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11:40 AM, March 23, 2017
India Eyes Repair Deal For Afghan Air Force's Grounded Helicopter, Transport Planes
A file photo of Afghan National Army

India is considering whether to pay for repairs to grounded helicopters and transport planes from Afghanistan's air force.

If agreed, it signals a willingness to step up military assistance for Kabul, Reuters reported Wednesday.

After sending a team of experts to assess the Afghan air force's needs last year, India has estimated that it would cost about $50 million for new parts and repairs to 11 grounded Soviet-made Mi-35 helicopters and seven transport aircraft, the Indian ambassador to Kabul said.

Afghanistan has often requested India to increase its military assistance, as it is fighting against Afghan Taliban insurgents who have taken swathes of territory since most foreign troops left the country in late 2014.

"We have been looking at the scale of the challenge the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) faces, particularly in one segment, close air support," ambassador Manpreet Vohra said in an interview in Kabul this week.

"We are trying to see how we can help. They have a large number of attack helicopters and transport aircraft grounded for want of spares, for expiry of certification," he said.

India will decide whether to approve the proposal after final costing is done within a few months.

Most of Afghanistan's small air force dates from the Soviet era, but sanctions against Russia mean Western donors that fund the military cannot pay to get grounded aircraft flying again.

Besides the transfer in 2015 to Afghanistan of four attack helicopters, New Delhi has been reluctant to commit direct military support, saying it does not have the resources and prefers to help Kabul with development aid.