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India – Afghanistan Relation

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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

India- Afghanistan Relation PDF

Indo-Afghan Bilateral Relations

  • In the recent past, India-Afghanistan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), which was signed between the two countries in 2011.  India has employed a soft-power approach in Afghanistan. 
  • Commercial Relations: India has been a natural trading partner for Afghanistan and is the largest market in South Asia for its products. The total bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan for the year 2019-20 was at US Dollar 1.5 billion which has grown with the establishment of an air freight corridor in 2017. The balance of trade is heavily tilted in favour of India.
  • Defence Ties: So far India has trained Afghan military personnel and gifted four military helicopters to the Afghan government as per the terms of the accord. On the other hand, India has not sent troops to Afghanistan during the two-decade-long stay by US-led international troops given that groups within the Pakistan-backed Taliban like the Haqqani network have in the past targeted Indian consulates as well as the Indian embassy in Kabul.
    • Salma Dam: Also known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, the dam in Herat province was completed against many odds and inaugurated in 2016.
    • Zaranj-Delaram Highway: The 218-km highway built by the Border Roads Organisation is of strategic importance to New Delhi, as it provides an alternative route into landlocked Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port since Pakistan denies India’s overland access for trade with Afghanistan.
    • Zaranj is located close to Afghanistan’s border with Iran.  
    • Parliament: The Afghan Parliament in Kabul was built by India for US Dollars 90 million.
  • Stor Palace: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture completed the restoration of Stor Palace in Kabul, originally built in the late 19th century, which was the setting for the 1919 Rawalpindi Agreement by which Afghanistan became an independent country. India has also contributed to the power, health, and education infrastructure in Afghanistan.

Relations with Afghanistan

The geostrategic and geopolitical location

  • Afghanistan has been a key player in Asian geopolitics owing to its geostrategic and geopolitical location.
  • Being situated at the crossroads of the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, it has been a transit and transport hub since the ancient Silk route.
  • It has borders with six other nations including Iran, Pakistan, China, and Turkmenistan have made it a hotbed for conflict and cooperation.

Regional organisation

  • It is also perhaps the only SAARC nation whose people have much affection for India.
  • After a break between 1996 and 2001, when India joined the world in shunning the previous Taliban regime, one way New Delhi re-established ties with the country was to pour in development assistance.

Historical background

  • India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links.
  • The relationship has its foundations in the historical contacts and exchanges between the people.
  • In the recent past, India-Afghanistan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was signed between the two countries in October 2011.

Political relations

High-Level Visits

  • The Prime Minister of India visited Herat in 2016 and inaugurated the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam.
  • Prime Minister along with a high-level delegation inaugurated the newly built Afghan Parliament and gifted four Mi-25 Attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force in 2016.
  • President Ghani paid a working visit to India in 2018 and expressed satisfaction at the increase in bilateral trade that had crossed US $ 1 billion
  • India agreed to implement important new projects such as the Shahtoot Dam and drinking water project for Kabul that would also facilitate irrigation; water supply for Charikar City; road connectivity to Band-e-Amir in Bamyan Province that would promote tourism; low-cost housing for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar Province to assist in their resettlement; a gypsum board manufacturing plant in Kabul to promote value-added local industry development and import substitution; a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif among others.
  • In addition, India also committed to taking up additional 116 High Impact Community Development Projects in 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

Commercial Relations

  • India has been a natural trading partner for Afghanistan and is the largest market in South Asia for its products.
  • The total bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan for CY 2019-20 was US$ 5 billion.
  • Difficulties in transit via Pakistan were a major hurdle in expanding the trade ties.
  • In order to expand trade with India, the Afghan government in collaboration with the Government of India launched a dedicated Air Freight Corridor on 19 June 2017.
  • Operationalization of the Chabahar Port in December 2017, followed by a commercial agreement to manage port operations in February 2018, clearly demonstrates the feasibility of Chabahar Port as a transit point for Afghanistan and eventually to Central Asia.

Afghanistan-India Culture Relations

  • There have been several exchanges of artists and music troupes over the past few years.
  • In addition to the above people-to-people exchanges, the two Governments came together to establish an India- Afghanistan Foundation (IAF) in 2007.
  • IAF is a trust fund, which finances projects aimed at fostering India-Afghanistan relations through the enhancement of economic, scientific, educational, technical as well as cultural cooperation.

Sports Cooperation

  • India and Afghanistan have robust relations in the field of sports.
  • Since 2011, Afghanistan Under-14 & Under-17 Boys’ and Under-17 Girls’ football teams have been participating in the Subroto Cup International Tournament organised every year by the India Air Force.
  • Cricket has been a major factor in promoting people-to-people ties between the two countries. Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has been allotted three cricket home grounds in India (Noida, Dehradun and Lucknow).
  • India is also involved in the construction of cricket stadiums and grounds in various provinces of Afghanistan.

Military and administrative cooperation

  • India is engaged in strengthening Afghan public institutions
  • Technical advisers, training for Afghan public servants, policemen and soldiers.
  • Supplying military hardware like military vehicles for the Afghan National Army and Mi-25 and Mi-35 choppers for the air force.

Social development

  • India has provided multiple scholarships to Afghan students
  • Providing vocational training and skill development classes to Afghan women and youth.
  • Afghanistan was among the first countries to receive anti-Covid-19 vaccination from India.
  • India’s liberal visa policy has made it easier for Afghan patients to travel to India which has further enhanced people-to-people interaction between the two countries.

People-to-people contact

  • Indian cinema has a large market in Afghanistan.
  • India’s involvement and contribution to the development of cricket in Afghanistan have been one of its primary means of soft power influence in the nation.

High-Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP):

  • Since 2005, India and Afghanistan have partnered in the area of community development through the HICDP program.
  • Under this scheme, US$ 120 mn has been committed to date to various small to medium-scale projects in areas such as education, health, water management, government buildings, sports facilities, agriculture and irrigation, etc.
  • Around 433 High Impact Community Development Projects have been completed with Indian financial support in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan so far and around 110 projects are ongoing in various provinces of Afghanistan.
  • During FY 2019-20, 37 projects were completed in various provinces of Afghanistan under the High Impact Community Development Project (HICDP) scheme of the Government of India.

Human Resource Development and Capacity Building

  • Human resource development and capacity-building initiatives constitute an important segment of India’s assistance in Afghanistan.
  • On average, more than 3,500 Afghan nationals undergo training/education in India every year.
  • More than 15,000 Afghan students pursue education in India on a self-financing basis.
  • India’s assistance in human resource development has helped to create a large pool of trained manpower that has been an asset to both the public and private sectors in Afghanistan.

Humanitarian Assistance

  • Major humanitarian assistance by India to Afghanistan in recent years includes the following:
  • To combat the global pandemic of COVID-19 and related issues of food security, India is committed to delivering 75,000 MT of Wheat to Afghanistan in 2020.
  • In addition, India has also undertaken a supply of 5 lakh tablets of Hydroxy-chloroquine, 1 Lakh tablets of Paracetamol and 50,000 pairs of surgical gloves to the Government of Afghanistan in 2020.
  • To promote food security, particularly for children during times of drought, India distributed 2000 tonnes of pulses to Afghanistan in 2018.
  • A Medical Diagnostic Centre in Kabul was set up in 2015. The Centre provides the latest diagnostic facilities to children of Afghanistan thereby generating goodwill for India.

India-Afghan Relations after Taliban Takeover

  • India follows a ‘zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism.
  • India propagates an Afghan-led, Afghan-controlled and Afghan-owned Inclusive Peace Process.
  • India seeks a bigger role of the United Nations in the Afghan peace process.
  • India criticizes the role of Pakistan in promoting terror groups and installing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Indian policy on Afghanistan

  • Afghan is India’s natural partner, not just to balance Pakistan but also for the fulfilment of energy-economic interests.
  • Indian policy in Afghan can be described as the dichotomy between its aspiration for a larger role in its northwestern neighbourhood and the real constraints on it.
  • In 2011 India became the first country with Afghanistan to sign a strategic partnership agreement. Until then India was following US demand for India’s limited cooperation with Afghan.
  • India has repeatedly stressed that its relationship with Afghan is independent of Pakistan.
  • India argues that the tripartite relationship between India, Pakistan, and Afghan is mutually independent:
    • 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.
  • In 2018, in the first major offensive military platform to Kabul, India gifted a Mi 25 attack helicopter.
    • The delivery marks the first time India has gifted offensive combat capability to Afghanistan, a sensitive topic in the past due to strong objections by Pakistan.
    • Under the agreement, India will also train Afghan defence personnel on operations.


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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

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