|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Discuss the strategic significance of Afghanistan and various implications of recent Afghanistan deal for India.
Conclusion. Way forward.
India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links. The relationship is not limited to the governments, but has its foundations in the historical contacts and exchanges between the people. The strategic location of Afghanistan as a connection to Central Asia and West Asia is important for Indian efforts to establish stronger and more direct commercial and political relations with Central Asia.
Strategic significance of Afghanistan for India:
- Natural resources: Afghanistan is known for its geo-strategic importance and abundance of natural resources. Afghanistan has an estimated 1 trillion USD of untapped resources according to a joint report of The Pentagon and US Geological Survey. Stable Afghanistan with better relations means more economic development in the region and of India.
- Security: A stable Afghanistan is crucial for regional and domestic security and stability for India. With Afghanistan becoming a centre of radical ideology and violence again, such a development would affect Pakistan and would inevitably reach India. Further, there is threat of drug trafficking through the Afghanistan route. Peaceful Afghanistan is thus a necessity to reduce the threat to internal security of india.
- Connectivity: Afghanistan is always considered as India’s gateway to Central Asia. It implies continental outreach. For instance, connectivity with Afghanistan and further with Central Asia have been primarily the reasons for India’s engagement with Iran to develop Chabahar port. Similarly, Delaram-Zaranj highway is an important route to connect Indian economy via Afghanistan.
- Strengthening regional foothold: Increasing strategic engagements with Afghanistan combination is beneficial for India in strengthening a foothold in the region. For example, India’s relations with Iran at present are dominated by oil. Diversification of engagements would strengthen India’s relations with Iran and other countries.
- Energy ambitions: To address its energy needs to sustain its economic growth, pipelines from Iran and Central Asia would be extremely important. India sees Afghanistan as an essential component of the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline. An unstable Afghanistan would hurt the construction of this pipeline and the subsequent flow of gas.
- Trade: In case of trade, Afghanistan can help India export its products to Europe, gaining foreign exchange. The railway line from Chabahar to Zahedan in Afghanistan envisages to connect New Delhi with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe.
Various implications of recent Afghanistan deal for India:
- Jeopardize India’s present stake: For India, the signing of the US-Taliban deal may jeopardize its present stake in Afghanistan if the Afghan government is side-lined moving forward. Since 2002, India has developed significant influence with the Afghan government through trade, cultural and diplomatic links, and foreign aid.
- Legitimise model of terrorism: Afghan government may cede a degree of legitimacy and power to the Taliban which would legitimise model of terrorism and have serious danger for peace and spread of terrorism.
- Reduce strategic capabilities: India has maintained that any peace process in Afghanistan must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, and that the democratically elected government in Kabul must be given priority. A Taliban led deal would reduce India’s strategic capabilities especially in Afghanistan region.
- Fresh fuel for anti-India terrorist groups: An Afghanistan ruled by Islamic extremists like the Taliban, might provide fresh fuel for anti-India terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir, which would take cues from the Taliban in increasing their activities.
- Risk to India’s security: Post-peace deal, India’s security intelligence would be impacted. Afghan intelligence, for instance, reportedly provided India with intelligence for the targets of the India Air Force’s Balakot airstrikes against a reported JeM terrorist camp linked to the Pulwama attack.
In the absence of an alternative, even after the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, Pakistan is likely to continue using the Afghan Taliban as a counterweight against rising Indian and Iranian political influence in Afghanistan. India prefers to back the democratically-elected Afghan government rather than support the traditionally Pakistan-supported Taliban, which would not guarantee its interests in Afghanistan.