India, Afghanistan open air freight route



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

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: This step will add a new dimension to bilateral ties between India and Afghanistan. India’s relations with Afghanistan are very crucial for countering China and Pakistan(strategically). Hence, it is an important development.


  1. What: India and Afghanistan inaugurated a dedicated air freight corridor service
  2. Why crucial: The corridor passes through the airspace of Pakistan

Why is this corridor important for Afghanistan?

  1. The Air Freight Corridor will provide Afghanistan greater access to markets in India,
  2. It will allow Afghan businessmen to leverage India’s economic growth and trade networks for its benefit
  3. It would enable Afghan farmers quick and direct access to the Indian markets for their perishable produce

India, Afghanistan take a hard line on Taliban at Moscow conference

  1. India and Afghanistan took a hard line at the six-nation talks in Moscow on Wednesday, opposing the dominant view from Russia, China and Pakistan to involve the Taliban in reconciliation efforts
  2. Denying “safe havens or sanctuaries to any terrorist group or individual in countries of our region,” is essential to stabilising the situation in Afghanistan
  3. Reconciliation efforts must be driven by the Afghanistan government and could only be facilitated by friends and well wishers of Afghanistan
  4. This indicates that the previous round of QCG (Quadrilateral Cooperation Group) hosted by Pakistan was not acceptable
  5. Afghanistan’s view: Without naming Pakistan, Afghanistan’s representative said that it was necessary to “effect a change in the behaviour of certain state actors” in order to end the violence that has reached record levels in the last year
  6. Selectivity: Referring to Pakistan’s stand on “good/bad Taliban” echoed by officials in Moscow, and the talks between China and Taliban officials last year: “The key challenge to the process remains a policy selectivity by some to distinguish between good and bad terrorists, even though terrorism is a common threat that confronts the whole region, where if one of us doesn’t stand firm against it, others’ counter-terrorism efforts will not bear the results we all seek”
  7. Include USA: Another point of contention that emerged was over the composition of the talks hosted by Russia
  8. Afghanistan made a strong pitch for the United States to be included as one of its most important partners
  9. It said it was a necessary part of all processes to end war and usher in sustainable peace in Afghanistan
  10. With U.S. troop levels down to their lowest of about 8,400 at the end of President Obama’s tenure, Afghanistan’s government has been hoping President Trump will increase assistance to the country
  11. However, in its final statement at the end of the conference, the Russian government said it proposed to extend the conference to Central Asian states, and didn’t mention the United States


The views expressed in conferences like this become pointers in mains answer on international relations, especially giving way forward/ solutions.

India, Pakistan to attend conference on Afghanistan’s future

  1. India is to attend a conference on the future of Afghanistan hosted by Russia this week
  2. It will also include China and Pakistan
  3. There are hopes that the proposed new regional grouping will help bring peace and stability to the war-torn country
  4. Significance: The Moscow-hosted conference is significant given that it is a rare instance of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan being part of a regional initiative together—given tensions between India and Pakistan on a range of issues including Kashmir
  5. Background: The conference comes in the backdrop of a United Nations (UN) report submitted to the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee last month which said that the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group was recruiting fighters from the restive Afghanistan-Pakistan border region
  6. Originally envisaged as a Russia-China-Pakistan consultations forum on Afghanistan, India was issued an invitation during a recent visit to Russia by national security advisor Ajit Doval
  7. The Russia-China-Pakistan conference will now see the participation of Afghanistan and Iran, other than India
  8. Indo-Russian closeness: That Russia—which has been drawing closer to China and Pakistan in recent times—invited India to the conference has been noted by New Delhi
  9. Russia’s moving closer to India’s arch rival Pakistan and strategic rival China has been a matter of deep concern to New Delhi, which was seen as close to the former Soviet Union during the Cold War years


Important for prelims as well as mains. Also know about other conferences like Heart of Asia (here).

[op-ed snap] The heart of the problem

  1. Heart of Asia so named because geographically, Afghanistan lies at the junction of Central, South and East Asia
  2. It also lies in the centre of the ancient trading routes from China and India to Europe
  3. Today it is also a focal point for the region’s biggest challenge of terrorism
  4. Afghan President and PM Modi focussed their concerns on cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan
  5. Case Mr. Ghani made: progress and development in Afghanistan are meaningless and unsustainable without peace
  6. Peace is contingent on Pakistan ending support to terror groups
  7. Pakistan’s disengagement: may yield some pressure on Pakistan’s leadership to act, as it did briefly after the Pathankot attack
  8. Cornering of Pakistan by its South Asian neighbours has only yielded deeper ties for Islamabad with Beijing and Moscow
  9. It has pushed Kabul closer to Central Asia, and moved New Delhi towards multilateral groupings to the east and south
  10. Land trade from Chabahar port and a dedicated air corridor between Delhi and Kabul


India is trying to maintain a good foreign policy with Afghanistan. This op-ed is important from Mains point of view. This is one of the region where India has a larger likelihood to gain prominence than China because of our geographical position.

Also look at the first 3 lines – transition of an important trade route to a terrorist infested block. Poetic lines for a good introduction!


At Amritsar, Pak. cornered on terror

  1. Event: Heart of Asia summit in Amritsar
  2. President Ashraf Ghani and PM Modi, urged Islamabad to end its “selective” approach to fighting terror groups on its soil, and end “terror sanctuaries” for groups that target them
  3. Permanent co-chair of the summit, President Ghani rejected Pakistan’s proposal of $500 million fund for development in Afghanistan
  4. Amritsar Declaration: The statement contained several tough clauses on terrorism
  5. It built on the 2015 Islamabad Declaration that had discussed ending sanctuaries and funding for terror


This news shows how Afg and India have recently come together to pressure Pak on terrorism. Until recently Afg was trying to have friendly relations with Pak to help counter Taliban insurgents based out of Pak. Pak’s inability or unwillingness to help Afg has changed the dynamics, with Afg moving closer to India. Terms such as Amritsar Declaration are also important from a prelims perspective.


The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA) was founded on November 2nd, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. It puts Afg at the centre of a process which seeks to bring peace in the region. It is comprised of 14 participating countries, 17 supporting countries, and 12 supporting regional and international organizations.

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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