India has delivered three Russian-made attack helicopters to Afghanistan amid the ongoing offensive by Taliban militants in the war-torn country. The three Mi-25 aircraft were transported in a C-17 Transport plane operated by the Indian Air Force.
The dispatch – as a donation – is the first instalment of the mutually-agreed deal between Kabul and New Delhi. Another helicopter is expected to be delivered in the coming days. The deal was approved by Moscow, where the helicopters were manufactured.
Deliverance of such attack aircraft marks a sharp shift in India's foreign relations pertaining to Afghanistan – moving away from the traditional policy of not gifting offensive combat capabilities. Although Afghanistan relies on the US for aerial operations, it had been requesting New Delhi for advance weapons to battle the Islamist insurgency for a long time. However, India did not heeded to their request – partially due to opposition from neighbouring Pakistan.
The Mi-25 helicopters, which are designed to target heavily-fortified enemy positions and air-drop troops, will be operated by the Afghanistan Air Force personnel. Indian pilots will train their Afghan counterparts to fly the helicopters.
New Delhi had previously sent non-lethal equipment – including transport helicopters and communication devices – to Afghanistan in the past, but had stopped short of giving them heavy weapons. India is expected to replace its ageing Mi-25 helicopters with the US-made Apache aircraft in due course of time.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Afghanistan on 25 December and inaugurate the India-built Parliament building in the country. He is expected to make a formal announcement on the helicopters' consignment as well.