Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Understanding the strategic flux and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UN Security Council

Mains level: Paper 2- Afghanistan issue


The Afghan government and its defence forces have completely collapsed. The world over, television screens are full of images of the extraordinary takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

Background of the US intervention in Afghanistan

  • The original trigger for the US military intervention in Afghanistan was the 9/11 attacks.
  • The objective then was to eliminate the al Qaeda sanctuaries hosted by the Taliban.
  • That goal was quickly attained, as was another one — the elimination of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
  • The US was thereafter stuck into a vortex in which its mission oscillated between counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency. 
  • The military presence in Afghanistan has been questioned by the US political firmament for a decade.

Factors driving the US exit

  • China factor: The US now regards China as its principal strategic competitor.
  • China’s muscle-flexing in the East and South China Seas calls for a renewed effort by the US to protect its stakes.
  • The rise of China is the main geo-strategic threat for the US.
  • In 2001, the US had taken its eye off the ball in diverting its attention to the global war on terror.
  • Beginning with Afghanistan, it meandered through Iraq, Libya and Syria, with mixed results.
  • Taiwan: China’s recent ratcheting up of pressure on Taiwan has also sounded the alarm.

Implications of Taliban’s return for region

  • The new regime in Kabul is likely to open the door to economic investments from China.
  • At the geopolitical level, the BRI may well receive a boost, given China’s interests in connectivity that could straddle the region, from Pakistan to Iran.
  • Pakistan has shown alacrity in welcoming the change of guard in Kabul.
  • The change in Afghanistan has security implications for India and the region at large.
  • A spill-over of any chaos and instability in Afghanistan beyond its borders could give terrorism a shot in the arm.
  • It could also singe Pakistan if it does not review its malevolent practices, which favour terror as an instrument of state policy.

Way forward for India

  • India should prioritise the welfare of the Afghan people, whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  • Currently, about 2,500 Afghan students are enrolled in educational and vocational institutions across India.
  • They will no doubt wish to extend their scholarships.
  • As a close neighbour, India has keen stakes in ensuring a stable, secure and developed Afghanistan.
  • As the rotational President of the UN Security Council for August, India has an opportunity to engage important stakeholders on the way forward.
  • Beyond that too, India’s presence in the UN Security Council till the end of 2022 will provide a platform to explore options with greater flexibility.


The global community needs to underscore the continued participation of women in governance in Afghanistan and keep an eye on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

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