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India-Afghanistan relations: An overview

Context

  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani shall hold detailed talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on security and stability in Afghanistan, and efforts to combat terrorism.

How were the Indo-Afghanistan relations in the Ancient Days?

  • India Afghanistan relations can be traced back to Indus Valley Civilization.
  • The Seleucid empire controlled that part which is present day Afghanistan
  • The historic Khyber Pass that connects Afghanistan to Indian subcontinent is a part of Silk Road that facilitated trade and brought many foreign invasions into India

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
  • However, 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.

What are the different Areas of Cooperation between the two sides? 

Economic Cooperation:

  • India is the second largest destination for Afghanistan exports.
  • Afghanistan possess many minerals like gold, iron, copper etc. Indian companies have invested in its mining sector
  • More than 100 companies have invested in various sectors of its economy including agriculture, communications, Information Technology etc.
  • The proposed TAPI (Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan and India) pipeline passes through Afghanistan. It is for importing Natural Gas from Turkmenistan to India.
  • India, Iran and Afghanistan have jointly signed a trade deal. The deal aims at investment in Chabahar port for accessing landlocked Afghanistan by circumventing Pakistan.

What are the various India’s Development Programs in Afghanistan?

  • India continues to assist Afghanistan in its reconstruction program by providing a bilateral assistance of 2 Billion USD.
  • India has also completed many infrastructure projects in Afghanistan.

Some notable examples are

  • Salma Damin Herat Province
  • Parliament Buildingin Kabul
  • Road project in Nimroz Province
  • A power project near Kabul
  • India also has established hospitals and runs midday meal schemes for Afghan school children

Defense Cooperation:

  • India provides training to Afghanistan military officers in Indian military academies
  • In 2014 India signed an agreement with Afghanistan and Russia. According to this agreement Russia will provide all military equipment needed by Afghanistan and India will pay for it
  • India has directly provided three Russian-made Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghan Air Force in 2015

Corporation in fighting Terrorism

  • India wants a democratic and peaceful Afghanistan for stability in its relations. But the country faces terror threats in the following ways
  • Afghani Taliban is a majorterrorist group. They are attempting to take over the democratically elected Government in Afghanistan
  • Al Qaedaand many other terrorist groups like Haqqani Network are very active in Afghanistan
  • The recent rise of Islamic Stateterrorists may have spillover effects on India in future

How are relations between India and Afghanistan in the present scenario?

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).
  • Indian investors remain deeply interested in the many “virgin markets” of Afghanistan, including mining, agriculture and agribusiness, information and technology, telecommunications, and others

Why is Afghanistan important to India?

Pipeline Routes

  • The country is located strategically adjacent to the oil and gas rich Middle East & Central Asia giving it an important geostrategic location.
  • Afghanistan becomes an attractive real estate for dominance on the pipeline routes.

Natural Resources

  • Afghanistan is rich in natural resources such as previous metals and minerals.

Regional Balance of Power

  • India needs Afghanistan to keep Pakistan in check just like China has been using Pakistan against India
  • When Afghanistan was invaded by US in 2001, its objectives were to oust Taliban and control of natural resources of Afghanistan.
  • There was an agenda for the US and India to prevent Russian and Chinese hegemony in Central Asia.
  • Russia maintains Afghanistan as embankment to protect its vulnerable southern border from illegal narcotics and Islamic extremism.
  • These factors make Afghanistan has become a center of power struggle between super powers

What can be expected from the visit?

  • The visit will build upon the recent high-level bilateral exchanges between the two countries, including the recent visit of Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
  • The sides share a common objective of promoting security and stability in Afghanistan and efforts to combat terrorism.
  • Both sides will have the opportunity to review the entire gamut of multifaceted bilateral strategic partnership, including the New Development Partnership
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