Sunday, July 1, 2012

Afghanistan & Indian Foreign Policy

Ancient History of Afghanistan 
1. Afghanistan is link b/w Central Asia , Middle East & Indian Subcontinent

2. Afghanistan major ethnic groups – Pashtuns (almost 50%) and then Tajiks (~ 25-30%)

3. Afghanistan was earlier rules by Persians, Greek, Sassasians until ~ 8 Century AD

4. Then came Arabs who brought Islam into Afghanistan in ~ 9th Century AD

5. Arab rule brokedown in Afghanistan and was invaded by Mongols in 1200 AD, which also collapsed in 1500 AD. (Now you know why people from certain regions of Afghanistan have that typical chinese looks) 

6. For almost next 2 centuries, it was used as a battleground by North Indian Mughals and Safavids of Iran. 

7. Afghanistan gained independence in 1747 with a Pashtun ruler for next 200 yrs.

Colonial Rule in Afghanistan

Monarchy in Afghanistan

Soviet Era in Afghanistan

America's Invasion of Afghanistan - Global War on Terror



India's Foreign policy is constrained by domestic concerns or difficulties it encounters closer to home. Domestic social crisis, unstable neighbours, and an ascendant China leaves India little scope to manoeuvre in the international 
arena. For the better part of its India's independent life, its engagement with Afghanistan has been cautious.

Cautious Foreign Policy - 1947 to 1979

1. With British relinquishment of Indian subcontinent in 1947, Pakistan proved to be a geographical and political wedge between India Afghanistan. 

2. Durand Line demarcated in British India (1893) was inherited by Pakistan after 1947. There were territorial disputes between Afghanistan and Pakistan after 1947. Moreover, this line divided Pashtuns on either side of Afghanistan and Pakistan border. 

Similarly there were territorial dispute on Kashmir, which divided Kashmiris on either side. 

These developments led to competing irredentist and separatist claims by Pashtuns and Kashmiris, which to a large extent, shaped relations between – India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

[irredentist – someone who advocates taking over some other region (both within or another country) due to reason of cultural, historical, ethnic, racial, or other ties.]

For India, supporting the Pashtun cause and Afghanistan's territorial claims would have had the adverse consequence of legitimating Pakistani demands for Kashmir's self-determination. So India’s hands were tied. 

3. India has taken a sympathetic but detached Afghanistan policy, so talking about demands of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan, Nehru said, “the GoI is intimately interested, but it is a matter for abiding regret to us that we can only be interested from a distance without being able to help in any way".

4. With hands tied, India's approach to Afghanistan was restricted to diplomatic cordiality, limited efforts at expanding trade, and cooperation in development and capacity building (e.g. Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Scheme etc).

5. This continued through Cold War period, when both India and Afghanistan remained normatively non-aligned and nominally pro-Soviet

6. Many believed that this "cautioned foreign policy" approach by India was a conscious effort to behave in such a way that removes the need for force, allies, and any commitment to inducing change abroad. 

[normatively - adhering to a norm , in this case the NAM
nominally - only symbolic

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan(in 1979) - Early 1990s to 2001 

1. During the Cold War, a proxy region was being setup in India's neighborhood (i.e. Pakistan/Afghanistan), where the US-Saudi Arabia-sponsored, Pakistan-backed jihad, was fighting Soviet forces. This development radically altered the geostrategic landscape as viewed by India and constrained India's foreign policy to a large extent.

2. Since circumstances did not elicit forceful reaction from India, and hence its "strategic restraint"became a hallmark of its foreign policy, as India developed an open and tolerant approach to accommodate the volatile circumstances. 

3. India accepted Pakistan's growing influence in Afghanistan. However, India's failure to condemn the Soviet invasion, costed it valuable political capital both in Afghanistan and in capatalist West. 

4. The then PM Narashima Rao attempted to engage with the mujaheedin and moderate the differences, but it came in too late and these attempts were rendered redundant by the Taliban's conquest of Kabul in 1996 and further complicated with the Air India hijacking in 1999.

5. Indian diplomatic and development initiatives in Afghanistan experienced a breakage while the Taliban ruled Kabul. 

6. As a "strategic imperative" and a credible counter-balance to a regime in Afghanistan(the Taliban's), which was directly threatening India's national security interests, India continued to provide "quiet and limited support‟ for non-
Pashtun Northern Alliance, the groups fighting the Taliban, but did not use force or openly supported their attempts to topple the Taliban regime.

[Position of Northen Alliance Vs Taliban in Afghanistan between 1996-2000 is shown below. See majority of Northern part is occupied by Northern Alliance and it was through these routes that US finally started invading Afghanistan with the help of Northern Alliance. ]

American Invasion of Afghanistan - Global War on Terror - 2001 - 2007

1. Riding a wave of economic growth and a surge in international popularity (LPG of 1991), India saw the Afghanistan war as an opportunity to showcase its economic muscles in an environment safeguarded by the American military.
India was also able to shed its nuclear “outlier” status to be accepted as a de facto nuclear weapon state with full access to international nuclear energy commerce. Indo-US relations achieved an unprecedented density across the board.

2. India's Afghanistan policy in the early years of American occupation relied on the assumption that the US would impose upon Afghanistan and Pakistan a degree of stability adequate to allow India greater influence in regional affairs, and that would deliver certain economic and political dividends. Under these circumstances, India hoped to sustain a ground-level presence in Afghanistan (without fear of attack) and develop its people-to-people ties throughout the country, while gaining access to Central Asian markets and energy reserves. At the very least, the Indian government could assist in creating a stable Afghanistan, free from Pakistani influence and open to trade.

3. India's energetic re-engagement with post-Taliban Afghanistan represents a marked departure from its historically cautious approach (See above).

4. Indian Investment in Afghanistan:

> Reopening embassy in Kabul and establishing four additional consulates throughout the country.

> Multi-sectoral reconstruction effort - $2 Billion - India became Afghanistan's one of the biggest bilateral donor. 

> Preferential Trade Agreement was signed between India and Afghanistan in 2003

> Large Scale Infrastructure projects - Zaranj-Delaram highway (connecting interior Afghanistan to the Iranian border)

> Installation of a transmission line bringing power to Kabul from the northern grid

> Construction of a large hydro-electric dam in Herat province

> Erection of a new Afghan parliament building

> Capacity building initiatives - agricultural sector, training police and senior military officials.

> small and community-based development projects that concentrate on vulnerable areas and emphasise local ownership 

> Humanitarian assistance

> TAPI Gas Pipeline Agreement conceptualised

Why India picked this moment for a modest departure from its tenets of cautious foreign policy?

1. The threat of militant Islam had become intolerable and Pakistani belligerence might be better contained through engagement in Afghanistan, thereby establishing a place for itself in Afghanistan's future and undermine Pakistan's 
influence there.

2. Energy scarcity necessitated access to Central Asian oil and natural gas reserves 

3. However the MAIN reason can be summed up in two points below:

Regional-Global Nexus, led many rising powers(especially India) to juxtapose its global ambitions with regional constraints, and hence it cannot think of global ambitions, unless its neighbourhood is stable.

So in 2001, Afghanistan presented a multi-faceted challenge to India's foreign policy. As an international arena of political conflict, Afghanistan epitomised the regional-global nexus: in the immediate neighbourhood, it remained closely linked to Pakistan, India's traditional regional stumbling block and from the extended neighbourhood it drew various players, like US, China, Iran, and Russia. Hence Afghanistan became central to the consciousness of the international community. 

Converging means of US-India to achieve different end goals - USA wanted stability of the region and India wanted influence, consistent with its rising profile.

India had entered into America's radar in a big way after Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, when it opened its doors to American investment in 1991(high) and then by testing nuclear weapons in 1998(low)

US physically entered India's radar when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001, when it tried to leverage US presence in Afghanistan to its benefit. 

Free from the Soviet gravitational pull, India was no longer on a collision course with US and the two democracies reconciled their political philosophies, certain mutual objectives began to align and coalesce around the "war on terror" and the creation of a stable Afghanistan. 

Failure of India's Policy in Afghanistan - 2008 - Early 2011

1. India could not join the coalition of nations engaged militarily in Afghanistan, because of several reasons:

> Discouraged by the international community, 

> Pakistan's nuclear power and proxy war it was waging in India

> Fear of triggering an unconventional jihad closer to home, 

> domestic political compulsions/pragmatisms 

2. So in absence of military presence Indian government was relegated to the periphery of the international scene surrounding Afghanistan and it spent the better part the decade as a marginalised player (despite being Afghanistan's one of the largest bilateral donor).

3. Despite some impressive achievements in the development sphere(improving the lives of Afghans and garnering popular goodwill). Indian engagement did not achieve durable strategic objectives.The Taliban were not pacified and Pakistan descended further into chaos. Attacks on Indian projects, facilities, and personnel increased in size and frequency between 2002 and 2009.

4. Though privately the United States and Western countries appreciate India’s positive role in Afghanistan, for them Pakistani ‘cooperation’ were more important than India’s reconstruction assistance. 

5. The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2010: In this conference US-NATO plans to withdraw from Afghanistan and President Karzai’s policy of reintegrating the ‘good Taliban’ were discussed. India's opposition on Hamid Karzhai's plan to reconcile with "Good Taliban's" fell into deaf ears. It was like International ignorance of India on this matter and it was isolated.

6. TAPI gas pipeline was not moving forward, Pakistan's refusal for transit rights to India, underutilisation of PTA with Afghanistan and its inability to get Afghanistan into SAARC in its 2005 summit(it ultimately joined in 2007), were some of the other failure. 

7. In April 2011, Hamid Karzhai had met with Pakistan's Army Chief and Pakistan PM to formalize an agreement that would give Pakistan a negotiating role in a reconciliation between Kabul and the Taliban (This was also backed by 
This was like a final blow and appeared as if India's fate had been sealed and it failed in its fundamental strategic objective - preventing Pakistan from exerting influence over Kabul. 

Change in India's Foreign Policy in Afghanistan - Mid 2011 onwards 

"War is the continuation of politics by other means."
- Clausewitz "On War"

[Politics is taken from the Greek word Politikos meaning "of/for/relating to citizens". It is a process in which groups of people make collective decisions. All warfare is based on the process of making decisions; in which the actions are carried out in battle; Therefore war is not separate from politics; it is in fact; a continuation of it.]

To adapt the Clausewitzian aphorism, development assistance is, to varying degrees, the continuation of politics by other means. India's development programming was intended to achieve certain political objectives, which has inevitably be interpreted differently from different perspectives. 

2. US withdrawal from volatile Afghanistan(in 2014), leaving Pakistan and its desperately aid-dependent military vulnerable and it presents India with the same circumstances when Soviet left Afghanistan in 1989.

Though India tried to adopt the flexible strategic approach then(PV Narashima rao and Now Manmohan Singh), India's position has changed, then and now. In the intervening years, India acquired an enormous amount of economic, political, and social capital. These were the assets that encouraged India's active involvement in Afghanistan after 2001, and these are the assets that will bolster its engagement in future. With receding US influence and a stalemate with Pakistan, India needs to redeploy these resources to leverage its neighbours and work towards building a regional consensus.

3. So rather than withdraw from its commitments to Kabul, the Indian government reaffirmed the development partnership and deepened its financial support to Afghanistan. 

4. The two sides signed a Strategic Partnership agreement - security, law enforcement, justice.

5. India reset its foreign policy with Afghanistan.

Remember how PV Narashima Rao tried to negotiate with Mujaheedin's in early 1990s and agreed to talk to anyone , in the power in Kabul. 

Recently Dr. Manmohan Singh expressed his support to Kabul's decision to begin an Afghan-led process of negotiation and reconciliation with the Taliban.

India knows that reconciling with the Taliban essentially allows an indirect bargain with Pakistan(as it was the one who created Taliban), and giving it a legitimate claim to space within which it can manoeuvre in a post-US-NATO Afghanistan. 

If India tries to obstruct the negotiations with Taliban, then it will only alienate it from the mainstream and secure no dividends. A conciliatory approach brings forth the durable policy architecture adopted by India following Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 (when then-Prime Minister Rao committed to dealing with whoever rose to power in Kabul).

6. Making India less visible in Afghanistan, without reducing its influence, has become a priority for India. While its larger infrastructure projects culminate, India has expanded its delivery of "phantom aid‟, whereby money is channelled through the Afghan government to local communities.

These Small Development Projects (SDPs) ensure greater local ownership and participation and, according to the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs), none have been targeted by militants.

Programme oversight provided by consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kandahar, and
Herat enables India to cultivate direct links with the communities involved, amongst predominantly Pashtun communities to which India has historically been sympathetic.

7. Central Foreign Aid Agency

Indian government has pushed through plans to set up its own foreign aid agency, the Indian Agency for Partnership in Development, which will assume the development-oriented functions of the MEA and possibly alleviate political 
pressure and divert unreasonable criticism.

8. India now has an strengthened relationship with the Afghan security forces and has bolstered its assistance to the Afghan National Police. By nurturing this relationship, India ties extend beyond the strictly political to institutions that will likely outlast the present Afghan government.

9. Commercial Aspirations: Afghanistan's deposits are open-pit deposits and hence commercially very viable.

> Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) won a joint(Consortium of 7 steel Cos. of India) bid for Afghanistan's Hajigak iron ore deposits.

> 900km of railway track, connecting the Hajigak region of Afghanistan with the India-financed Chabahar port in Iran.

> International effort to develop Bamiyan province into a thriving industrial center, reintegrating Afghanistan into the global market.

> Projects in pipeline - 3 copper and 2 gold deposits in different parts of the country and oil basin in Mazar-e-Sharif. 

> Afghan is a post-conflict country, which is expecting to consume about 6.5 Mil tonnes of cement annually. India is the world's 3rd largest producer of cement and hence very lucrative sector for India's investment.

10. India and SCO 

India's domestic demand for raw materials --> drive growth in Afghanistan, but its India's industrial investments will also need outlets outside India, which in turn requires cooperative regional partners. 

India has indicated its support for a suitable forum to bring together the major regional stakeholders in Afghanistan. 

SCO is one such forum which is poised to play an important role in the stabilisation, reconstruction, and reintegration of Afghanistan after 2014.

The SCO offers a promising avenue by which India can offset some of its anxiety surrounding the possibility of a security vacuum.

Through association led by China, India will be addressing a wider and more acute strategic priority – managing relations with its larger, more powerful neighbour 

Using China's considerable leverage on Pakistan, India can also exert pressure on Pakistan into cooperating in Afghanistan, as off late China is also facing the brunt of rising jihadis in its western region.

Increased cooperation with the SCO will also improve India's access to Central Asian energy reserves and markets. Here the members and mechanisms of the SCO can discourage Pakistani recalcitrance approach.


India's foreign policy can be summed up in three concentric circles encompassing, respectively, the immediate neighbourhood, in which India seeks primacy (veto power); the extended neighbourhood (reaching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral), in which India seeks to balance; and the international arena, in which India seeks status.

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