Afghanistan - India Relations
India is Afghanistan’s most reliable regional partner and the largest contributor of development assistance in the region, including civil development projects such as the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam and the Afghan parliament building. The latest of these development projects, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline, began on February 23, 2018. India provides significant training opportunities for Afghan officers and enlisted personnel and has frequently offered to increase its burden sharing for Afghanistan. Approximately 130 Afghans travel to India each year to attend various military academy and commissioning programs. India has also donated limited security assistance, previously purchasing four Mi-35 aircraft and attempting to acquire more. The United States welcomes additional Indian economic, medical, and civic support to Afghanistan.
In the early 2000s, Pakistan’s archenemy India moved aggressively by offering Afghanistan a range of assistance projects and establishing diplomatic missions throughout Afghanistan. It is quite clear to India" that Pakistan views Afghanistan as a zero sum game and they want India out of Afghanistan. India will not leave Afghanistan because it has strategic interests there.
Afghanistan enjoys the best relationship with India in recent history. Afghanistan viewed India as an ideal model, as they share a culturally diverse population, a vast poor population, and significant cultural and linguistic ties, yet have obtained significant success both economically and democratically. Only Pakistan's "lack of confidence" kept the two countries from becoming even closer.
The only issue Afghanistan had with India is Pakistan's paranoia about the Indian presence in Afghanistan, in particular the misinformation regarding re-opening of consulates in Khandahar and Jalalabad and the "Indian agents" working from them. The Indians have very limited intelligence activities in Afghanistan and India has never asked Afghanistan to work with them against Pakistan in any way. India continues to worry about a destabilized Pakistan, and extremist Islamic movements within their own population.
India's foreign assistance programs were very successful--$1.5 billion dollars invested directly in Afghanistan in the form of roads, schools and hospitals in the five years 2005-2009, successful education programs, including 500 higher education scholarships and the 500 vocational training scholarships a year which increased to 675 each as of 2009. India signed a deal to build an agriculture university in Kabul, and also provided solar panels to power satellite television in remote communities, in order to link well-trained teachers to the most remote parts of Afghanistan--a tool also used in India. Five medical missions in Afghanistan saw 30,000 patients a month. Afghans with means increasingly send their children to Indian schools and travel to India for medical care.
From all accounts, there is no significant Indian assistance to Afghan security forces or police. India did fund some one-by-one military training to Afghans, all conducted in India, but understood the sensitivity of being too visible in this area -- a sentiment the Afghan officials echoed.
President Karzai had a productive visit to India in April 2006 to discuss a variety of bilateral and regional issues. The visit of President Karzai and his 109 member delegation, including nine parliamentarians, religious leaders, and businessmen, reinforced the close relationship between India and Afghanistan and resulted in the signing of three bilateral cooperation agreements on rural development, education, and standards. Transit of Indian goods through Pakistan continued to be a serious problem.
The Afghan President carefully avoided public statements that might worsen relations with Pakistan. Throughout the visit Karzai was careful to refer to the Pakistani President as "my brother Musharaf". Although Afghan Defense Minister Wardak was a member of the delegation, his Indian counterpart's involvement with an election campaign precluded a bilateral meeting. Although Afghanistan was considering Indian equipment (or light weaponry) to fill some of its needs, the issue of GOI military assistance could not be raised.
In October 2011, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Karzai signed a strategic partnership declaration, which formalized cooperation on governance, economics, commerce, education, public administration, and security/law enforcement. Subsequent engagements at multilateral venues, including the Istanbul Conference in early November 2011, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in the Maldives in mid November and the Bonn Conference in December 2011, reinforced the positive relationship between Afghanistan and India. Indian assistance has previously focused on major infrastructure projects such as electricity generation and transmission and road construction. India continues to show interest in Afghan security assistance through strengthening ANSF capabilities, although activities in this area had been limited. India provided scholarships for ANSF personnel to study in India, and the Indian Government also explored options to train female Afghan police in India.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited New Delhi on 27 April 2015. The war-torn country’s new leader had been cementing links with Indian rivals Pakistan and China. Although India had built considerable goodwill during the rule of Afghanistan’s former president, Hamid Karzai, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi now met an Afghan leader who signaled new priorities by visiting Beijing and Islamabad before landing in New Delhi. Some analysts said Kabul was disappointed with India for moving slowly on Afghanistan’s requests for military equipment and combat assistance during Karzai’s term.
Fears India is being marginalized in Afghanistan were greatly exaggerated because New Delhi will continue its core role in rebuilding the country. Over the past 15 years, India had spent $2 billion in building roads, highways, other transport links, schools and even the country’s parliament. India has a role on the developmental front. India has a role in terms of strengthening the capabilities of the Afghan state by way of training their people, by whatever else it can do in terms of providing assistance.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that a strong Afghanistan was necessary for peace and stability in the region and called for all Afghanistan's neighbors, including Pakistan and Iran, to unite and cooperate in a joint effort to help Afghanistan.
India will make every effort to assist Afghanistan in rebuilding its national unity on the path to prosperous future, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said 25 December 2015. "India will continue to build Afghan capacity for governance, security and development, so that you can build a future that Afghans so richly deserve," Modi told the parliament of Afghanistan during his visit to the country.
The prime minister added that a strong Afghanistan was necessary for peace and stability in the region and called for all Afghanistan's neighbors, including Pakistan and Iran, to unite and cooperate in a joint effort to help Afghanistan. Modi called the threat from terrorism the main obstacle standing in the way of the country's success.
According to the 25 December 2015 Joint Statement between India and Afghanistan "Prime Minister Modi reiterated India's full support to Afghanistan for strengthening its defensive capabilities for preserving Afghanistan's unity and territorial integrity and ensuring security. In this context, the two leaders pointed out that the Mi-25 helicopters provided by the Indian Government to Afghanistan and their maintenance facility would address an important requirement. They agreed to increase and expand training opportunities for Afghan National Security and Defence Forces in relevant Indian institutions, based on the requirements of Afghanistan. "
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