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[op-ed snap] The Trump discontinuity

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Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“Trump’s new Afghan strategy could be a game-changer for South Asia. There is an opportunity for India.”Critically analyse ?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India- Afghanistan relation-opportunities and challenges



  1. India has been quick to welcome President Donald Trump’s new assertive policy in Afghanistan
  2. But the question is whether Washington has the political will to carry through the promised pressure on Pakistan to stop hosting terror sanctuaries on its soil.

US policy- Realisations and cautions

  1. It is important for Delhi to note the shift in Washington’s thinking on the Indian role in Afghanistan.
  2. Bush Administration’s strategic warmth towards India was expansive.
  3. It wanted to help accelerate India’s rise and invested enormous political capital in getting the world to lift a four decades-old nuclear blockade against Delhi.
  4. It cautioned Delhi against too large a role in Afghanistan.
  5. According to Obama Administration, answer to Afghanistan might lie in promoting a resolution of Pakistan’s Kashmir dispute with India.
  6. It required intensive diplomacy from India to fend off these initiatives.
  7. Washington believed that India’s rivalry with Pakistan is part of the problem in Afghanistan.
  8. Trump might be betting that by invoking a larger Indian role in Afghanistan, he might add to the pressures on Pakistan to cooperate with the US.

Pakistan’s reaction and future possible actions

  1. Despite all the talk of playing the China card against the US, Pakistan is acutely conscious of the dangers of being treated as a rogue state by the West
  2. Rawalpindi has chosen to avoid, for now, a public argument with Washington.
  3. It will not be easy, however, for Pakistan to abandon its investments in cross-border terror.
  4. It would try and finesse the issue of terror sanctuaries. Rawalpindi will offer some cooperation in countering terror and make new promises to bring the Taliban to the table.
  5. It will urge US pressure on India to start talks on Kashmir.

India’s strategy towards Afghanistan-Way forward

  1. Delhi’s current emphasis must be on taking advantage of the Trump discontinuity in the American policy towards the Subcontinent.
  2. A positive Indian approach would involve three elements — economic, security and diplomatic.
  3. India must ramp up its economic diplomacy in Afghanistan to bring immediate benefits to Kabul amidst the deteriorating conditions in the country.
  4. Delhi must step up security cooperation with Afghanistan, especially in the training of its police and armed forces and intelligence sharing.
  5. On the diplomatic front, India must counter the emerging argument that Trump’s new approach will intensify the “Indo-Pak rivalry” in Afghanistan and the old one that Kashmir holds the key to peace in Afghanistan.
  6. Delhi must remind the world of India’s commitment to regional cooperation with Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an atmosphere free of terrorism

[op-ed snap] Indo-Afghan trade: Castles in the air?

Image result for India-Afghanistan air corridor
Image source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

Explain the significance of India-Afghanistan air corridor and how India can deepen its trade links with Afghanistan?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Zaranj Delaram highway, Doshi-Charikar power project, Chabahar port (Mapping)

Mains level: India-Afghanistan relations



  • Two months after the India-Afghanistan air corridorwas inaugurated it has been hit by a shortage of cargo planes

Significance of India-Afghanistan air corridor

  1. It is game changer to get around Pakistan’s obstructionist behaviour in delaying truck shipments from Afghanistan to the Wagah border.
  2. Ghani himself developed the plan showed Kabul’s commitment to securing its trade links with India

India-Afghanistan cooperation

  1. India offered $2 billion as development aid to Afghanistan.
  2. There are few new infrastructure projects that the government has taken up in the past few years. Such as Zaranj Delaram highway (which connects to Iran), the Herat dam, the Doshi-Charikar power project, and the construction of Afghanistan’s parliament complex
  3. India’s plans for the Chabahar port in Iran and the trilateral agreement to develop transit trade.

 Project delays

  1. The trilateral agreement has yet to be ratified in Iran
  2. Tenders by India Ports Global Limited to develop berths as well as the railway line connecting Chabahar to the Afghan border at Zahedan continue to be delayed.
  3. There has not been sufficient follow-through on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline after its inauguration in 2015.

Way forward

  1. India’s dealings with both Afghanistan and Iran should not be just about circumventing Pakistan.
  2. They should open up important new connectivity and commerce avenues, as well as develop markets in Central Asia, and through them to Russia and Europe.
  3. Regional connectivity needs more administrative will than just ribbon-cutting ceremonies

Modi, Ghani to discuss terror, defence

  1. Event: Heart of Asia conference on Sunday
  2. India and Afghanistan, the co-chairs of this year’s conference, will seek to corner Pakistan on their common problem of cross-border terrorism
  3. A major focus for the conference will be developing trade routes to Afghanistan
  4. There is major competition brewing between India’s plans for the Chabahar port in Iran and China and Pakistan’s development of the Gwadar Port
  5. India is part of a trilateral trade agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan which involves the Chabahar port
  6. In time the port will connect to the International North South Transport corridor (INSTC) of railway and roadways to Russia, Central Asia and Europe
  7. India is seeking to attract other countries to the project
  8. However, work on the Chabahar port has yet to take off, and the trilateral agreement has not been ratified yet
  9. On the other hand CPEC has made considerable progress


The Chabahar port project demonstrates a fatal weakness of India’s foreign policy – execution. While we are part of a no. of organisations in our neighborhood from SAARC to BIMSTEC, none of them have achieved their goals due to a lack of execution of projects by India.

All terms mentioned in this article have been in the news for many years. If you have been studying well and revising your notes, there should be nothing new here. Scroll down in the India-Afganisthan story to revise this topic.

[op-ed snap] The message from Amritsar

  1. Aim: to speed up reconstruction in war-torn Afghanistan and bringing peace and normalcy to the nation
  2. Participants (14 states): Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates
  3. HoA process, originated under the aegis of the Istanbul Conference in November 2011
  4. Istanbul Conference: underscored need for regional cooperation and confidence-building to resolve problems facing Afghanistan
  5. Anchor the state’s development in a regional environment that is stable, economically integrated and conducive to shared prosperity
  6. New Delhi: underscored the need for improving connectivity in the region to help Afghanistan harness its trade and transit potential
  7. Timing of the conference: when India is looking to isolate Pakistan regionally and globally
  8. Both Indian PM and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will try to put up a united front vis-a-vis Pakistan
  9. Afghanistan’s state of affairs: Ghani’s government is struggling to hold key districts
  10. It has failed to hold overdue parliamentary elections amid a worsening security situation
  11. S. is withdrawing its troops
  12. India vs China on Afghanistan pitch: Modi to inaugurate the new parliament building last year
  13. New Delhi to gift Mi-24 attack helicopters to Afghan forces
  14. India also signed the TAPI pipeline agreement to showcase its continuing commitment to Afghanistan’s economic viability
  15. China is enhancing its role in training of Afghan military and civilian personnel
  16. With increasing extremism and separatism in Xinjiang, China sees security in Afghanistan as key to its stability


  1. TAPI pipeline: Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI), also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, is a natural gas pipeline being developed by the Asian Development Bank.
  2. The pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India. Proponents see it as a modern continuation of the Silk route


Since India holds this year’s Heart of Asia conference, it becomes an important topic for this year’s Prelims

India scaling up military assistance to Afghanistan

  1. What: India is quietly moving to qualitatively scale up military assistance in terms of long-term spares and support
  2. This involves a trilateral framework with Russia, Afghanistan and India
  3. It is likely to be discussed by Afghanistan President Ghani and PM Modi on the sidelines of the 6th Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar this week
  4. India will mainly supply spare parts for helicopters and transport aircraft. These parts will be purchased from Russia
  5. This effectively formalises the trilateral mechanism which was mooted in 2014 in the backdrop of withdrawal of troops by NATO
  6. It did not make progress at that time due to reluctance of the then UPA government
  7. India in a major policy shift, agreed to transfer four Mi-25 attack helicopters from its inventory last year

Importance for mains: It demonstrates a more active role in Afg by India. Previously, India hesitated to help Afg due to objections from Pak.

India-Afghanistan Motor Vehicles Agreement & the issues

  1. Obstacle: Pakistan’s non-cooperation is the reason behind failure to conclude the motor vehicles agreement
  2. No infrastructure project that connects Afghanistan with India is being allowed to pass through Pakistan
  3. Mr. Ghani has threatened to stop land-based trade between Pakistan and Central Asia if Islamabad continues to prevent Afghanistan from accessing the Indian market
  4. Significance: Pakistan’s cooperation is vital because it is the shortest overland route between India and Afghanistan
  5. The people on the ground, and especially Afghan farmers, would benefit more if the motor vehicles agreement could be carried forward

Cabinet clears extradition treaty with Afghanistan

  1. The treaty would provide a legal framework for seeking extradition of terrorists, economic offenders and other criminals from and to Afghanistan
  2. Aim: To boost security and legal cooperation, would help deal with terrorism
  3. Earlier: During the February visit of CEO Abdullah Abdullah, both sides sealed the MoU on visa-free entry for holders of diplomatic passports

Heart of Asia conference begins in New Delhi

  1. Context: The Heart of Asia (HoA) conference has begun in New Delhi
  2. Objective: Bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan
  3. Also, speeding up its reconstruction with a focus on enhancing investment and connectivity to the country
  4. The conference will be attended by officials of a number of countries including Pakistan
  5. Key elements: To devise a sustained, incremental approach to implementation of the confidence building measures (CBM) in Afghanistan

U.S. open to greater role for India in Afghanistan

  1. Context: U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson’s visit to India last week
  2. What? The U.S. is now more open to a larger role for India in Afghanistan
  3. Why? Due to its frustration over Pakistan’s failure or unwillingness to deliver on the promises it has been making with regard to the peace process

We’re in Kabul to contribute, not compete: PM

Mr. Modi was addressing the Afghan Parliament after inaugurating its building built by India at a cost of $90 million in the presence of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

  1. Declaring that India was in Afghanistan to contribute and not to compete and to lay the foundations of the future and not light the flame of conflict.
  2. PM opened the ‘Atal block’ on the Parliament premises named after the former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  3. PM Modi said efforts were under way to improve Afghanistan’s connectivity by land and sea, including through Chahbahar in Iran.
  4. PM Modi told Parliament that every youth in Afghanistan should see a future in which IT stood for information technology, not international terrorism.

Let’s know about Heart of Asia conference?

  1. The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process presents a new vision of cooperation and confidence building for the region with Afghanistan at its centre.
  2. The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process articulates a set of principles, such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and promoting cooperation in the areas of common challenges and shared interests in the region.
  3. It provides a platform for discussing key regional issues among participating states.
  4. As permanent co-chair of this regional process, Afghanistan has been recognized as the main focal point/ coordinator of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.

India to host Heart of Asia conference in 2016

As one of the 14 member countries of Istanbul Process, India has volunteered to host the sixth meeting next year.

  1. This was one of the main outcomes of the recently concluded 5th edition Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad, Pakistan.
  2. The stated aim of the conference is to foster ongoing efforts towards regional cooperation and connectivity with a view to promoting long-term peace, stability and development in Afghanistan and the wider region.
  3. The conference ended with a commitment from member states to address the menace of terrorism and to foster close economic cooperation to stabilise the war-torn country.

Pakistan invites India for key Afghan meet

  1. Pakistan has invited External Affairs Minister for a crucial regional conference here on Afghanistan.
  2. The ‘Heart of Asia’ conference will be held in December, where representatives from Azerbaijan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the UAE are expected to attend.
  3. India is likely to send a high-level delegation headed by the minister given the conference’s importance.
  4. The move that could provide an opportunity for the two neighbours to mend their frosty ties.

Taliban Conundrum – Afghanistan on edge again

  1. Mullah Mansour, the new Taliban chief would find it tough to follow Mullah Omar as he is yet to convince Taliban cadres and Afghan Shura.
  2. The hardcore insurgents will lose motivation to fight, if they come to know about any external links of Taliban leader.
  3. The new Taliban chief’s main obstacles are to maintain unity among its cadres, win support of Afghan Shura and shed its image of being too close to Pakistan.
  4. The Pakistan govt. should rethink its policy and invest in the people of Afghanistan and institution-building in the country.

Taliban after Mullah Omar

  1. The two decade long intimate relationship between Taliban and Pakistan, makes it an important external player in Afghanistan.
  2. The rise of new leader Mansour has given rise to dissent within Taliban, and Pakistan is making all efforts to curb that.
  3. A Haqqani leader has been appointed deputy commander by Taliban. Actually, Haqqani is a true arm of Pakistan’s ISI.
  4. Pakistan wants to continue its dominance over internal affairs of Afghanistan, which are further facilitated by its geographical position.

[op-ed snap] New Kabul Pact

  1. Former President Karzai was seen to be favourably disposed towards India while Ghani is viewed by many as too reliant on Islamabad & Beijing.
  2. There are fears that Pakistan’s increasing role in Afghanistan will allow the Taliban to consolidate its position.
  3. The Strategic Partnership Agreement (2011), which focussed on defence cooperation, was not high on the agenda this time.
  4. India seems to have reconciled itself with Ghani’s outreach to Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
  5. Delhi is also hopeful that China will use its influence to control the rise of Islamist jihadi forces and bring stability to the region.

Pak. must open Wagah for trade: Ghani

  1. Afghanistan is upset with Pakistan over its refusal to allow direct trade with India via the Wagah border.
  2. Pakistan must accept the “national treatment” clause agreed to in the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA), signed in 2011.
  3. It gives each country equal access up to the national boundaries of both.
  4. At present, Pakistan allows Afghan trucks carrying goods meant for India only up to its last checkpoint at Wagah.

Modi, Ghani talk trade, terror

  1. India keen on inclusion in Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.
  2. The energy of Central Asia will flow to South Asia, where pipelines, fibre optics, railways, and connectivity, air, ground and virtual will connect us.
  3. Two things in a distant future – Clear a motor vehicles agreement soon, as well as expedite the development of the trade route from Afghanistan to India via Iran’s Chabahar port.

Questions (attempt in the comments section)


Discuss how can India and China play a constructive role in rebuilding Afghanistan politically and economically.


What are the recent geopolitical developments taking place in Afghanistan and should India worry about? Critically comment.

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