India – Afghanistan’s relationship is based on long historical and cultural links. Since ancient times, the peoples of Afghanistan and India have interacted with each other through trade and commerce, peaceful coexistence, shared cultural values and commonalities.
Afghanistan has been an important trading and craft centre for over 2000 years connecting India with the civilizations of Persia and Central Asia. As part of India’s restructuring programmefor Afghanistan, India has regularly aimed to take up projects that helps Afghanistan to sustain its demand.
Significance of Afghanistan for India
· Economic importance
- Natural Resources: Afghanistan has significant oil and gas reserves and has rich source of rare earth materials. The massive reconstruction plans for the country offer a lot of opportunities for Indian companies for investment. Afghanistan has also signed the TAPI pipeline project that aims to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India under the World Bank assistance to TAPI.
- · Security: Stable government in Kabul is essential to reduce terror activities across south Asia also in Jammu and Kashmir. Thus, the most important goal for India remains the prevention of Pakistan from regaining its central role in Afghan affairs.
- · Gateway to energy-rich Central Asia: Afghanistan is situated at crossroads between South Asia and Central Asia and South Asia and the Middle East.
India Afghanistan Focus Areas
- · Trade relations – India is the second-largest destination for Afghan exports. Major India’s export items to Afghanistan include iron & steel and electrical machinery, textiles, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, while its imports from Afghanistan are fruits and nuts, gums and resins, coffee, tea, and spices.
- · Infrastructure development: India is the sixth-largest donor to Afghanistan in diverse development projects in infrastructure, education, and agriculture.
- Some of the major projects include:
- Construction of a 218 km highway from Zaranj to Delaram for facilitating the movement of goods and
- Construction of Afghan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam) in Herat province. construction of the Afghan Parliament.
- New Development Partnership: Due to the positive impact under the US$ 2 billion development and economic assistance extended by India to Afghanistan both countries have agreed to initiate the next generation ‘New Development Partnership’. Under this 116 High Impact, Community Development Projects will be implemented in the areas of education, health, agriculture, etc.
- Chahbahar Port: India is cooperating with Afghanistan and Iran for the development of the Chahbahar Port which provides an alternative route to Afghanistan and Central Asia. In this context, a trilateral transport and transit agreement based on sea access through Chabahar has been signed.
- Air Freight Corridor: India and Afghanistan inaugurated a dedicated air freight corridor service in 2017 which could provide Afghanistan greater access to markets in India.
- Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA) was signed in 2011 in between Afghanistan and Pakistan which gives each country equal access up to the national boundaries of both. At present, Pakistan allows Afghan trucks carrying goods meant for India, only up to its last checkpoint at Wagah, and not to the Indian checkpoint at Attari, less than a kilometer away. India is keen to join APTTA and Afghanistan has backed India’s readiness to be an APTTA member though Pakistan has so far rejected such a proposal.
- · Indian Diaspora in Afghanistan: Presently, there are estimated to be about 2500 Indians in the country.
- · Political & Security Relations: During the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-89), India was the first among South Asian nations to recognize the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. India also provided humanitarian aid to the Afghan government. Following the withdrawal of the Soviet forces, India continued to provide the Afghan government with humanitarian aid and assistance.
- As a goodwill gesture and commonalities make India the first country Afghanistan chose to sign a strategic partnership agreement with. India signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2011 to assist in “the training, equipping and capacity-building programs for the Afghan National Security Forces”.
- India aids the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism, organized crime, trafficking of narcotics, and money laundering. Further India supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
- to counter the Taliban influence India has donated three Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan as part of the bilateral strategic partnership.
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