Afghanistan has been a matter of great significance for India due to its geostrategic location connecting South Asia with the Central Asia.
Being the connecting point, it offers an important route for trade and other services to move from the Central to the South Asian countries and vice-versa.
However, the prevailing instability during the period 1992-2001 in the country has been more of a hurdle than a source of connectivity between both the regions. During this time the scope for external involvement in the country was limited.
However, equations began to change when the main reason of instability, the Taliban regime came to end in the year 2001 with the advent of NATO forces in the country.
The new equations have led to dilute the extreme dominance of Pakistan, the neighbouring state of Afghanistan, as a potent player of the country.
In this context, the growth of the role of India as a key partner in various economic, political and strategic involvement remains to be a key aspect to explore
Afghanistan was the priority list of Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in South Asia region during his foreign visit, which was finally happened, when Prime Minister of India landed at Afghanistan on December 25, 2015 as an official visit.
The objective of the official visit was to inaugurate the parliament building and handing over ceremony for four Mi 25 attack helicopters.
It was the first visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Afghanistan after the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited in the year 2005. During the visit of prime minister inaugurated the Salma Dam, which is located at Hari Rud river in Chishti Sharif District of Herat.
It is symbol of friendship dam for both the countries. During the visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi also invited President of Afghanistan to official visit to India to discuss on various issues and start a new path of friendship by developing through people to people contact between the states (Haidar 2015).
After the successful visit of India’s Prime Minister from Afghanistan, it was the turn of Afghan president to visit India which came to end in October 24, 2017.
It was President Ghani’s fourth visit to India in the last 3 years and 12th personal interaction between the two Leaders. During the visit several developments had discussed between the head of government.
Moreover, the important agenda, the New Development Partnership that was launched at the meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council on 11 September, which was assessed as a significant step in building upon the highly successful development cooperation of the past in 16 years.
India has assisted projects, including in the fields of health, agriculture, drinking water supply, education, renewable energy, infrastructure development, skill development and capacity building, among others will further contribute to Afghanistan’s reconstruction, economic development and effective governance.
Deep appreciation was expressed for the bravery with which the Afghan forces were fighting terrorism imposed on Afghanistan. The support extended by India in the defence and security fields, including training of thousands of Afghan defence and security personnel was positively assessed.
The positive approach of India has recognised a reliable friend to Afghanistan to establish stability and recover the economics of the state.
The newly elected regime of India lead by Narendra Modi and Afghan new government headed by Ashraf Ghani has been working together to integrate the economy with each other.
Both the regimes are also focusing on the political diplomacy and strong cultural affiliation to strengthen their economic relation.
Afghanistan has been engaging with India to recover the economy by signing Free Trade Agreement in 2003 and develop the bilateral trade relations.
However, immediate after the decline of Taliban from Afghanistan, the trade amount of the countries has been increasing rapidly.
In the year 2000-2001, the amount of total trade of both countries was only US$ 52.45million, it reached US$ 201.09 million in the year 2005-06. Further it has achieved US$ 684.47 million in the year 2014-15(Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, 2016).
Moreover, the recent trade has estimated US$ 900 million and it is expecting to reach US$ 2 billion till 2020 according to Sahida Mohammad Abdali.
Afghanistan is strategically located in the Central, South and West Asia, which shares its border with central Asia in the north, Chinese province Xining in the east, Iran in the west and Pakistan in the south west.
Afghanistan has a distinctive geostrategic location in South Asia and it plays an important role in shaping its antiquity, economic conditions, cultural plurality and political scenario in the area (Khalid 2011).
However, the geostrategic location of Afghanistan provides better opportunities to India to take its route into central Asia region.
India have been keen interest to access oil and natural gas rich region, therefore, India has singed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project and India is an active member and more optimistic on TAPI project to fulfil her energy need.
India is concerned about the presence of Pakistan. The regular influence of Pakistan has led the emergence of more non-state actors or the militant groups in Afghanistan, which has created instability in India as well as in the South Asian region.
New regime of both the states has been working to secure a prosperous Afghanistan. New Delhi has been playing an important role to provide aid and economic assistance to support the fragile economy and assist to nurture the political stability of the state.
Moreover, the recent official visits of heads of the states are constantly trying to recover the gaps of India’s short absence during the period of 2001 to 2014 in Afghanistan.
Further the official visits have arrived in a good conclusion by signing several agreements between both the governments.
The importance lies in revising the Strategic Partnership Agreement and India has already agreed to grant military support to provide training to the Afghan defence force in the state.
India has been playing her ‘soft power’ role to assist Afghan government on various developmental projects.
South Asian Studies/JNU