Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

For India, there will be no dearth of balancing opportunities in Afghanistan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Implications of situation in Afghanistan for India


The rapid fall of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US sent shockwaves across the region.

Cause of concern for India

  • The Taliban’s entry into Kabul, marks the beginning of a new phase in the relationship between Afghanistan and India.
  • Recent developments in South Asia certainly point to a recurring dynamic between Afghanistan and India.
  • The restoration of Taliban rule in Afghanistan with Pakistan’s support undoubtedly presents some very serious potential challenges for Indian security.
  • However, a measure of strategic patience could help India cope with the adverse developments in Afghanistan and find ways to secure its interests in the near future.
  • For India, a bigger question mark will be about the Taliban’s renewed support for international terrorism and Pakistan’s re-direction of jihadi groups that have allegedly fought with the Taliban towards India.

Afghanistan from 1979 to 2001 and how it changed the subcontinent

  • At the end of 1979, the Soviet Union launched a massive military invasion to protect a communist regime in Kabul.
  • The US and Pakistan responded by unleashing a religious jihad that compelled Russia to withdraw by 1989.
  • Pakistan’s critical role in the Afghan war against Russia allowed Pakistan to secure the political cover for the country’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
  • The Pakistan army turned the jihadi armies to gain control of Afghanistan and launched a proxy war against India, especially in the Punjab and Kashmir regions.
  • The turbulence of the 1990s saw deepening conflict between India and Pakistan.
  • Al Qaeda, hosted by the Taliban, launched terror attacks against the US on September 11, 2001.
  • Swift US retribution brought an end to Taliban rule and compelled Pakistan to reconsider its policies.
  • After 2001, there has also been a significant expansion of the India-US strategic partnership.
  • By the end of the decade, though, the Pakistan Army had swung back to its default positions — renewed support for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • Pakistan also teased an increasingly war-weary Washington into a negotiation with the Taliban for a peace settlement.

Way forward for India

  • Patience: Like all radical groups, the Taliban will have trouble balancing its religious ideology with the imperatives of state interests.
  • India would want to carefully watch how this tension plays out.
  • Watch the relation between Pakistan and Taliban: Equally important is the nature of the relationship between the Taliban and Pakistan.
  • The Taliban is bound to seek a measure of autonomy from Pakistan, India will have to wait.
  • Prepare for cross-border terror: India must fully prepare for a renewal of cross-border terror, but there is a lot less global acceptance of terrorism today than in the permissive 1990s.
  • No major power would like to see Afghanistan re-emerge as a global sanctuary of terror.
  • The world has also imposed significant new constraints on Pakistan’s support for terror through mechanisms like the Financial Action Task Force.
  • Unlike in the 1990s, when Delhi simply absorbed the terror attacks, it now shows the political will to retaliate forcefully.
  • Regional geopolitical alignment: It is also important to note that the US and the West will continue to have a say in shaping the international attitudes towards the new regime.
  • The Taliban and Pakistan appear to be acutely conscious of this reality.


For a patient, open-minded and active India, there will be no dearth of balancing opportunities in Afghanistan.

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