CONTEXT

  • Afghanistan- India ballooning their bi-lateral relationship with inaugurating an air flight corridor service.
  • The cargo flies over the airspace of Pakistan letting behind the main stumbling block.

THE INDIA-AFGHANISTAN CORRIDOR

  • The corridor was inaugurated by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Kabul International Airport on 19th June, 2017.
  • For the first time, a cargo will be used to transport Afghan agricultural products to India dismissing the barrier at airspace.
  • The aim behind the corridor formation is to create more opportunities for Afghanistan as an exporting nation.
  • The first flight was carrying 60 tons of medicinal plants worth $ 11 million.
  • The second flight will carry 40 tons of dry fruits from Kandhar province of Afghanistan.
  • The aircraft carried high-grade Afghan asafoetida or ‘hing’ among other goods.
  • The idea of the corridor was pitched back in December 2016 at the Heart of Asia Conference held in Amritsar.
  • Afghanistan is dependent on the Pakistani port city of Karachi for its foreign trade. It is allowed to send a limited amount of goods overland through Pakistan into India, but imports from India are not allowed along that route.

CURRENT SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN

  • Post the withdrawal of international combat troops between 2011 and 2014, Afghanistan was left with a fragile security environment and a struggling national economy.
  • The disputed Presidential election of 2014, and the friction between the two halves of “National Unity Government” has prevented government to imply any positive reforms notable against corruption.
  • Afghanistan still suffers the burden of being the conflict zone and therefore the risk of waste, fraud and abuse multiply.
  • Corruption has long been a problem in Afghanistan. The United States and other donor nations have continued to pour billions into the country without a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy.
  • the opium industry accounts for about 15 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP, a “figure that is set to rise as the West withdraws.
  • Gains in areas like women’s rights, health, and education are in jeopardy due to the country’s booming narcotics trade.
  • Afghan security forces are weak.

INDIA-AFHGANISTAN RELATIONS

  • Relation between the them traces back to Indus Valley Civilization.
  • India’s support and collaboration extends to rebuilding of air links, power plants and investing in health and education.
  • India helps Afghanistan to help train their civil servants, diplomats and police.
  • It was India who proposed Afghanistan’s membership in the SAARC.
  • Both the countries have developed strategic and military cooperation against Islamic states.
  • India is the 6th largest donor to Afghanistan with a commitment of $1.2 billion through 2013.
  • India has been involved in development projects of Afghanistan like Infrastructure, Education, and Agriculture.

INDIAN DIASPORA

  • The mission maintains a database on Indians staying in Afghanistan which is estimated at 3500.
  • Most of them are engaged in Banks, IT Firms, Construction companies, hospitals, NGOs, Telecom companies, Universities, Government of India sponsored projects, Government of Afghanistan and UN missions.
  • Prominent Indian companies doing business in Afghanistan are:
  1. KEC – Electrical Transmission Lines
  2. Phoenix – Consultancy in Electrical Transmission
  3. AIPL – Establishment of Hydro Power Project in Hilmand Province
  4. WAPCOS – Salma Dam
  5. ANGELIQUE International – Salma Dam and other Power project
  6. APTECH – Computer & Management Education
  7. GAMMON INDIA – Power Transmission Line & Power Sub-stations
  8. KPTL – Power Transmission Line
  9. ANAAR GROUP (AIR INDIA GSA)
  10. SPICE JET

INDIA’S INTEREST IN AFGHANISTAN

  • India has helped Afghanistan by money, developmental projects, humanitarian aids. India is only one of the major power who is totally against Taliban. India support Afghan government resolve to eliminate complete Taliban (good & bad).
  • India enjoy huge soft power in Afghanistan and common Afghans acknowledge it. Indian films, songs, cricket etc. are very popular in Afghanistan.
  • India has supported democratic process in Afghanistan and it enjoys good relation with government & opposition.
  • India seeks to expand its economic presence in Afghanistan as the international coalition fighting the Taliban withdraws combat forces through 2014.
  • India also sees Afghanistan as an essential component of the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline.
  • India is extremely apprehensive of Pakistan attempting to scuttle India’s presence and influence in Afghanistan. what it is afraid of is Islamabad and Rawalpindi playing a negative role in Afghanistan to undermine India’s investments.
  • The TAPI pipelineis likely to be a major connector, linking Central Asia with South Asia, especially Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The Asian Development Bank has agreed to be the advisor for the project recently and the countries have agreed on the transit fees.
  • The US on the other hand, is engaged in a dialogue process with Iran and there is a nuclear deal in the process. As a result, the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline is likely to face less opposition from the US.
  • India’s national security objectives in Afghanistan is to support the capacity building efforts of ANSF by ensuring implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement.
  • India’s economic objectives should be to increase trade with Afghanistan and through it with the CARs; increase Indian business investment in Afghanistan; assist Afghanistan to develop its natural resources; further increase India’s reconstruction and capacity building programme;
  • Enhancing India’s energy security, for example, through the commissioning of the TAPI pipeline; assisting Afghanistan to replace narcotics-based agriculture with regular agriculture; work towards implementation of SAFTA; and, promote India-China cooperation on Afghanistan.
  • India’s national interests lie in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. India should support all efforts towards improving the security situation and providing good governance.

 AFGHANISTAN’S INTEREST IN INDIA

  • Afghanistan is also extremely interested in becoming the transit country for not only gas, but also an electricity grid. The CASA 1000 is a parallel initiative, linking Central Asia and South Asia, especially Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the electricity grid in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
  • Afghanistan and Pakistan are likely to become a major transit routes for pipelines and electricity grids. For India, there are threats and opportunities in Afghanistan.
  • India stature in South Asian country have increased from time to time and Afghanistan being the landlocked country sees India as the potential markets for its natural resources.
  • With neighbouring country like Pakistan getting involved in CPEC, Afghanistan sees a potential danger which can be put at bay, if Afghanistan remains a loyal ally to India.

MUTUAL BENEFITS

  • The outcomes Afghanistan and India mutually seek from their results-oriented partnership aim at achieving regional economic integration and sustainable security.
  • Number of joint working groups under the SPA framework—covering infrastructure, human resource development, and cultural cooperation have been met in recent times.
  • Ensuring regional security and prosperity is one of the key objectives of Afghanistan’s foreign policy, which underpins Afghanistan’s strategic partnership with India.
  • Terrorism gives impetus to their robust partnership. Both countries are collaborating with the rest of the international community to fight and uproot the threats of terrorism and radicalism in South Asia, a region of vast human and natural resources, which should be harnessed for its sustainable development.

CONCLUSION

  • The recent summits of SCO and BRICS in Ufa, Russia, also discussed the intertwined security challenges of terrorism, radicalism, and criminality that confront the entire region, with far-reaching implications for international peace and security.
  • India is interested in expanding its ties with Afghanistan as it will promote security, stability, economic growth and development for both.
  • Good relations with India will provide Afghanistan as assured market for their energy raw materials, oil and gas, etc.
  • India is the fastest growing economy in the world today and cab be a stable, assured expanding market for Afghanistan.
  • The current political, strategic and economic scenario, both regionally and internationally, presents immense challenges but also potential for India and Afghanistan to qualitatively enhance their engagement.
  • Both the countries are factors of peace, stability, growth and development, in the region and the world. Stronger relations between them will contribute to increased security and prosperity.

Historical background of India-Afghanistan relations

Historical background of India-Afghanistan relations

  • Whilst the Republic of India was the only South Asian country to recognize the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s, their relations were diminished during the 1990s Afghan civil war and the Taliban government.
  • India aided the overthrow of the Taliban and became the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan.
  • the Afghan Foreign Ministry in 2008 quoted India as a “brother country” and the relationship between the two as one which “no enemy can hamper” which have remained the same from that time till now.

 STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT

  • Strategic Partnership Agreement of 2011 strengthened the relation between India and Afghanistan.
  • The construction and opening of Afghanistan’s parliament building and the Afghanistan-India friendship dam (Salma Dam) stands out.
  • India’s timely provision of a few helicopters, which has contributed to an enabling environment for stabilization, and development of Afghanistan.
  • India helps Afghanistan to rebuild its infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance, encourages 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.

 BILATERAL TRADE

  • India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links, it’s focal point have been trade and commerce.
  • The Silk road has proved to pave the way of forever existing equation between the two countries.
  • Their corridor is important for the geo-strategic location connecting the East and the West Asia.
  • India’s bilateral trade with Afghanistan stood at $684.47 million in 2014-15, an increase of 0.20% over $683.10 million a year ago.
  • India’s export to Afghanistan in 2014-15 stood at $ 422.56 million, while its imports from Afghanistan were worth $261.91 million.
  • India delivered three Russian made MI-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan in December 2015.

CULTURAL RELATIONS

  • 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
  • Ahmedabad – Asadabad
  • State of Assam – Province of Helmand

The cities will be connected through tourism, student and Faculty exchange programme.

ECONOMIC RELATIONS

 The 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 if India is setting a plant in Afghanistan’s Hajigak iron ore reserves.
  • The volume of Indo-Afghan trade stood at $680 million during 2013-2014, a figure that should exponentially rise, following the full implementation of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA).
  • The Afghanistan Embassy has so far signed five memorandums of understanding (MOUs) covering commercial and medical cooperation between Afghanistan’s respective chambers of commerce and hospitals, while it has initiated another 20 MOUs with state chambers and hospitals across India, in the coming months.
  • Indian investors remain deeply interested in the many “virgin markets” of Afghanistan, including mining, agriculture and agribusiness, information and technology, telecommunications, and others.

More than 100 largely midsize Indian businesses have already invested in Afghanistan, the Afghan government is strongly encouraging capital intensive investment in the natural resources and infrastructure sector.

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