chapter  4
India and Afghanistan
Pages 23

This chapter focuses on the history of India-Afghanistan relations, including an examination of India’s efforts to build a new relationship with Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in December 2001. Due to its location, Afghanistan has long invited attention from major powers vying for influence in the region. Afghanistan was an important link in the historic Silk Route across Asia. It is perceived as a “land bridge” between South Asia and Central Asia. Afghanistan’s political history has been tied to South Asia for centuries. In recent times, it has become almost impossible to understand India’s relations with Pakistan, without reference to Afghanistan. Proponents of India’s traditional regional doctrine would argue that Afghanistan’s tragic history of conflict demonstrates the dangers associated with the involvement of major powers, including extraregional powers, in the internal affairs of other states. The involvement of major powers, including the US, Soviet Union and other great powers, and the realities of the international system constrained India’s room for maneuver in the region and beyond during the Cold War years. In the aftermath of the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, India has tried to raise its profile in the country by increasing contacts at both the official and civilian levels. Greater links between India and Afghanistan will help draw the latter closer to South Asia and thereby benefit from economic linkages and cooperative security arrangements. India also has a major role to play in supporting the nascent democratic regime in Afghanistan. Finally, the US presence in Afghanistan has helped in stabilizing the latter after several decades of almost continuous violence. India has specific geo-political and economic interests in Afghanistan and its recent involvement (albeit low-key) in the country is designed to protect these interests. Its involvement also serves as a foundation for a stronger bilateral relationship in the future.