How India is treading its own path with Afghan ties
November 16th, 2012
04:33 PM ET

How India is treading its own path with Afghan ties

By Gareth Price, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Gareth Price is senior research fellow on the Asia Program at Chatham House. The views expressed are his own.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit this week to India highlighted the strengthening relationship between the two countries. While India has invested heavily in a range of development projects in Afghanistan since 2002, its emergence as a political player is relatively new, considering that as recently as January 2010, and under Pakistani pressure, India was excluded from a conference in Istanbul discussing security in Afghanistan. Deteriorating relations between the United States and Pakistan, and the subsequent announcement of 2014 as the year of “transition” changed the West’s attitude towards India’s role. By June of this year, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was urging India to play a more active role in Afghanistan.

While there had been speculation prior to Karzai’s India visit that the two countries would agree to scale up training of Afghan army officers, in the end the main focus was on economic engagement. Under the Istanbul process of regional engagement, India had already agreed to lead work on increasing regional interaction among chambers of commerce, and on commercial opportunities in the region. It has also hosted an investment summit for Afghanistan.  On the trip, Karzai reiterated that Afghanistan was open to Indian business.

While no details were given regarding any agreement on enhanced security cooperation, in an interview during his visit, Karzai welcomed India as a destination for training Afghan military and police, and for providing equipment. India is already providing some training for a few hundred Afghan soldiers and police, but has been somewhat reluctant to provide full details so as not to antagonize Pakistan.

While the West’s approach towards India has shifted, so has Indian thinking. Indian strategists seeing Afghanistan as a stick with which to beat Pakistan are now in a firm minority. Instead, India’s policy stems from recognition of the opportunity presented by greater regional engagement, as well as the regional threat presented by the collapse of the Afghan state. Most of all, India would appear cognizant of the risk that a belief that state failure will arise following 2014 risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. In relation to the recent investment summit, India’s ambassador to Afghanistan was quoted as saying that the idea was to alter the “narrative from that of anxiety to a narrative of hope.”

But still there are challenges. In November 2011, an Indian consortium won the tender to mine iron ore at Hajigak in Afghanistan. The consortium has been slow to develop the mine, which could generate billions in tax revenue for the Afghan government. Here, Afghanistan faces one of many catch-22s. Understandably, commercial investors are hesitant to invest without knowing the future security scenario. Yet if they do not, one of few potential sources of revenue to facilitate a sustainable Afghan government will go begging. At present, India trades with Afghanistan through Iran, but the more direct route would be through Pakistan.

India and Pakistan are already making progress in increasing bilateral trading links, including in energy. The best scenario would see increased trade links up through Afghanistan and into resource-rich Central Asia. While this might seem optimistic, it is not implausible, particularly in light of the progress made between India and Pakistan in recent months.

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Thus, while some in the West are calling for India to escalate its security cooperation with Afghanistan, Indian policy would seem to make this secondary to enhancing business links. While security cooperation represents a stick with which to beat Pakistan, increased economic ties represent something of a more palatable carrot for Islamabad.

In the meantime, India’s assistance to Afghanistan continues to expand. During Karzai’s visit, one of the agreements signed related to small development projects. India had earlier committed another $100 million for the third phase of this scheme, which has involved the construction of various clinics, schools and hospitals. India’s total assistance towards Afghanistan is now approaching $2 billion.

While India’s approach may diverge from that of the West, Indian policymakers know that public support for India among Afghans is not unconnected to the lack of any Indian military presence. 2014 will mark a challenge for India’s broad-based approach towards Afghanistan. Furthermore, the discrepancy in size between India and its immediate neighbors has frequently led to distrust among its smaller neighbors. If India does deepen its relationship with Afghanistan, it will need to take steps to sustain goodwill.

Topics: Afghanistan • Asia • India • Pakistan • Taliban • Terrorism

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Sarfaraz Firdous

    Karzai is a pimp. A two headed snake. As soon as Americans leave, there will be dramatic shift in geo political leanings in that area.

    November 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Reply
    • Graham

      Good. Now the US and NATO allies can leave Afpak. Let Afghanistan choose its allies in the region and solidify its position against Pakistani terrorist attacks.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        "Let Afghanistan choose its allies"... Who should speak on behalf of Afghanistan? Definitely not Karzai. Many Afghans reject him. The political landscape is fragmented. There are the Taliban and other Islamist militants, backed by Pakistan and there are the anti-Taliban forces, led by warlords, who had fought the Russians and were backed by Iran and India.

        November 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Reid

      Keep dreaming.. u have dens of snake that will eventually wipe you guys out

      November 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  2. krm1007 ©™

    We now need to focus on India. The American invasion of Afghanistan brought to the forefront the irrelevance of India as a nation. With a population of over 1.2 billion people there was no value that this nation could bring to the table. Their soldiers (ragtag) 1.2 million continue hiding in the trenches scared from Talibans. A few teenage Talibans invaded the country and held it hostage for days on end showing how useless India is. It was embarrasing for the world to observe this humiliation of a nation that was being touted as a regional power.

    I continue to read with interest the thesis presented on CNN that "less is more" in a political context as applied to India. Although Mies Van Der Rohe adopted this in an architectural context, its economic and political connotations are indeed powerful. Empowering subjugated minorities in India by splitting it into smaller states would trigger uber economic demand for western nations who have given so much financial and technology aid to India with no return to show for the investment. I concur with this approach and with an economic background find the premise to be on solid footing. Central Asian States (CAS) are a case in point on this successful approach. We need to understand that India has an unmanageable large population mired in poverty and we are spinning our wheels trying to feed it. It is also too big of a geographical unit to govern. Again, we saw how a few teenage talibans were able to invade it with a few BB guns. And that says a lot... in a negative way not only for a large unmanageable country like India but also for USA which is trying to prop it up against China. Besides, Americans cannot afford to look like losers in the midst of a terror war which has lasted for over ten years now.

    November 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  3. krm1007 ©™

    "It is no secret that Hitler and his Nazi cronies sought inspiration from Indian extremist groups including the branding of his Nazi Party by adopting the Swastika, a traditionally Hindu symbol and representation of Hindu god Ganesha, as its marketing tool. The thesis being that like the Norwegian massacre the Jewish holocaust orchestrated by Hitler was inspired by the inherently violent cult of Indian Hindus and the manifesto of its then extremist/terrorist groups still in existence today. These groups are now the successors to and carrying out the vision of Al Qaeda all over the world albeit in a clandestine manner."

    Let me quote another instance of this disgraceful disposition:
    It is no secret that Mahatma Gandhi (Hindu leader) was a pedophile. What is very disturbing is his relationship (!) and friendship with Hitler. He is known to have offered advice and encouragement to Hitler and his Nazi Party to undertake the Jewish Holocaust."

    A few months ago an auction was being arranged in Europe of Gandhi's letters and other artifacts corroborating the foregoing. Apparently, the Indian government in cahoots with expatriate Indian businessmen muscled the auctioneers and put a stop to this auction.

    November 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
    • Gus

      I don't expect this from even insane person...u stooped so low. All jihadis of the world are pakistanis and all terrorist are from pakistan ..no hindus or others community are so brainwashed like guys...

      November 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
      • I love Hinduism

        Sir, you are an idiot and a buffoon. There are letters existing from Gandhi to Hitler corraborating this event. Contact Library of COngress in Wash D.C. Like the commies, India also helpded the Nazis stage the holocaust

        November 17, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  4. krm1007 ©™

    India is done....a relic... a dinosaur...humpty dumpty that fell off the wall and broke its neck and squished its b@lls. It has been relegated the task of doing the cleanup work for America at its behest...in a way that makes it feel good. Who are they kidiing? Not us !!! Everything has failed in India....Communism, socialism, democracy, cultism, neo nazism, fascism. The business model for india that I have been proposing all around is the breakup of India into independent states along ethinic lines. The population needs to have skin in the game.

    November 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Reply
    • Gus

      whole world knows that Pakistan is failed state and only survival is on begging bowl..soon US will stop sending money then only hope u have is india..so stop lying and falsifying details..u sound so unreal.

      November 16, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Reply
      • I love Hinduism

        This is about India and its roots with fasicst Germany and Gandhi's friendship withy Hitler to the detriment of Jews that led to holocaust.

        November 17, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • U Patil

      India has money and that is enough. And we just luv the Afghans. Anything for the Afghans!

      November 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
      • Say It As You See It

        India is a bankrupt nation...morally and economically. Humpty Dumpty fell of the wall. People struggle to have one meal a day

        November 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  5. J

    You r just a brainless PAKI, no one shares your view part from brainless people. You people have fooled the world for far too long and milked the world.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  6. Ander

    LOL, comments are from naive Pakis who knows nothing. Keep wishing your wishes and soon Pakistan will end as a failed state to no state. How come Indian economy is dominating CAS. You guys have no friends, no one likes terrorist sponsors, if it wasn't for Pashtuns(Afghans) you wouldn't be able to interrogate India. Soon the Pashtuns will focus and leave for Loy Afghanistan, and join their real nation. I can name who likes you guys but I can type forever the countries that hate you starting with Afghans, after ruining their country and killing Pashtunism with Islamic radicalism .

    November 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  7. aa

    Well written article.
    The Afghans and Indians realize that the road to the future is through economic well being of all people in the region. Karzai is thinking rationally and Indians are mitigating risks of resurgent Pakistani terrorists including the Taliban, LeT and ISI.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Reply
    • Billa Kasuri

      LOL....India protecting Afghanistan??? Is that a joke? India could not defend itself when a few Talibans took over India with shotugns !!!!! Hellllooooo???!!!!

      November 17, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
      • U Patil

        and pray when was that? oh! perhaps in your dreams! wet ones I suppose!

        November 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  8. CJ

    $2,000,000,000.00
    It ain't that big of a number.

    November 17, 2012 at 10:00 am | Reply
  9. Billa Kasuri

    We all know the dirty games India is playing in the region...financing terrorists who are killing US/NATO/Pakistani troops ....undermining democracies, paying off some factions of talibans protection money so they won't do another Mumbai attack, All this because they are scared of Al Qaeda and Talibans. INDIANS....we dare you to stop hiding behind American skirts and come out in the open and face these terrorists eye to eye and NOT to run away from them and take bullets in the back.

    November 17, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • U Patil

      Pakistan was broken up into two pieces in the 1971 war by India and thus Bangladesh was born.

      November 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
      • Wiseguy

        Before creation of Bangladesh by India, unwisely, India had only to deal with Pakistan. Now India has to deal with Pakistan on the West and Bangladesh on the East, both countries Hate India due to India's own mismanagement and lack of understanding of how to deal with another country in a diplomatic manner, rather than Goonda-ism. In the real world, the Biggest Guy does not always win. In Karate, Big Guy can be brought down by a much smaller and quicker smaller guy, down to its knees, and knocked cold in fraction of second. Same is happening with India. It is now surrounded by smaller countries, all of which Do Not Have a good relationship with New Delhi.

        November 18, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  10. Sami Khanzada Sherzai

    AN INDIAN SAGA
    HUMPTY DUMPTY: Had a great fall
    India is pretty much done. The bubble has burst. India is sliding downhill at supersonic speed. GDP growth has disappeared...the only growth left is the hair between their legs. Inflation is in the clouds and India has asked Pakistan to help out. Pakistan has opened up Wagah Border to help Indians with food/goods etc. The Indian Rupee has collapsed against US $. US owns India financially now. As of last week the Indian bourse also collapsed.

    November 17, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • U Patil

      I am sorry but I think you need therapy. Is it a personality disorder or just a one off delusion. India is one of the richest countries in the world and is helping Afghanistan out. We love the Afghans you see and we will never ditch them, come what may!

      November 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
      • datz

        @U Patil " India is richest country of the world" Sure, richest in Poverty and Rats, and also in hash smokers like you. In the recent past, only Extremely Rich which account for less than 0.000001% of India's Billion + Population have gotten Filthy Rich, and the rest 99.999% have further slipped into deeper, more grueling poverty, with much inflation at record high, since indepence, and property prices in big cities out of reach of more than 99% Population. Who are you kidding. Who will buy that Mumbai 2 Bedroom Apartment that is also next to the world's biggest Slum and pay almost $1 Million US Dollars for it. Nobody but the extremely few part of 0.000001% Population with GROWING wealth.

        November 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  11. Sami Khanzada Sherzai

    No matter how you slice it, India is a Shiv Sena republic with an extremist bent. These are Noveau Nazis with a Hindu twist. We will hunt these BhaRATs down dead or alive, in George Bush’s lingo.

    November 17, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
  12. datz

    India is Done. Almost finished, taking its last few breaths, before it will break into 25 or 26 little countries. Only then will South Asia, truly rise. All the states in India, Hate the center, the Federation. All the South Indians, Hate the North Indians more than the hate the neighboring countries. Assam, Bihar, Chennai, Kolkota, Punjab, Kashmir, Anuchal Pradesh, etc. all have insurgents, maoists, seperatists movements that have been going on for decades and only getting stronger. Forget European Union Model, even EU is failing. Smaller, more numerous Independent States out of India is the Best Solution for a Prosperous South Asia. Just like Break Up of Soviet Union, the Mentor of India, the Break Up of India is eminent, and sooner it will be happen, the better it will be for the region and the World.

    November 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  13. Prakash

    I once was a patriotic Indian. But now looking at the corruption of Netas in the Congress, I have given up any hope for India and moved out. The corruption is the only rule in India. From the Smallest Peon in the office all the way upto the the Ministers of all the states, and even the head of the Government of India, rely on connections, favors, give and take, commisions on deals, etc.

    November 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  14. Say It As You See It

    The Indian Debacle could overshadow the European crisis. GDP that has dropped off the cliff (4% est), budget deficits, collapse of Indian rupiah, rampant poverty, unemployment, FDI reversal, companies leaving town are some of the disastrous events that are threatening the Indian state. The downward spiralling is so severe that the Indian government has been unable to control it. Even the Americans have been unable to help and several trips by the treasury secretary were not helpful. This also has security repercussions for India and US defense secretary and secretary of state have flown in to counsel India on how to protect its borders with the help of Israel/IDF. Rumors have it that the breakup of India along the lines of Soviet Union is a very plausible scenario that I am sure intelligence agencies all over the world are factoring in their geopolitical stress tests.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  15. isiharamukazota

    buhahhahaha jealous pakistanis .. you will be left behind in this world while Both of your neighbours keep growing economically and militarily. Instead of playing games and keeping the world hostage at atomic gunpoint why not try improving your economy.. Pakistan is already in such poor condition that it won´t survive a month without foreign aid , try improving your nation for a change instead of spreading terrorism..

    November 22, 2012 at 2:34 am | Reply
  16. east asian

    phew! Did the Afghans not realize so far that they are their own biggest problem? Guys, get education. When you find it difficult to pass an exam based on your capabilities, you do some introspection at the end of it. You realize there is a world beyond your own thoughts and narrow vision and that's when you become "moderate". So, Afghans – please educate your own folks and start developing. Once you do that, you would need no more assistance from anyone. India would do best to educate Afghans who seem to be an ever under-developed lot. And if the afghans do not want that either, well just leave them alone. These guys are their own biggest problem.

    December 13, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Reply

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