Bilateral Relations: India-Afghanistan
There was a blast near the Supreme Court of Afghanistan premises in Kabul that left at least 20 people dead, showing the growing insecurity in Afghanistan. This has huge security implications for India too.
Before we probe into that, let us consider all the aspects of the India-Afghanistan relations.
Background of Bilateral Relations
- India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links, since times immemorial, the people of Afghanistan and India have interacted with each other through trade and commerce.
- It was a focal point of the Silk Road and migration.
- It is important geo-strategic location connecting East and the West Asia.
Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA)
- Indo-Afghan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2011.
- Through which India provides assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance to rebuild indigenous Afghan capacity in different areas, encouraging investment in Afghanistan’s natural resources, providing duty free access to the Indian markets for its exports.
- India aims for an Afghan-led Afghan-owned, broad based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation and advocates the need for sustained and long-term commitment to Afghanistan by the international community.
- India recognizes Afghanistan as a junction of trade route between Central, South, East and West Asia. This gives immense possibilities for India.
- India has undertaken a series of measures to achieve full potential through Preferential Trade Agreement signed in March 2003 under which India allowed duty concessions, and removed custom duties for all Afghan products.
- With the operation of Chabahar Port in Iran, Afghan exports would receive further boost, as a new transit route for trade.
- Steel Authority of India is setting a plant in Afghanistan’s Hajigak iron ore reserves.
- ICCR Scholarships for Afghan students for education and technical skills.
- Technical Capacity building programs of ITEC and ICAR for Afghan mid-career officers.
- Sister City relations:
- Kabul – New Delhi
- Kandahar – Mumbai
- Ajmer Sharif – Herat
- Hyderabad – Jalalabad
- Ahmadabad – Asadabad
- State of Assam – Province of Helmand
The cities will be connected through tourism, student and faculty exchange programs.
- Developmental Assistance of $2 billion, a strong signal of India’s commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
- Afghan-India Friendship Dam, also called as Salma Dam on Hari River in Herat Province is a multipurpose dam built by India.
- Afghanistan Parliament building, Restoration of Stor Palace.
- India has even decided to donate 1000 buses to Afghanistan to improve its transport system.
Given this background, the instability or bomb and suicide attacks in Afghanistan have security concerns for India.
Security Concerns for India
- After the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban leaders escaped to Pakistan tribal areas in the FATA and NWFP along AF-Pak border. SWAT valley is under the control of Taliban. The Taliban’s territorial control has grown in strength. Last year it had briefly overrun the northern city of Kunduz and threatened to attack several other population centres. The Kashmiri militants work hand-in-glove with them.
- There is presence of ISIS in the region has direct security implications for India. The ISIS has established some presence in the country and declared a “province” of the ‘Caliphate’ in eastern Afghanistan — Wilayat Khorasan.According to a UN report, 2016 was the bloodiest year for Afghan civilians since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001. India has embassies and consulates in Afghanistan that can harm their lives.
- Afghanistan is part of the “Golden Crescent” – a mountainous region in the area of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan where opium has been grown for hundreds of years where Drug trafficking is a major issue in Afghanistan and has severe implications on India, as drug generated income fuels terrorism.
- TAPI pipeline project that aims to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. A friendly, stable regime in Kabul is geopolitical insurance against the ever-growing Indian energy demands.
- It is important to note that Afghanistan not only serves security and economic interests but is also closely tied to India’s vision of being a regional leader and a great power, coupled with its competition with China over resources and its need to counter Pakistani influence. India’s ability to mentor a nascent democracy will go a long way to demonstrate to the world that India is indeed a major power, especially a responsible one
- Afghanistan’s peaceful future depends upon a great extent to the stable regional environment with Pakistan at the core. Even the unstable Afghanistan threatens Pakistan complicating the Pak’s ability to repair its weak economy and suppress dangerous militancy.
- But due to its conflicts with India, Pakistan prefers an unstable Afghanistan than a strong Afghanistan closely aligned with India. That’s why it is supporting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network which worsen the region.
- Also, Pakistan’s willingness to accommodate Afghanistan oriented militant groups is motivated by a fear of provoking militants to incite violence in Punjab. This paralyzing fear persists despite Pakistan’s desire to defeat the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
What can be done?
- In the wake of attacks which lead to huge loss of life and economic assets Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghanishould strongly condemn and criticise Pakistan for sheltering terrorists like Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Haqqani network who carry out attacks against Afghanistan at all the international forum.
- Jointly and commonly confront the challenge of terrorism emanating from. India could empower Afghanistan by giving more arms, small weapons, spares, more attack helicopters, transport helicopters, tanks, artillery and ammunition to deal with the insurgency and attacks by Taliban operating from Pakistani soil.
- India could extend additional financial aid.
- Pakistan should be pressurized to remove restrictions that inhibit the transportation of goods through Pakistan to and from Afghanistan, including from India. With regard to trade, there should be a more concerted and energetic international effort to enable Afghanistan to take fuller advantage of its geographic position as a crossroads between central, southern and western Asia
- Washington will need to step up diplomacy in South Asia, and it needs to consider how to decrease Pakistan’s fear of India and how to improve U.S. ties with New Delhi without alarming Islamabad.
- A trilateral mechanism of dialogue between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India can enhance mutual understanding and identify areas for potential collaboration
The Ghani government had initially sought an agreement with the Taliban and reached out to Pakistan, which has some influence over the group. But this yielded nothing.
Kabul failed to cash in on an internal power struggle within the Taliban after the 2015 disclosure about the death of its leader, Mullah Omar. The Taliban survived the death of Omar’s successor, Mullah Mansoor, in a U.S. drone strike.
- Ghani should initiate the administrative reforms he had promised and put up a stronger, united fight against terrorist groups.
- Kabul should seek more help and a higher level of commitment from other countries, including the U.S., in combating terror.
A weakening of the civilian government and its capacity to ensure security is not in the interest of any global power.As an essential part of South, Central and West Asia, Afghanistan’s stability and development is a key determinant to the realisation of the “Asian century”. The full realisation of Afghanistan’s and India’s fraternity is necessary for this endeavour.