability of the Afghan authorities to fight against terrorist groups and stabilize the situation in the country,” the diplomat said.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • NITS
    Aug 23, 2016 - 9:54AM

    So here is the isolated pakistan in the region, who thinks that it is not isolated by holding Chinese finger, just like North Korea!Recommend

  • karar
    Aug 23, 2016 - 10:05AM

    India is going for aggracive foreign
    policy whether it with China by making advance landing station in north east or taking taught stand on Pakistan.Recommend

  • Bystander
    Aug 23, 2016 - 11:07AM

    India can put all of her arms in Afghanistan. Now Pakistan is well aware of handling monsters from Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Aug 23, 2016 - 11:35AM

    Arms given by whoever for whatever reasons will only create more dead bodies. if any one wants to help then try to build schools or hospitals . Recommend

  • jdd
    Aug 23, 2016 - 12:22PM

    @Bunny Rabbit:
    We’re already doing it their assembly building dams roads so don’t worry you talk about your self Recommend

  • Aditya
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:51PM

    I don’t think the current Indian govt gives too hoot about Pakistan’s concern. India should go all the way to make Afghanistan self reliant and strong enough to root out terrorism and its bases on its soil.Recommend

  • BrainBro
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:58PM

    Pakistan needs to make friends with India and use its corporate human resource to better its own economics.
    Outside Pakistan and India, almost all Indians and Pakistanis are best of friends. I have seen Indian Hindu women with Muslim Pakistani husbands and Muslim Pakistani women with Indian Hindu husbands.Recommend

  • Shakeel
    Aug 23, 2016 - 2:58PM

    Just you wait. By 2018 Afghanistan will have fallen to the Taliban and all American and Indian designs will turn to dust. The majority of the Afghan army is corrupt and the Taliban pay salaries twice as high. The might of the Soviet Union couldn’t keep a puppet government in Afghanistan, who is India? The proxies in FATA have been defeated, nowadays PAF is bombing the Afghan border and the Pak army is carrying out operations on the border. We are bringing the war to you now. Recommend

  • Fahre Afghan
    Aug 23, 2016 - 3:18PM

    It is in Indian interest to have stable Afghanistan in its neighborhood. Using Afghanistan as a terrorist training ground or safe heaven doing like Kandahar hijacking are no longer possible. 1.2 billion strong Indian on Afghan side is surety of stability & prosperity in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • salman
    Aug 23, 2016 - 3:19PM

    We already knew India is providing arms to TTP and BLA through Afghanistan. We handled Soviets threat so wait and watch how it will go against India in a longer run.Recommend

  • vicky
    Aug 23, 2016 - 3:45PM

    As a Pakistani so happy to see this..Wait till these Afghan leaches suck India dry… This is what they know best…Keep it up bro…Recommend

  • jay
    Aug 23, 2016 - 3:51PM

    @salman: Come out of History and live in present ! The world has moved too far ahead . catch up to speed soon or you will become history !Recommend

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Aug 23, 2016 - 3:59PM

    India should NOT give arms for whatever reason to whoever . Instead they can put a negotiating table for both the warring parties / give training / edu for a more peaceful population. Recommend

  • Feroz
    Aug 23, 2016 - 5:47PM

    Afghanistan does not have the capacity to pay for anything, so whatever it gets likely to be freebies. For Afghanistan anything will obviously be better than nothing.Recommend

  • Mr Obvious
    Aug 23, 2016 - 9:47PM

    @Feroz: Afghanistan does not have the capacity to pay for anything, so whatever it gets likely to be freebies

    MMM – this the same Pakistan who borrows heavily from IMF/ADB – couldn’t buy F-16’s because USA wouldn’t provide “freebie”, has outsiders funding all polio vaccinations, and is forced to agree to “no bid” contracts with China and Russia because there the only ones that will finance construction? Pot calling the kettle black?Recommend

  • Black Hawk
    Aug 24, 2016 - 7:32AM

    India should not care about what Pakistan thinks & provide our Afghans friends with everything they need to make their country free of terrorists who are aided & abetted by Pakistan. Recommend

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