New Delhi had provided the ANSDF four Mi24 attack helicopters and three ‘cheetal’ helicopters in 2018

An aircraft provided by India to the Afghan National Security and Defence Force (ANSDF) has been used to bomb a hospital in Helmand province of Afghanistan, the Taliban alleged on Saturday, calling the attack a ‘war crime’.

The Taliban’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid posted on Twitter that the hospital at Lashkargah in Helmand Province of Afghanistan had caught fire and was partially destroyed after the aircraft provided by India had been used to bomb it.

He, however, did not specify which aircraft the ANSDF had used. New Delhi had provided the ANSDF four Mi24 attack helicopters and three ‘cheetal’ helicopters in 2018.

A fierce fight is going on between the Taliban and the ANSDF in and around Helmand. The Taliban is trying to take control of Lashkargah, the capital of the province, but is facing tough resistance from the special forces of the ANSDF.

Though the Taliban has been running a campaign against the ANSDF, this is the first time the Sunni Muslim militants alleged that an aircraft provided by the Government of India committed a “war crime”. It came just days after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his counterpart in the United States, Antony Blinken, said in New Delhi that if the Taliban wrested the control of Afghanistan through military offensives, it would lack legitimacy.

The Taliban took control of a large number of districts in Afghanistan over the past few weeks as the US and its NATO allies continued to withdraw their troops, leaving it to the ANSDF to fight the militants. India is worried over the “strategic depth” Pakistan would gain in Afghanistan, if the war-torn country again goes under the control of Taliban.

New Delhi, however, reached out and had informal engagements with some sections of the Taliban, even as it underlined that India wished to see an independent, sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan, at peace with itself and neighbours. India also opposed the unilateral imposition of will by any party in Afghanistan.

“The Government is in touch with various stakeholders within and outside Afghanistan, including regional and international partners,” V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs, informed the Rajya Sabha recently, in a written reply to a query on New Delhi’s position on the resurgence of the Taliban. India also extended its support to all peace initiatives leading towards a lasting political settlement through an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled process which would lead to peace and stability in the region.

India over the past few years has contributed over $3 billion to support the reconstruction of infrastructure in Afghanistan. It, however, refrained from sending troops to Afghanistan and limited its military support to the conflict-hit country to providing training to officials and soldiers of the Afghan National Army and supply of non-lethal defence hardware. It was in December 2015 that India started providing helicopters to the Afghan Air Force.