In a major policy shift last year, New Delhi had agreed to transfer four Mi-24/35 attack helicopters to Afghanistan, the first supply of lethal equipment to Kabul, which has been seeking Indian assistance to strengthen its fledgling Afghan National Army (ANA).
However, it has been learnt that the last of the four helicopters is yet to be handed over due to lack of spares.
The four helicopters were taken from the inventory of the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Air Force station in Pathankot. The IAF operates Russian-built Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters which are to be phased out very soon.
Of these, three helicopters were delivered to Afghanistan ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kabul last December.
“The fourth helicopter is yet to be transferred. It needs spares before it can be made fully operational and the spares have to come from Russia,” diplomatic sources told The Hindu.
Defence sources said efforts were on to fix the issue. “There was an issue with the spares. It is being sorted out. It should be delivered very soon,” a senior defence official said without specifying a timeframe. Early last year, India supplied three Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)-built Cheetah utility helicopters as well.
While India is yet to communicate to Afghanistan when it would hand over the fourth Mi-25, Afghanistan has already requested India for additional Cheetah as well as Mi-24/35 helicopters, but the IAF has expressed its inability to spare anymore fixed wing platforms from its inventory due to its own operational requirements.
However it has been learnt that India has promised supply of more helicopters at the highest level politically and this is expected to be discussed this week.