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India to give two 'cheetah' choppers to Afghanistan

NEW DELHI, Anirban Bhaumik, Dec 9, 2013, DHNS: 1:20 IST
India will next month provide two “cheetah” helicopters to Afghanistan and may even send its military trainers to the newly opened Afghan National Army Officers Academy apart from deploying technicians to run an old military hardware maintenance facility in the war-ravaged country.

Shaida M Abdali, Kabul’s envoy to New Delhi, on Monday said the Afghan Government was keen on India joining Russia to revive and run an old Soviet-era military maintenance facility in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan also requested India to send its military trainers to a new facility being set up near Kabul with support from the UK, he added.

Though New Delhi has so far kept its defence cooperation with Kabul limited to training personnel of Afghan National Security Forces in institutions in India and supplying non-lethal military hardware, the Government is understood to be studying the fresh proposals form President Hamid Karzai’s administration.

Karzai is expected to discuss the proposals with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to New Delhi on December 12 and 13 next.

“They (Karzai and Singh) will examine efforts to be undertaken by both sides to ensure the protection of our shared national security interests,” said Abdali. About 1400 Afghan National Army officers were trained in institutions in India since 2003.

Besides, he said, altogether 350 more officers from Afghanistan are undergoing training courses in the military facilities in the country.

Kabul has over the past few months been prodding New Delhi to step up its investment in the security of Afghanistan and provide it with both lethal and non-lethal weapons to prevent spillover effects of terrorism in that country after the withdrawal of the US-led International Security Assistance Force from active combat-role by the end of 2014. Singh assured Karzai last May that New Delhi would try to meet some of the requirements of the Afghan National Security Forces, which would have to take greater responsibility after the withdrawal of the ISAF from combat role.

India and Afghanistan in October 2011 signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement and set up a Strategic Partnership Council, which has four separate joint working groups for political and security consultations, trade and economic cooperation, capacity development and education, and social cultural and civil society interactions. The issue of stepping up the military ties is likely to be discussed by the Joint Working Group for Political and Security Consultations.

Sources said India would provide Afghanistan two ‘cheetah’ helicopters manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore next month. The choppers would be used for reconnaissance purposes. Abdali on Monday said the new Afghan National Army Officer Academy, which was being set up near Kabul on the model of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK, would soon require at least 120 trainers and the Afghan Government was keen to have some of them from the Indian Army.

“In the coming months and years, regardless of who leads our two countries, we should work together to outline contours of our security and defence cooperation in tangible ways for implementation,” said Kabul’s envoy to New Delhi, in an obvious reference to the coming parliamentary elections in India and the presidential polls in Afghanistan.

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