Afghanistan–India relations

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Afghanistan-India relations


Diplomatic Mission
Indian Embassy, Kabul Afghani Embassy, New Delhi

Bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of India have traditionally been strong and friendly. Whilst the Republic of India was the only South Asian country to recognise the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s, its relations were diminished during the 1990s Afghan civil war and the Taliban government.[1] India aided the overthrow of the Taliban and became the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan.[2][3] Indians are working in various construction projects, as part of India's rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan alleges the Indian intelligence agency RAW is working in cover to malign Pakistan and train and support insurgents,[4][5][6] a claim rejected strongly by India and the United States,[7][8] the latter historically being a strong ally of Pakistan.

In the aftermath of the 2008 Indian embassy bombing in Kabul, the Afghan Foreign Ministry quoted India as a "brother country" and the relationship between the two as one which "no enemy can hamper". Relations between Afghanistan and India received a major boost in 2011 with the signing of a strategic partnership agreement,[9] Afghanistan's first since the Soviet invasion of 1979.[10]

According to a 2010 Gallup poll, 75% Afghans prefer India's leadership over that of the U.S. and China, with 50% expressing approval, the most positive rating of India for any other surveyed Asia-Pacific country.[11]


An edict of Ashoka from Kandahar, now in the Kabul museum.

Relations between the people of Afghanistan and India traces to the Indus Valley Civilisation.[12] Following Alexander the Great's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the region known today as Afghanistan. In 305 BCE, they ceded much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty.

Alexander took these away from the Persians and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants.[13]

— Strabo, 64 BCE – 24 CE

The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush. Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic reconquest of the region by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks had been defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.[14] Much of Afghanistan has been influenced by Buddhist, Hindu and Zoroastrian cultures until the arrival of Islam in the 7th century. But despite many Afghans accepting the message of Islam, the Muslims and Hindus lived side by side.

"Kábul has a castle celebrated for its strength, accessible only by one road. In it there are Musulmáns, and it has a town, in which are infidels from Hind."[15]

— Istahkrí, 921 CE

Between the 10th century to the mid 18th century, northern India has been invaded by a number of invaders based in what today is Afghanistan. Amongst them were the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khiljis, Suris, Mughals and Durranis. During these eras, especially during the Mughal period (1526–1858), many Afghans began immigrating to India due to political unrest in their regions.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Khan Sahib were prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement and active supporters of the Indian National Congress. Although the NWFP became part of the Muslim state of Pakistan in 1947, active Pashtun support for the Indian freedom struggle led to great sympathy in India for the cause of Pashtun autonomy and freedom. The Indian government continued to support Pashtun leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in lobbying for greater Pashtun freedom in the NWFP.[2] Indians are working in various construction projects, as part of India's rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, although the Indian intelligence agency RAW is accused by countries such as Pakistan of working to malign Pakistan and train & support insurgents.[4][5][6] These workers are estimated to be anywhere between 3,000 and 4,000. Indian nationals stationed in Afghanistan have often faced continuous security threats in the country, with kidnappings and many attacks (such as the February 2010 Kabul attack) deliberately carried out on them.

Soviet invasion to Taliban takeover

The Republic of India was the only South Asian nation to recognise the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan[9] and the Soviet Union's military presence in Afghan territories, and provided humanitarian aid to President Najibullah's Government in Afghanistan.[1] Following the withdrawal of the Soviet armed forces from Afghanistan in 1989, India continued to support Najibullah's government with humanitarian aid. After its fall, India together with the international community supported the coalition government that took control, but relations and contacts ended with the outbreak of another civil war, which brought to power the Taliban, an Islamist militia supported by Pakistan.[16] The Taliban regime was recognised only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha monuments by the Taliban led to outrage and angry protests by India, the birthplace of Buddhism.[17] In 1999, the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 landed and stayed in Kandahar in Afghanistan and the Taliban were suspected of supporting them.[1] India became one of the key supporters of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.[18]

Post 9/11

During the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, India offered intelligence and other forms of support for the Coalition forces. After the overthrow of the Taliban, India established diplomatic relations with the newly established democratic government, provided aid and participated in the reconstruction efforts.[3] India has provided US$650–750 million in humanitarian and economic aid, making it the largest regional provider of aid for Afghanistan.[2][3] India's support and collaboration extends to rebuilding of air links, power plants and investing in health and education sectors as well as helping to train Afghan civil servants, diplomats and police. India also seeks the development of supply lines of electricity, oil and natural gas. Also to give Afghan Students scholarships.[3]

The Indian Army's Border Roads Organisation constructed a major road in 2009 in the remote Afghan province of Nimroz, connecting Delaram to Zaranj. This has proved a viable alternative route for the duty-free movement of goods through the Chabahar port in Iran to Afghanistan.[2][3][19][20] Key to India's strategy in Afghanistan is to build up transportation links that bypass Pakistan, helping reduce the Afghan economy's dependence on Pakistan.[10]

In 2005, India proposed Afghanistan's membership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Both nations also developed strategic and military cooperation against Islamic militants.[2] Owing to the killing of an Indian national by Taliban militants in November 2005, India deployed 200 soldiers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to provide security for Indian nationals and the projects supported by India.[3] Afghanistan strengthened its ties with India in wake of persisting tensions and problems with Pakistan, which was suspected of continuing to shelter and support the Taliban.[2][3] India pursues a policy of close collaboration with countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Iran in order to bolster its standing as a regional power and contain its rival Pakistan, which stands accused of aiding and abetting Islamic militants in Kashmir and other states of India.[3]

Three memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for strengthening cooperation in the fields of rural development, education and standardisation between the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Afghan National Standardisation Authority were signed between Afghanistan and India during Hamid Karzai's visit to India in April 2006.[21] An agreement providing $50 million to promote bilateral businesses between Afghanistan and India was signed during the visit of the Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Spanta between 29 June – 1 July 2006.[21] During the same year, India raised its aid package to Afghanistan by $150 million, to $750 million.[21] In 2007, Afghanistan finally became the eighth member of SAARC.

In July 2008 the Indian embassy in Kabul was attacked by a suicide car bomb – the deadliest attack in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.[22] The bombing killed 58 people[23] and wounded 141.[24] Senior Indian Army officer Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta was entering the embassy gates in a car along with V. Venkateswara Rao when the attack took place. Both were killed in the blast.[24] The Afghan government's official position implies that Pakistan's ISI was involved in the attack. This position has found support in recent leaks of classified information by Wikileaks.

During the 15th SAARC summit in Colombo, India pledged another USD $450 million alongside a further US$750 million already pledged for ongoing and forthcoming projects. In August 2008, Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited New Delhi. This visit further strengthened bilateral relations, and Prime Minister Singh pledged further aid for Afghanistan.[25]

On 18 October 2009, the Indian Embassy in Kabul was attacked again by a car bomb, little more than a year after the previous attack. The attack killed at least 17 people.[26] Another attack conducted by the same Pakistan-based terrorist organisation took place at the Arya guest house where Indian doctors were staying, resulting in the death of 18 people. India's pledge to rebuild Afghanistan has reached a total of US$2 billion in May 2011 after Manmohan Singh arrived to Kabul for a two-day visit.[27] In the same year India donated 250,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan as part of humanitarian assistance program.

The September 2011 assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani was condemned by India, which stated that, "Tragically, the forces of terror and hatred have silenced yet another powerful voice of reason and peace in Afghanistan. We unreservedly condemn this act of great brutality," and reiterated the steadfast support of the people and government of India in Afghanistan's "quest for peace and efforts to strengthen the roots of democracy".[28][29] India promised to stand by the people of Afghanistan as they prepare to assume the responsibility for their governance and security after the withdrawal of international forces in 2014.[30] In October 2011, Afghanistan signed its first strategic pact with India.[10][31] The military assistance will include training of Afghan security personnel.[32] During his visit to India, Karzai told the media that "This strategic partnership is not directed against any country. This strategic partnership is to support Afghanistan." He also stated that "Pakistan is our twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement we signed with our friend will not affect our brother." He also added that "However, our engagement with Islamabad has unfortunately not yet yielded the result that we want."[33] Both sides will launch Partnership Council, topmost body to implement the Strategic Partnership Pact in May,2012.

On 22 May 2014 the Indian consulate in Herat was attacked by 3 militants equipped with AK-47s, RPGs, hand grenades and suicide vests. "Our premises have been repeatedly attacked by those who do not support India's development work in Afghanistan. The attack will not dilute India's development assistance and its contribution to rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan," India's ambassador to Kabul Amar Sinha said at the time.[34]

On 24 December 2015, India donated three Mi-25 attack helicopters (with an option to send one more in future) to Afghanistan as part of the bilateral strategic partnership to counter the Talibans.[35] The next day, 25 December, Indian PM Narendra Modi visited Kabul to open the newly-constructed Afghan parliament opposite the ruins of the Darul Aman Palace, which had been built by India for US$90 million. Modi said "It will stand as an enduring symbol of the ties of emotions and values, of affection and aspirations that bind us in a special relationship". President Ghani tweeted "Though, India & Afghanistan need no introduction, we are bound by a thousand ties… We have stood by each other in the best and worst of times".[36]


India seeks to expand its economic presence in Afghanistan as the international coalition fighting the Taliban withdraws combat forces through 2014. Especially, it wants to improve transport connectivity and economic collaboration with countries in Central and South Asia. India has already invested US$10.8 billion in Afghanistan as of 2012. More such projects are likely to come up after Nato's withdrawal. This includes setting up Iron ore mines, a 6 MTPA steel plant (by SAIL—Steel Authority of India Limited), an 800 MW power plant, Hydro-electric power projects, transmission lines, roads etc., India helped Afghans in the reconstruction of Salma Dam in the Herat province. Besides producing 42 MW power, this Indo-Afghan friendship dam provides irrigation for 75,000 hectares of farmland in the Chisti Sharif district. India and Iran are set to ink a transit agreement on transporting goods to landlocked Afghanistan. The Indian government is investing more than US$100 million in the expansion of the Chabahar port in south-eastern Iran which will serve as a hub for the transportation of transit goods.[37] Besides as a goodwill gesture, India is also constructing a new Parliament complex for the Afghan government at a cost of INR 710 crores (USD 115 million). This building was inaugurated on 25th December 2015.[38][39]

Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline

See main article on TAPI.

See also


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  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 "India's Northern Exposure". Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 30 May 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 India 2008, Pg 494
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