Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Sep, 22, 2018

[op-ed snap] Seeking a managed exit


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NATO

Mains level: US’s Afghan policy and its implications on India


Afghanistan President’s short India Visit

  1. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani was in New Delhi on September 19 for a day-long working visit
  2. The visit was of a low-key nature
  3. Pro forma references to the Strategic Partnership and the New Development Partnership were made but there were no new announcements
  4. India reiterated its support for ‘an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process’ with the Taliban though it is clear that the strings are being manipulated from other capitals

No impact of changed US policy

  1. A year after U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his new Afghanistan policy, the stalemate continues
  2. The objectives of the U.S. policy announced last year were to break the military stalemate on the ground by expanding both the presence and the role of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan
  3. Incidents of violence and civilian casualties keep going up
  4. The Taliban leadership and the Haqqani network retain their sanctuaries in Pakistan and enjoy the support of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)

What were the changes in US policy?

  1. Operational constraints in terms of calling for surveillance and air support were eased
  2. The Obama approach of announcing timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan was replaced by a conditions-based approach
  3. Pakistan was put on notice and US President Trump was critical about Pakistan’s duplicity in being “a non-NATO ally” and providing safe haven to insurgent groups
  4. Earlier this month, the U.S. announced that it was cancelling $300 million in military aid to Pakistan

Why US’s Pakistan policy has failed repeatedly?

  1. The Pakistani military and the ISI do not support the idea of a territorially united, peaceful and stable Afghanistan
  2. Pakistan’s security establishment does not find such a shift in its interest
  3. The ISI is unlikely to support the idea of a complete Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
  4. This is because, after the jihad in the 1980s, when the Mujahideen leaders finally took control in Afghanistan in 1992 after the Najibullah government fell, they stopped listening to the ISI even as they started fighting among themselves
  5. This led to the emergence of the Taliban, assisted and nurtured by Pakistan
  6. The ISI prefers a controlled instability in Afghanistan where the Taliban enjoys some power but wants more as this keeps the group dependent on the ISI

US’s dependence on Pakistan

  1. The U.S. is unable to get out of this bind as long as it maintains a significant military presence in Afghanistan and therefore remains dependent on communication and supply routes through Pakistan
  2. It is unable to take stronger measures such as directly targeting the insurgent safe havens in Pakistan, terminating its status as “a non-NATO ally”, sanctioning specific military officers or considering placing Pakistan on the list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’
  3. The U.S.’s dependence provides the security establishment in Pakistan a degree of influence in the corridors of power in Washington

Talks with Taliban

  1. The U.S. opened direct talks with the Taliban two months ago
  2. In the past, the U.S. had refrained from doing so, maintaining that this would undermine the legitimacy of the Kabul government
  3. The US has also expressed concern about the growing presence of the IS
  4. The IS argument was used by Russia to open up direct talks with the Taliban more than a year ago
  5. Iran has its own channels to the Taliban
  6. Concerned about Uighur militants, China is planning to train and equip an Afghan brigade to be deployed in Badakshan even as it seeks Taliban help in securing its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects
  7. This has given the Taliban a new legitimacy — exactly as Pakistan had wanted

Way Forward

  1. Realising that the end game is approaching, the Taliban too has changed tack
  2. In the areas under its control, instead of destroying the schools, clinics and courts, it is running them by co-opting or replacing local officials who remain on the government’s payroll
  3. It realises that it needs to emerge from being a shadowy underground insurgency and demonstrate governance skills
  4. The U.S. also appears to be seeking a managed exit, leaving after a successfully conducted election so that the blood (2,400 U.S. lives) and treasure (nearly $1 trillion) can be justified as having delivered an honourable outcome
Apr, 09, 2018

CPEC being extended to Afghanistan: report


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPEC, Asian Competitiveness Annual Report, Boao Forum for Asia

Mains level: Chinese advancement in the neighborhood of India and associated concerns


CPEC extension

  1. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being extended to Afghanistan
  2. This was revealed in the Asian Competitiveness Annual Report
  3. The report was released on the sidelines of China’s Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference

Inclusion of Afghanistan in CPEC & India’s concerns

  1. China in December had unveiled its plans to extend the CPEC
  2. India has protested to China over CPEC, which is being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)


Boao Forum for Asia (BFA)

  1. The BFA was formed by China in 2001 on the lines of the World Economic Forum in Davos
  2. The Boao Forum for Asia is a non-profit organization that hosts high-level forums for leaders from government, business, and academia in Asia and other continents to share their vision on the most pressing issues in this dynamic region and the world at large
  3. It holds its meeting every year
  4. Boao Forum has its fixed address in Bo’ao, Hainan province, China, although the Secretariat is based in Beijing
  5. Pakistan is one of the 26 countries of this Forum
Mar, 01, 2018

India backs Kabul’s peace offer


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kabul Conference, Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG)

Mains level: Peace process in Afghanistan and India’s role in it


Direct talks with Taliban

  1. India welcomed Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s outreach to the Taliban at the Second Kabul Conference
  2. He reiterated the Afghan government’s call to armed groups to cease violence and join national peace and reconciliation process
  3. Representatives from over 20 countries and international organizations attended the meeting

India’s stand

  1. India backs the peace talks but wants action against any members of the Taliban and their sponsors who don’t join the process
  2. The government’s position is consistent with India’s support to an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled reconciliation process
  3. India has always held reservations about the success of talks with the Taliban, especially the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) that had included the U.S., China, and Pakistan as well


Kabul Conference (The Kabul Process for Peace & Security Cooperation)

  1. It is an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned inclusive peace process
  2. Kabul Process meeting is a gathering of 23 nations, the EU, UN and NATO, which is intended to discuss security and political issues in the country
  3. The Purpose of the Kabul conference is to place the Afghan Government as the key driving force for achieving peace, with the earnest support of regional and international partners
  4. The Government of Afghanistan had convened the first meeting of the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation on 6 June 2017 in Kabul
  5. It had invited states of the region, who took the center stage at this gathering, along with key members of the international community
Jan, 11, 2018

China to fund base in Afghanistan

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Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Uyghur militants

Mains level: China’s increasing presence in India’s neighborhood


Afghan counterterrorism base in Badakshan

  1. China will fund construction of an Afghan counterterrorism base in Badakshan province to block cross-border infiltration of the ethnic Uyghur militants
  2. The precise location of base, in northern Afghanistan, is yet to the determined
  3. The Chinese side would cover all material and technical expenses for this base — weaponry, uniforms for soldiers, military equipment and everything else necessary for its functioning

China will increase presence in Afghanistan

  1. The largest group of Uyghur militants already resides in Badakhshan, from where they can rapidly shift to China
  2. Chinese official stated that counter-terrorism focus would not only be confined to Badakshan but should be extended to Afghanistan’s entire northern region
  3. China was willing to strengthen pragmatic cooperation in areas of military exchange and anti-terrorism

Worry for India?

  1. China has already been increasing presence in Indian Ocean region
  2. With CPEC and now military base in Afghanistan, it will also circumvent India on northern side land border
Dec, 28, 2017

CPEC’s extension not targeted at India, says China


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPEC

Mains level: China’s rising influence and interference in India’s neighborhood


India should not exercise influence

  1. Without naming India, China on Wednesday said that no country should exercise its influence to undermine the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
  2. CPEC could include Afghanistan as its new member

India’s opposition

  1. India opposes CPEC as it infringes on its sovereignty on account of its passage through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK)

CPEC is for mutual benefit, says China

  1. CPEC is not directed at any third party, and we hope to bring benefits to third parties and the whole region
  2. Afghanistan is willing to integrate into the regional connectivity approach and they are willing to integrate into the CPEC

Read background of the issue here

Dec, 27, 2017

China opens door for Afghanistan’s participation in CPEC

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Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPEC, BRI, Gwadar and Chahbahar port

Mains level: China’s efforts to counter India’s neighborhood first policy


Possible inclusion of Afghanistan in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

  1. Chinese Foreign Minister made the remark of opening the door for Kabul’s entry in an expanded CPEC in the backdrop of the first foreign minister’s trilateral dialogue of China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
  2. This move is likely to irk India

CPEC: India-China at loggerheads

  1. India has opposed CPEC, which passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), on grounds that it infringes its sovereignty
  2. China has called CPEC a “flagship project” of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aimed at building connectivity along the Eurasian corridor

Why the inclusion of Afghanistan?

  1. The proposal for landlocked Afghanistan’s access to the port of Gwadar — the starting point of CPEC — may be intended to balance if not undermine the trilateral agreement among India, Iran, and Afghanistan, which gives Kabul access to the Iranian port of Chabahar
  2. China’s de facto mediation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is being domestically seen as a test case for similar efforts in other global hotspots
Oct, 25, 2017

Ready to give more security help to Kabul, says India


Mains Paper 2: International Relations.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much.

Mains level: India- Afghanistan relations are important from mains perspective after release of USA new South Asia policy, this article talks about the outcome of latest meeting between the leaders of the countries. The new developments between the countries can be cited in the GS mains answers.




The outcome of the meeting between the Afghan President and the Indian Prime Minister

  1. The government agreed to provide security-related assistance based on needs of Afghanistan’s defence and police forces.
  2. The Indian leadership expressed its support for the negotiated political reconciliation with the Taliban, by saying that it should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled and insisted on the renunciation of violence and terror.
  3. It, however, did not insist on respect for Afghanistan’s constitution.
  4. Both sides agreed that the recent convergence and alignment of views at regional and international arenas have created opportunities for bringing peace, security and stability in Afghanistan.
  5. It was agreed to further deepen the bilateral strategic dialogue and consultations at all levels in order to achieve the shared objectives.
  6. The New Development Partnership, launched at the meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council was assessed as a significant step in building upon the highly successful development cooperation of the past 16 years.
  7. The new-generation India-assisted projects, including in the fields of health, agriculture, drinking water supply, education, renewable energy, infrastructure development, skill development and capacity building, among others, will further contribute to Afghanistan’s reconstruction, economic development and effective governance.
  8. On connectivity, the establishment of the air freight corridor was acknowledged as an important factor in providing Afghan farmers a direct and easy access to the Indian market.


Oct, 17, 2017

NSA Ajit Doval visits Kabul, both sides welcome new US strategy



Mains Paper 2: India and its neighborhood- relations

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level:  Points from this news item can be used as a value addition in any question involving India Afghanistan relations.




  1. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visited Afghanistan, days after US President said that he has started to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan .
  2. Doval’s schedule was kept under wraps to avert any incident.
  3. According to the sources, US Defense Secretary James Mattis was the target of a failed rocket attack near a key Afghanistan airport in September, although the attack occurred after he had left the airport.

The Joint Statement

  1. Afghanistan and India in a joint statement said both sides welcomed the opportunities created by the new US strategy for bringing peace and security in Afghanistan.
  2. It has also prompted closer security and development cooperation between India and Afghanistan.
  3. The statement said that both sides emphasised that bilateral and sincere regional cooperation is important for peace, security and stability in the region.
  4. India is committed to not only continuing but also broadening its development efforts in Afghanistan.

While announcing the new policy for Afghanistan, USA had praised India for its development efforts in the war-torn country and acknowledged that Pakistan does not like Indian investment in Afghanistan.

Sep, 29, 2017

India signs MoU to train Afghan police


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Indo-Afghanistan relationship is very crucial, due to Pakistan concerns over India’s presence in Afghanistan.


Memorandum of Understanding

  1. India and Afghanistan has exchanged a memorandum of understanding
  2. The MoU will see Afghan police forces trained in India for the first time
  3. The MoU on Technical Cooperation on Police Training and Development will see India expand its capacity building of Afghan troops to include policemen and security forces
  4. Afghan troops are facing the brunt of Taliban attacks in the country, under a UN Development Programme project

India’s support for Afghanistan

  1. India has reiterated India’s commitment to extend full support to Afghanistan’s efforts for building a peaceful, united, prosperous, inclusive and democratic Afghanistan
Sep, 26, 2017

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: New foray into the great game

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Factors that restrain India from intensive engagement on the security front in Afghanistan



  • The question of a larger Indian role in securing Afghanistan is expected to figure in the talks between the US Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Indian leadership.


  1. The developments in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s saw the United States deepen its partnership with Pakistan to the dismay of India.
  2. Since the early 2000s, when the US warmed up to India, Afghanistan remained an area of disagreement.

Recent developments

  1. In a major speech on the new administration’s policy towards South Asia, Donald Trump demanded that Pakistan end its destabilisation of Afghanistan by providing safe havens to the Taliban and other terror networks.
  2. Trump’s emphasis in the speech was indeed on India stepping up its economic and development assistance to Afghanistan.
  3. India and the US are fully aware that without stronger external military support to Kabul, the talk of development could become increasingly futile
  4. The 2011 Strategic Partnership Agreement between Delhi and Kabul explicitly called for security cooperation, including the transfer of military equipment.

Factors that restrain India from intensive engagement on the security front in Afghanistan

  1. Delhi did not want deeper security cooperation with Afghanistan that could cast a shadow over its ties with Pakistan.
  2. A second constraint has been geography. The lack of physical access has imposed substantial limitations on Delhi’s military role in Afghanistan
  3. US resistance to a larger Indian security footprint in Afghanistan
    • The US was convinced that any Indian military role in Afghanistan would grate Pakistan’s political sensitivities.
    • But Trump has now actively encouraging India to take greater responsibilities in Afghanistan.
  4. Trump’s Indo-Pak inversion may or may not be sustainable over the long-term.
    • Many in Washington would want to go back to the default option of avoiding confrontation with Pakistan in Afghanistan.
Sep, 22, 2017

[op-ed] Solving the Afghanistan riddle

Image Source


Mains Paper2: International Relations

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level: The article talks about US recent Afghan policy, important aspects of Indo-Afghan relations nad whether India-Pakistan relations are responsible for present situation in Afghanistan or not.



  1. Recent announcement of US Afghan Policy. The policy envisages  more pressure on Pakistan, no early U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, robust military action on counterterrorism and a greater role for India. 
  2. The US has never been so critical of Pakistan publically.
  3. The issue today is how the U.S. strategy differs from the past in terms of addressing concerns regarding Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, particularly in view of a shift in Pakistan’s strategic priority towards China.
  4. Present Situation in Afghanistan continues to be fragile, though Taliban has made some gains but at the same it is not a cohesive movement and has several divisions in it.
  5. Also, since 1747, Afghanistan’s territorial borders have remain unchanged unlike those of Pakistan and Central Asian Republics.

India-Afghanistan ties

  1. On January 4, 1950, India signed a Treaty of Friendship with Afghanistan which also permitted opening of consulates in each other’s country. 
  2. Afghanistan signed its first strategic partnership agreement with India in 2011.
  3. India’s assistance to Afghanistan amounts to $2 billion and it covers  broad spectrum of areas like  political, security, trade and economic cooperation and capacity development.
  4. India has always wanted a democratic, stable and strong Afghanistan able to decide its own future and it supports its quest for reconciliation.
  5. Various surveys show that the Afghan people ranked Indian assistance as the most suitable because of the positive role India played in the development programme of Afghanistan and they appreciate that India has never interfered in their internal affairs.
  6. India can assist Afghanistan in training and supplying them much-needed spare parts.

Making situation better in Afghanistan

  1. Asia is a region of energy and it needs to be exploited for the benefit of Afghanistan and surrounding areas.TAPI( Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India) pipeline is an example.
  2. SAARC and SCO should encourage regional economic cooperation and completion of Cahbahar will help Afghanistan in trade with other countries.

It is essential to take action against terrorism and insurgency and treating Taliban’s Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network as one.

  1. Efforts relating to counter narcotics needs to be redoubled because Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium accounting for 90% of the world’s supply.
  2. Regional powers must work closely without interfering internally for a stable Afghanistan. India needs to coordinate with Russia and Iran.

India-Pakistan relations and its impact on Afghanistan

  1. Unfair attempts have been made to link the Afghan issue with India-Pakistan relations. There is no connection.
  2. Pakistan-Afghanistan relations since 1947 have always been thorny and replete with problems except during the brief Taliban era. 
  3. India and Afghanistan have never exploited their friendly bilateral relations to harm Pakistan. This is clear from-
  • In both the 1965 and 1971 wars, Afghanistan was non-committal and did not support India.
  • On the Kashmir issue, Afghanistan has not publicly supported India.
  • India has not entered the debate on the Durand Line.
  1. Neither India nor India-Pakistan relations were responsible for the situation which prevailed in Afghanistan following the departure of the Soviet troops.
  2. The U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden and the recourse to drone attacks in Afghanistan were due to the situation prevailing there, which had nothing to do with India or India-Pakistan relations.
  3. When in 2010 Pakistan shifted over 100,000 of its security forces from its eastern border to its western border with Afghanistan, India did not exploit the situation.
Sep, 12, 2017

India steps up development partnership with Afghanistan

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India – Afghanistan relations



  •  US President Donald Trump urged India to do more in Afghanistan on “economic assistance and development”

India – Afghanistan development partnership

  1. India on Monday stepped up its development partnership and committed to 116 new projects in Afghanistan
  2. The projects will be in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure and administrative infrastructure.
  3. New Delhi also agreed to strengthen security cooperation and pointed out that the countries must stay united in dealing with the challenge posed by “cross-border terrorism” – an oblique reference to Pakistan.
  4. India agreed to extend further assistance for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism, organized crime, trafficking of narcotics and money laundering
  5. The two sides also signed four pacts, including one on vehicular movement to boost overland transit and another on a fresh batch of development projects by India in Afghanistan.
  6. Afghanistan strongly supports India’s membership of the UN Security Council and other groupings and hoped that it would back Kabul’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Aug, 28, 2017

[op-ed snap] Afghanistan and a new hyphenation

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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.

“The new US-India partnership over Afghanistan, along with the cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, would serve New Delhi’s economic and strategic interests well” Discuss

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Durand Line

 Mains level: US-India partnership over Afghanistan



  • US President Donald Trump’s speech outline his administration’s approach to the complex situation in Afghanistan

It made three key arguments:

  1. Threats emanating from Afghanistan and the “broader region” pose a clear and present danger to the US
  2. A rapid US disengagement would create a vacuum for terrorists to fill, which is “predictable and unacceptable”
  3. US needs an “honourable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices” that it incurred in men and material over 17 years.

Trump identified three pillars to deal with this reality:

  1. Diplomatic, economic, and military instruments of US power to leverage a “successful outcome”;
  2. To jettison the Obama administration’s approach where the timetable for entry and exit of US forces was announced in advance, and instead use the element of surprise by deploying forces at a time, place and duration of Washington’s choosing, and measure effectiveness on conditions on the ground
  3. To change the approach on how to deal with Pakistan” while building on the “strategic partnership” with India.

Why Pakistan is important?

  1. US cannot achieve its objectives in Afghanistan without the support of the Pakistan military.
  2. Porous Durand Line and the logistics-heavy requirements of the US military, which makes supplies through Pakistan (in the absence of an alternative route) indispensable.

 China’s role

  1. Even if the US was able to neutralize Pakistan, China is a key player in Afghanistan and has the potential to be a spoiler of US and Indian interests.
  2. For “successful outcome” in Afghanistan, US has to appreciates the Chinese threat to its objectives and device a policy to manage Beijing’s assertiveness in both the South China Seas and South-Central Asia

Way forward

  1. New hyphenated US-India strategic partnership can play a crucial role.
  2. India, in close coordination with the US and its allies, could spearhead the development agenda in Afghanistan. 
  3. New Delhi needs to play a bridging development role with Western donor countries, which it is reluctant to do.
  4. It would secure India’s development assistance and investment, and also ensure the sustainable development of Afghanistan.
  5. Given the Trump administration’s abhorrence of Iran, even when it might serve Washington’s agenda in Afghanistan, India could become a conduit; especially in partnership with other US allies—notably Japan and South Korea—who are also keen on business with Tehran.
  6. Here, an India-Japan-South Korea consortium (with the US as an absent partner) could revive the Chabahar route to Afghanistan and, manage the crucial supply chain to support US operations in the region.
  7. It will make the China-Pakistan economic corridor redundant, thus giving Washington an upper hand in dealing with both China and Pakistan.
Aug, 24, 2017

[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
Aug, 10, 2017

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

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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.

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
Dec, 03, 2016

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.

Dec, 02, 2016

[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

Nov, 28, 2016

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.

Sep, 13, 2016

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
Sep, 13, 2016

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
Apr, 11, 2016

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
Dec, 26, 2015

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.
Dec, 11, 2015

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.
Nov, 10, 2015

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.
Aug, 05, 2015

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.
Aug, 04, 2015

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.
May, 02, 2015

[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.
May, 01, 2015

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.
Apr, 29, 2015

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.
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