India has planned to hand over three indigenously-built Cheetal multi-role helicopters to Afghanistan during the upcoming visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Afghanistan.
- This comes amid increasing perception that India’s strategic space in Afghanistan is under threat after formation of the new Unity government there and its major policy shift towards Pakistan and China.
- Cheetals are the upgraded variants of Cheetah light utility, multi-role helicopters built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
- They can be used for personnel transport, casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and aerial survey, logistic support and rescue and can operate in high-altitude areas, a critical requirement for Afghanistan’s mountainous regions.
- They have been customised as per the requirements of Afghanistan and will not be armed.
- Choppers are being supplied under the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries signed in 2011. Afghanistan has in the past repeatedly requested India for military assistance and lethal hardware, including tanks, helicopters and artillery guns among others in addition to training of military personnel. But India had been reluctant to antagonise Pakistan which views India’s role in Afghanistan with suspicion.
Sources: The Hindu.