India-Afghanistan Geo-Political Developments

What is at stake for India?

  • India has invested in economic reconstruction in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
  • India has built Salma dam in Herat province, which will boost the agricultural and industrial sectors of Herat.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port, which has been built with Indian aid will be linked to Afghan road networks.
  • India is one of the closest regional powers that has invested in institution and infrastructure building in Afghanistan.
  • Besides the infrastructure work India has initiated and completed, it has also signed the TAPI pipeline project that aims to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India.
Recent developments:
  • Recent PM visit to Afghanistan
  • India gave 4 Mi-35 helicopters signaling a change in strategy by giving combat equipment. Earlier India avoided any kind of military relationship.
  • “Quadrilateral Cooperation Group” (QCG) : made up of the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan that are facilitating the talks with the Taliban. India is not a part of it as talking with Taliban is against ideals of Indian foreign policy. (Related note Taliban Negotiations)
Below content is only for understanding. You can skip it if you know the basics of India-Afghanistan relations.
Considering the ongoing geo-political developments in Afghanistan, do you think India should be worried? Analyse why. (200 Words)
India’s relations with Afghanistan has traditionally been warm primarily due to the assistance accorded to Afghanistan in the form of humanitarian and reconstruction aid and investments running up to $11 billion as of 2012. The primary objectives behind such aid programmes were to improve connectivity and economic collaboration with the resource rich countries of Central Asia and to diminish counter Pakistan’s influence in it.
However, the impending withdrawal of the US army is an issue of concern for India as the geopolitical and military vacuum created in Afghanistan may be filled up by China and Pakistan respectively, especially due to the continued prevalence of ethnic disharmony in Afghanistan. The Chinese have already initiated a trilateral framework which includes Pakistan and Afghanistan and have committed to construct a hydroelectric project in eastern Afghanistan.
Such moves by China can potentially erode the goodwill created by India in Afghanistan in addition to easing Pakistan’s desire to increase its influence in Afghanistan, which it believes to be its strategic backyard. This will enable Pakistan to relocate its troops from its western border to the east, along with possibly sabotaging India’s attempts to engage with Central Asian countries (e.g. TAPI). Also, anti-India terrorist groups in Pakistan may be encouraged to collaborate with terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
The solution to this problem is a strong and unified Afghanistan which is neutral to all countries in addition to playing the role of a beneficiary to all stakeholders. This requires the deepening of the democratic institutions in Afghanistan. Leveraging its goodwill in Afghanistan and allying with Iran to counter Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan along with continued aid and support seems to be the best course of action for India currently.
Considering recent geopolitical developments in Afghanistan, do you think India’s role in that country has been reduced to that of a marginal player? Critically analyse. (200 Words)
Afghanistan remains to be one of the most important countries in the region citing various dimensions including peace and stability, mineral resources and the country acting as a gateway to mineral rich central Asia. But the recent President Election and subsequent geopolitical developments have raised some concerns for India.
The relations between Kabul and Islamabad are growing which is evident from Afghan president Ashraf Ghani choosing Pakistan for its first foreign visit which was followed by subsequent exchange of visits between the two nations. Also Pakistan will be training afghan soldiers. Further China’s interests and influence are also rising in the region as China is keen to make use of resources along with curbing the Uighur movement in its Xinjiang province. To enhance the prospects China is also funding road and rail projects connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also a trilateral meet was held recently between the three countries which hint towards growing linkage among them.
While citing the above development some scholars fear the increasing role of China and Pakistan in Afghanistan at the cost of India who will be marginalized in due course of time. But at the same it needs to be seen that India have invested around $2 billion in the country and enjoys a good reputation of a friend among the Afghan population which will help the country in protecting its interest. Also India being involved in some of the key projects like agriculture, construction of dams, parliament which is crucial for the country in economic, political terms. President Ghani himself being an economist would not like to curb on any of these aspects.
Lastly Taliban would also like to favour India in order to limit/diminish the role of Pakistan. Presently Afghanistan is going through a crucial time and change. Therefore New Delhi should have a constant eye on the developments and happenings in the country and should take coercive steps to secure its interests.
Should India worry about recent geopolitical developments taking place in Afghanistan? Critically comment. (200 Words)
Afghanistan has been an important element of India’s foreign policy because of strategic, economic, security and connectivity [to Central Asia] implications. Recent spate of events in Afghanistan especially after the presidential elections in Afghanistan has caused some anxiety and concern in India.
For example:
  • Back to back visits of Afghanistan president to Pakistan
  • Shelving of Afghanistan’s demand for military equipment from India and suspension of the construction of a $400 million tank and aircraft refurbishing plant
  • Acceptance of Pakistani offer for Afghan army cadets to train in Pakistan.
  • Holding of first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue and increased financial commitments from Beijing in Afghanistan’s infrastructure development- Dam in Kunar and Motorway to connect Peshawar with Kabul and a rail link between Quetta and Kandahar etc.
  • Growing role of SCO post withdrawal of US forces where India is yet to acquire membership in spite of repeated attempts.
However, Afghanistan shouldn’t be seen as a zero-sum game with limited scope for  engagement. India is the fifth largest investor in Afghanistan and has invested $2 billion in infrastructural and humanitarian projects and formidably popular among the Afghan population.
Afghanistan’s current shift is because of the current political exigencies [for e.g. indispensability of role of Taliban] rather than a principled one. India must continue to engage with Afghanistan on projects of Capacity building and development and other stakeholders involved therein. The upcoming visit of Afghan President is an opportunity for this.



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