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            US troops departed from Bagram Air Base on 2nd July. This exit is part of the plan by USA to withdraw it’s troops from Afghanistan by September 11 this year. Meanwhile a UN Report has said that Security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan with Taliban gaining momentum in Northern Afghanistan recently.

Importance of Afghanistan for India:

  • Afghanistan serves India’s security and economic interests.
  • Afghanistan is tied to India’s vision of being a regional leader and a great power, coupled with its competition with China over resources and its need to counter Pakistani influence.
  • India’s ability to mentor a nascent democracy will go a long way to demonstrate to the world that India is indeed a major power, especially a responsible one.
  • India’s interest in Afghanistan relates to its need to reduce Pakistani influence in the region.
  • New Delhi needs Kabul to get a better view of Islamabad and hence it is pertinent that it fosters positive relations.
  • For access to the landlocked Central Asian countries that border Afghanistan.
  • The country is home to resource deposits worth one trillion dollars, according to the US Geological Survey.

Implications of the exit:

  • India is wary of the future of the Afghan government without the support of the US military as it will trigger a geopolitical flux in the region.
  • If peace talks do not fall through and there is a reneging of the terms of the Doha Accord by the Taliban then this consequence directly threatens India’s political, security, and economic interests in Afghanistan
  • The withdrawal from Afghanistan will only bring challenges for the Indian Subcontinent as the US military presence kept a check on the radically extremist forces and created the possibility of a conducive environment for India to work with Afghanistan.
  • The withdrawal can lead to a surge in international and regional terrorism, re-emergence of Taliban’s influence on Pakistan and the political instability it will create in the region.
  • India’s larger concerns are about the resurgence of Taliban, which can undoubtedly reassure and incite the extremist elements in Kashmir and other parts of India through India-focused militant groups such as Laskhar- e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which are believed to have relocated to Afghanistan in large numbers.
  • Unlike the United States, both India and Pakistan share a geographical proximity to Afghanistan, therefore any political instability in the region will affect both the countries.

Strategic interests:

  • Taliban engaging with Pakistan deep state will not be in India’s best interest.
  • The role of Pakistan is going to expand significantly, with the US depending upon it to implement the interim deal. This will be a diplomatic victory for Pakistan.
  • If India does not engage now Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China will emerge as the shapers of Afghanistan’s political and geopolitical destiny, which for sure will be detrimental to Indian interests.
  • US administration’s collision course with Iran is another hurdle to realising its South Asia policy. Iran is a neighbour to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and any action against Tehran will have consequences on the region.
  • US is also against Iran which is important to give access to the sea to landlocked Afghanistan through Chabahar port- which is in India’s interests etc.

Trade relations:

  • Despite the denial of an overland route by Pakistan, India-Afghanistan trade has grown with the establishment in 2017 of an air freight corridors.
  • In 2019-20, bilateral trade crossed $1.3 billion, Afghan government officials said at a recent interaction with Indian exporters in Mumbai.
  • The balance of trade is heavily tilted exports from India are worth approximately $900 million, while Afghanistan’s exports to India are about $500 million.
  • Afghan exports are mainly fresh and dried fruit. Some of this comes overland through the Wagah border, Pakistan has permitted Afghan trade with India through its territory.
  • Indian exports to Afghanistan take place mainly through government-to-government contracts with Indian companies.
  • Exports include pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, computers and related materials, cement, and sugar.
  • Two air corridors — Kabul-Delhi and Herat-Delhi — are in operation now. Trade through Chabahar started in 2017 but is restricted by the absence of connectivity from the port to the Afghan border. Trade volumes are minuscule.


  • India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement in October 2011.
  • This provided Afghanistan with assistance in rebuilding its infrastructure and institutions.
  • The construction of Afghanistan’s parliament building, restoration of its Stor Palace, rebuilding of Habibia High School and reconstruction of its Salma dam, now known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, are among the various projects carried out by India.
  • As of November 2020, India’s development portfolio in Afghanistan amounted to $3 billion, with over 400-plus projects covering all 34 of its provinces.
  • India also provides assistance to Afghan nationals under its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) programmes, thus helping the country realize its development potential by aiding the skill development of its human resources.
  • So far, more than 65,000 students have studied in India under various scholarships, and there are 15,000 such students presently.

Way forward:

  • In the unfolding situation, New Delhi will have to reorient its Afghan strategy.
  • At the same time, Delhi must be prepared to discuss what are real and serious differences with key regional and international partners on the Taliban and the future of Afghanistan.
  • To safeguard its own interests, India needs to reorient its policies towards Afghanistan and deal with the changing dynamics of power shift in the region.
  • Despite India’s foreign policy orientation moving more towards the US and the West, the new Afghan strategy will have to be synchronised with an entirely different set of players.
  • Open dialoguewith the Taliban should no longer be a taboo; it is a strategic necessity. Therefore, our outreach must now be direct and unambiguous.
  • Perhaps most importantly, opening up the congested north-western frontieris key to bringing India’s continental grand strategy on an even keel, a process India has already started.
  • Backchannel talks with Pakistan and a consequent ceasefire on the Line of Control, political dialogue with the mainstream Kashmiri leadership, secret parleys with Taliban all indicate that India is opening up its congested north-western frontier.
  • Proactive engagementof the Taliban will provide this effort with more strategic heft.
  • India needs to reassess its policy choicesin close coordination with Russia and Iran, constantly reminding them that complete surrender to the Taliban’s demands will be detrimental to their own security.