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Can India Emerge as Afghanistan’s Friend in Need?

Colonel Deepak Kumar Sat, 04 Dec 2021   |  Reading Time: 4 minutes

Afghanistan is today one of the least developed countries with GDP of US$ 19.8 Billion and per capita GDP of US$ 508.8 (both nominal values). If we assess Afghanistan from the point of view of the various matrices of human development index, the period from 2001 till August 2021 witnessed relative progress in infrastructure, literacy as well as higher education, medical care, infant mortality, sanitation and women rights and their participation in various activities in society. International community made concerted and significant effort to rebuild the war-ravaged nation with the world bank contributing US$ 5.3 billion for various projects. The recent tumultuous events in Afghanistan leading to the blitzkrieg take over by Taliban have affected the geopolitical, security and economic relations of countries in the region in unexpected ways but also upended the life of the common citizens in more ways than one.

India’s relations with Afghanistan date back to time immemorial. India has had diplomatic, cultural, trade and people to people relations with Afghanistan since ancient ages. India invested significantly in Afghanistan in the last two decades, in fact it was the largest regional donors. During this period of the US backed governments significant progress and development was witnessed. India constructed the Salma Dam, the parliament building and was involved in setting up high voltage power distribution lines. In addition, it has constructed roads, highways, schools, hospitals etc in Afghanistan and has provided educational scholarships to Afghan students studying in Indian Universities. The value of India’s investments in Afghanistan is upward of US$ 3 Billion.

In 2016, at India’s initiative, Afghanistan had joined India and Iran for the development of a transit and transport corridor from Chabahar port which could later become part of International North South Trade Corridor’s eastern branch. This was to facilitate India Afghan trade which often faces hurdles due to the intransigence of Pakistan and also to benefit Afghanistan’s infrastructure development. This has now been rescinded by India after the coming to power of the Taliban.

With the coming to power of the Taliban, not only the small steps towards development are likely to be undermined, but a humanitarian crisis has also emerged in Afghanistan. In a nation whose economy was largely dependent on foreign aid has seen the aid tap closing due to the global abhorrence to the type of Islam that the Taliban practices and imposes on the citizens. Almost the entire global community is loath to recognize the Taliban, while the Taliban in order to gain access to the US$ 9.5 billion assets of the previous government blocked by various financial institutions and banks, is in a desperate quest of international recognition and legitimacy and is leaving no stone unturned; except relenting on the issues of an inclusive government and rights of women and minorities. While the global community has a valid point in not according legitimacy to the regime, the people of Afghanistan cannot be made to suffer the immense tribulations for the actions of the violent usurpers of their destiny.

India has been acutely aware of the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Afghanistan due to the prevailing drought like conditions and economic collapse following the takeover by Taliban. India has been confronted with this moral dilemma for the last few months. On one hand India doesn’t want to legitimize the Taliban regime by recognizing it and at the same time it is concerned with the immense distress of the Afghan people.

On 10 November 2021, India organized a regional dialogue on the crisis in Afghanistan which was attended by the National Security Advisors of India, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In addition to the impact of the developments in Afghanistan on the regional security situation the need of providing urgent and unimpeded humanitarian aid was discussed during the conference. Next day India announced its decision to provide humanitarian aid in the form of food grain and medicines to Afghanistan. India announced that she will provide fifty thousand metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan. It appears that India had been in informal talks with Pakistan to allow the humanitarian aid to pass through its territory to Afghanistan prior to this regional conference, which had been declined by Pakistan. India used the joint call for action during Regional NSA’s dialogue as a combined diplomatic initiative to compel Pakistan to facilitate movement on ground.

Pakistan as usual- as with the World Food Programme aid originating in India, which also Pakistan didn’t allow through its territory, played a diabolical role in facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan by putting conditionalities on the movement of the Indian humanitarian aid. Violating all global norms of humanitarian concern for a beleaguered neighbour, Pakistan has demanded transshipment charges and asserted that Indian trucks will not be allowed to transport the humanitarian aid through its territory. Indian suggestion for resolving the stalemate by allowing Afghan trucks to carry the consignment was also not agreed to. Instead, Pakistan has been adamant on transporting the aid consignment through Pakistani trucks under UN banner. Ostensibly, it appears to be a classic case of first benefiting from the neighbour’s misery by charging a premium on aid consignment and then hogging credit by projecting the aid consignment to be Pakistani by transporting it through Pakistani trucks.

To defeat this Pakistani chicanery, India retains the option of transporting the aid consignment through the Chabahar Port and then through the Khaf Herat rail link. However, this route is much longer than the just 700 km of the route through Pakistan and thus not only more expensive in terms of freight cost but more time consuming due to the transshipments involved. There is an urgent and implicit need for the international community and organizations to prevail upon Pakistan to facilitate  unconditional and unimpeded transportation of all humanitarian aid originating in India to Afghanistan. In this regard India could approach and utilize the agencies of the influential Saudi Arabia and UAE as also the Organisation of Islamic Countries to convince Pakistan to allow unhindered passage of all humanitarian aid through its territory.

The other challenge that India faces with respect to the Taliban dispensation in Kabul is twofold; firstly denying any incidental legitimacy to Taliban as a lawful government of Afghanistan by virtue of being the recipient of the humanitarian aid, and secondly, ensuring that this aid which is meant for the needy citizens reaches those intended recipients without getting diverted or hoarded by the Taliban commanders and warlords.

In conclusion, it is imperative Indian policy makers to not lose focus of the ultimate global aim of compelling the Taliban, sans any military means to come around to respecting universal human values and form an inclusive, truly representative government which actually works for the progress and development of the Afghan society and is also acceptable to the global community. Providing humanitarian aid without achieving the transformation of Taliban would just amount to squandering valuable resources in furtherance of the agenda and ensuring the survival of a terrorist group brutally repressing its people. Unless there is tangible progress on these issues, lasting peace and progress in Afghanistan, may well remain a chimera.

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Author
Colonel Deepak Kumar is a serving Indian Army officer and has been the Chair of Excellence for Defence Services at Observer Research Foundation. He has an M Phil in Defence and Strategic Studies.

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POST COMMENTS (24)

Bikram

Dec 16, 2021
The Afghanistan conundrum explained most articulately & concise. Well researched & sp with latest data. Thanx for sharing. Informative & well taken.

Maj Gen Arjun Sharma

Dec 14, 2021
Well analysed and brought out in simple language. Correctly concluded that the Taliban needs to be compelled to be humane. Excellent read Deepak

Brig AK MAINI

Dec 09, 2021
Another exceptionally well articulated article- Deepak has done a commendable job in bringing to light the problems of Afghanistan and their side effects on other Nations.

Niranjan S

Dec 07, 2021
This is helping me in every manner. Would help me in my upcoming SSB. Thank you sir.

Prem Rajpurohit

Dec 06, 2021
A well researched and articulated article. With his incisive narration, Col Deepak is carving out a niche space for himself on this volatile and strategically vital issue for the country. Best wishes

DR Prasad

Dec 06, 2021
In depth analysis of bilateral relations of India and Afghanistan.

Dr. Sukhvir Singh

Dec 05, 2021
A Well evaluated Article giving current information n status With allusion of Our Country. India has to decide its foreign policy pertaining to Afghanistan in present scenario n Open up all diplomatic channels With neighboring countries like Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan,Tazakistan,Turkmenistan Iran etc.. An Excellent Segment on reqd Keynote.

Sangeeta Kumar

Dec 05, 2021
An incredibly insightful and informative article.

Gayatri Singh

Dec 05, 2021
Another successfully written, astute and instructive article by the author on Afghanistan. This article explores the complexities of the relations between India and Afghanistan, while also explaining the challenges being faced by India in providing humanitarian aid to those in need. Looking forward to reading more from the author.

Jyoti Kaur

Dec 05, 2021
Very Articulate & Insightful

Brijesh

Dec 05, 2021
Insightful!

Adyasha Singh

Dec 05, 2021
Yet another exemplary article by the author. Perfectly articulates India's altruistic approach for their neighbour and Pakistan's nature to benefit from others misery. Though reading this, one is forced to think if at all Afghanistan will actually consider India an ally or a foe in the future. Prior situations have shown how India tends to become a target even after repeated assistance. Nonetheless, reading this was a delight and helped people like us gather much more information about the current geopolitical situation of our country and it's neighbour. Hoping to read more from the author.

Archana singh

Dec 05, 2021
Insightful and an eye opener for people like us who are not aware abt the transit and transport corridor and India initiating a dialogue between surrounding countries. But surprising is Pakistan's behaviour considering that Taliban and Pakistan are hand in glove. This is like keeping India at Ransom. Brilliantly written.Hoping to see more articles from the author, so that the common man can have an understanding and insight of the geopolitics of that region.

Divey Saib

Dec 05, 2021
Very insightful

Capt Kapil Manglik Veteran

Dec 05, 2021
Col Deepak well articulated article in exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity of Pakistani regime in supporting humanitarian aid to a beleaguered nation. The world community needs to come together in standing by India.

Subhash Pandey

Dec 05, 2021
Beautifully explained the dilemma and hurdles India faces in providing help to the suffering Afghanistani people and hurdles from Pakistan and Taliban combined. Suggested solutions is practical. Thanks a lot for lucid article of relevance. Regards

Rohit Rajpal

Dec 05, 2021
Extremely well crafted piece with the right grasp of the situation. I feel by requesting Pakistan India is giving a credence to a rogue, sick and a diabolical national mindset. Even Indian naxalites display a more progressive spirit. While such a narrative does succeed in exposing the humanitarian bankruptcy of Pakistan there has to be a more pragmatic, plausible method to transport the aid to Afghanistan which has traditionally been an ally and is still remembered by our generation more by the amiable Kabuliwala than a coerced exporter of terror. All in all I feel India is playing with reasonable astuteness for Afghans must be made accountable for the inept subjugation against a marauding pea-brained set of prehistoric tribals who deserve to be languishing in a stinking museum than running a lustful, childish regime. May be the best solution is to wait and allow the puerile mindsets to mutate possibly into a trifle more acceptable monster and then make a move. Meanwhile it is important to make the right noises to filter the intent into the common Afghani psyche that India is an all weather friend.

Col R K Chand

Dec 05, 2021
One amendment please :- For Kazakhstan Read Uzbekistan.

Col R K Chand

Dec 04, 2021
Another informative write-up on Afghanistan. The situation is very fluid from all points of view. The US and the earstwhile USSR, in the past, having tried and failed to occupy and govern a nation, will not ever try to physically and directly rule the country and burn their fingers. They, as also China, may be more interested in the minerals and natural resources of that country. Even historically no one could subjugate Afghanistan for long. Unlike the last Taliban government which was a puppet of the US, this time Afghanistan is in the lap of new Talibani regime in totality and for good. They know it, but are not yet prepared to understand and come out of the medieval mindset of rule by brute force. They will take time to settle, learn and accept international realities of governance with some some semblance of governing principles and not at the gun point. Very rightly, countries like India have to show firm resolve to have patience and wade through the web of selfish countries who are known to fish in troubled waters. In the recent past due to our indecisivness and fixedness of not recognising Taliban, we had lost the opportunity to be part of international group of nations who had some say in the future of Afghanistan. Without losing the sight of the requirement of developing long relationship with Afghan Government and being tricked by Taliban to extract help from us without establishing rule of law, we must explore all avenues of helping eradicate human sufferings in Afghanistan by providing food, medicines, finances and all types of aids as the situation unfolds. Track two diplomacy with Pakistan and Kazakhstan for facilitating our support to Afghanistan will be equally fruitful to develop long lasting relationship with Taliban government. We must also revive and make use of our already existing good will with prominent figures in Afghanistan through eminent personalities like Hamid Karzai and the like. A concerted policy with human touch is the need of the hour.

Vikramjeet singh

Dec 04, 2021
A very well written article, Col Deepak kumar although I have no-doubt that the Indian diplomacy will triumph again n the general population of afganisthan will receive the humanitarian aid we will provide on time. India's foreign policy has always won in testing times be it the Palestine/ israel conflict, Iraq/ Iran conflict, Russia/ China's new friendship or the cold war. The Taliban leadership needs to work with India to secure it's population n work closely to attain global reconciliation & maintain decades old ties. Best Wishes to you.

Brig Shantanu Kumar Dash, SM

Dec 04, 2021
The world community needs to note the hypocrisy and duplicity of Pakistan even wrt provisioning of humanitarian food supply assistance for the genuine reqmts of Afghan Nationals especially during these severe winter months. Another very well written article on Afghanistan.

LtCol KSN Sukumaran

Dec 04, 2021
It took over a month and a half for Pakistan even to accept in principle, the Indian proposal of sending the humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and that too with riders. It is appalling to note that Pakistan wants to levy transhipment charges for this, highlighted by the author as, ' trying to gain from the neighbour's misery'. One can appreciate the self created financial constraints that Pakistan is going through, but this definitely is a poor way to mitigate it to any extent! The author has drawn a candid picture of the situation prevailing as far as relationship between India and Taliban's Afghanistan. Yet, the Indian initiative speaks volumes about it's humanitarian concerns setting aside differences evolved in the changed situation. A very comprehensive article indeed.

deepak talwar

Dec 04, 2021
very nyc information

Nihalani

Dec 04, 2021
Excellent analytical review of the grave situation in this worn torn country. Adding some graphics to visually demonstrate the transfer routes would certainly help readers to connect with the terrain of this region.

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