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The IUP Journal of International Relations :
Securing India’s Interests in Afghanistan: The Pakistan Factor
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Traditionally, India has shared close diplomatic, cultural and political relations with the successive governments in Afghanistan. India had close alliance with the erstwhile USSR and thus had an excellent influence in Afghanistan and the adjacent regions. However, Afghanistan has remained the subject of direct influence of both inter-regional and extra-regional powers that led to its constant instability. Since the 9/11 attack, India has been trying hard for energizing its traditional influence in Afghanistan and to some extent has succeeded by entering into several bilateral agreements on diverse issues like defence, technology, trade, medicine, political and cultural exchange, etc. Geostrategically, Afghanistan is vital as it is considered the “gateway to the energy-rich Central Asia”. Hence, the escalating requirement for energy in India could find Central Asia as a better option as long as Afghanistan is politically stable. No doubt, India has gained considerable influence in Afghanistan by becoming one of the largest regional donors for the reconstruction process in the country. However, Pakistan’s involvement in the country is a major obstacle to India due to the long-standing India-Pak rivalry. Furthermore, the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s declaration of Pakistan as a twin brother and signing of an MoU on Afghan-Pak Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) in July 2010, could boost Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan. Moreover, the Taliban is active in many parts of the country and if it captures power in Afghanistan, the whole atmosphere will be in Pakistan’s favor and hence India’s interests will be at stake. In this context, the paper examines how India’s interests can be protected in Afghanistan under the evolving geostrategic and geopolitical environment, and it also looks for various policy options available to India.

 
 
 

India and Afghanistan have shared close diplomatic, cultural, political and other forms of valuable bilateral relations since time immemorial. Undoubtedly, till the 1990s, India maintained admirable relations with the successive regimes in Afghanistan. Being close to the erstwhile USSR, especially during the Cold War period, India had better influence in the region. However, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a unipolar world, a new Taliban government was formed in Afghanistan in 1996 with Mullah Mohammed Omar as the Prime Minister. The Taliban government was recognized by very few countries of the world, and a majority of the countries, including India, refused to acknowledge the regime. India refused to acknowledge it on the ground that it supported terrorism against India which became evident on many an occasion. Likewise, the Taliban regime supported the terrorists involved in the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814, commonly known as IC 814. Following the 9/11 attack and the United States-led Operation Enduring Freedom1 in Afghanistan, India and Afghanistan came closer to each other, and their relations grew stronger again. India reinstated diplomatic relations and provided humanitarian and reconstruction aid of millions of dollars for Afghanistan’s growth and development. The bilateral relations between the two countries further received a boost from the fact that several Afghan leaders consider India as more obliging than other countries.

 
 
 

International Relations Journal,South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Afghanistan signed the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), Taliban Regime, Afghan-Pak Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).