India- Afghanistan relation

Background of India- Afghanistan relations

  • The history of India- Afghanistan relations can be traced back to the period of the Indus Valley civilization.


Ancient period-

  • The history of India- Afghanistan relations can be traced back to the period of the Indus Valley civilization.
  • Prior to the entrance of Islam in the 7th century, much of Afghanistan was influenced by Buddhists, Hindus, and Zoroastrians. 
  • Buddhism was introduced in Afghanistan from India by the Mauryans, who ruled over the region south of the Hindu Kush;
  • The majestic rock-cut sculpture of Buddha in the Bamiyan valley of Afghanistan points to the very existence of the Buddhist faith.

Colonial period- 

  • 1839–1842 and 1870–1880- saw two Anglo–Afghan Wars between British India and Afghanistan.
  • A boundary line known as the Durand Line was created between Afghan and British lands. Meanwhile, the Durand Agreement (1893) was unable to keep calm, and there were tribal uprisings that continued until 1898. 
  • Viceroy Curzon, who served in that position from 1899 to 1905, adopted a strategy of withdrawal and concentration. Tribal forces trained and led by British officers took the place of British troops who evacuated from advanced sites.
  • Treaty of Gandamak was signed- according to this treaty, the amir could exercise his foreign relations only with the advice of the government of India, and a British resident was to be stationed in Kabul.


    • Afghanistan participated in the Asian conference in march 1947 and January 1949- Being a land-locked state it was a firm believer in maintaining a policy of neutrality in power politics, hence pursuing the policy of friendship with all other states


  • Treaty of friendship (1950)- 


      • Diplomatic relations were established between India and Afghanistan through the treaty of friendship.
      • Both countries decided to recognize and respect the independence and rights of each other.


  • Kandahar hijack (1999) - 


    • Indian airlines flight 814 was hijacked by five terrorists and taken to Kandahar. 
    • As the aircraft landed in Kandahar Taliban surrounded the aircraft and took the role of mediator between the hijackers and the Indian government.
    • The hijackers demanded the release of 3 militants- Masood Azhar, Omar Saeed, and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and the Indian government agreed to it. After this, the relations between India and the Taliban got soured.
  • Preferential trade agreement 2003- for better trade with Afghanistan. So that Afghanistani products can freely enter Indian markets, to boost Afghanistan's economy
    • To achieve the possibility of trade, India, and Afghanistan signed a Preferential Trade Agreement in march 2003.
    • India allowed substantial duty-free concessions to Afghanistan, ranging from 50% to 100%. To 38 items.
    • In 2011, India removed basic customs duty for all products of Afghanistan (except alcohol and tobacco giving them duty-free access to the Indian market for Afghanistan's export.
  • Strategic partnership agreement 2011for better dialogue process with Afghanistan.

    • India- Afghanistan relations were further strengthened by the strategic partnership agreement signed between the two countries in 2011.
    • The agreement assists in rebuilding Afghanistan's infrastructure and institutions.
    • It also encourages investment in Afghanistan's natural resources by providing duty-free access to the Indian market in Afghanistan's exports.

Bilateral relations between India and Afghanistan- 

Multilateral relations- 


  • Heart of Asia conference- 


      • It is an initiative of the Republic of Turkey and Afghanistan. 
      • This dialogue aims to expand practical coordination between Afghanistan and its regional partners facing common threats, including counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, poverty, and extremism. 
      • It bars all western countries.
      • India is also a part of this grouping. The sixth ministerial conference of Heart of Asia was held in December 2016 in Amritsar, India.


  • SAARC-


    •  It is a grouping for regional cooperation in south Asia.
    • Afghanistan joined SAARC in 2007

Energy relations- 

  • TAPI Gas pipeline- Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan- India Pipeline is a natural gas pipeline project signed in 1991. but the construction of this 1100-mile pipeline started in 2018.
  • 220kv D.C. transmission line from Pul-e- Khurmi to Kabul and a 220/110/ 20kv substation at Chintala.

Strategic relation 

  • Extradition treaty- signed between India and Afghanistan to facilitate the exchange of wanted terrorists and criminals.
  • India handed two MI- 24 attack helicopters to Afghanistan in May 2019.

Strategic relation vis a vis Infrastructure and connectivity- 

    • Zaranj- Delaram highway- 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaramto help move goods and services.
    • Salma dam project- also called India- the Afghanistan friendship dam.


  • TAPI Gas pipeline


    • 220kv D.C. transmission line from Pul-e- Khurmi to Kabul and a 220/110/ 20kv substation at Chintala.


  • Chabahar port development- 


    • It has been a trilateral agreement between India, Iran, and Afghanistan to develop the chabahar port.
    • It is present next to the Gulf of Oman and at the mouth of the strait of Hormuz.
  • Afghanistan has a key role in India's entry into central Asia.
  • Afghani parliament which has been constructed with the aid of the Indian government.


Cultural relations-

  • A strong relationship between the two countries is based on historical and cultural links. Relations between the people of Afghanistan and India can be traced to the Indus Valley Civilisation.
  • The Pathan community from India shares a special bond with Afghanistan.

Humanitarian Assistance- 

  • U.N. World Food Program- India currently supports a daily contribution of high-protein biscuits through a school feeding program for nearly 2 million afghans.
  • Indira Gandhi Institute of child health in Kabul includes medical services and equipment through the reconstruction of the Indira Gandhi institute for child health in Kabul.
  • Provision of free medical consultation and services to over 30,000 afghans monthly through Indian Medical Missions in 5 Afghan cities.
  • India seeks to build capacities and capabilities of Afghan national and its institutions for governance and delivery of public service, develop socio-economic infrastructure, secure life, and promote livelihood.
  • Export of wheat to Afghanistan

Need for India - Afghanistan relations- 


  • Taliban is gaining legitimacy across the globe-


    • There have been rising engagements of other countries with the Taliban. 
    • The idea of isolating the Taliban will not help India enough, as many countries have started engaging with the Taliban. 
    • Moreover, India is an important stakeholder in Afghanistan. 
    • Countries have opened their missions in Kabul within six months of the Taliban taking power. 
    • Therefore India cannot continue with its previous strategy of isolating Pakistan. 
  • To counter Pakistan- if India isolates itself from the Taliban and does not interact with the Afghani people, Pakistan will continue to drive india- Afghanistan relations.
  • National security- good relations with Afghanistan is also important for India's national security. 
    • Because Afghanistan has previously provided refuge to terror groups like al Qaeda, the Taliban also has ties with Lashkar-e- taiba and jadish-e-Mohammed. 
    • So an engagement with the Taliban will allow for addressing Indian concerns directly.

India's current stance vis-à-vis Taliban

India has established three red lines for negotiations with the Taliban, which are as follows: 

  • All peace initiatives and processes must include all segments of Afghan society, especially the genuinely displaced and elected officials.
    • India would ensure that two decades of work done by the international community in Afghanistan remains secured.
  • Any procedure should respect the political and constitutional legacy of Afghanistan. 
    • This is significant because, despite advancing their concept of democracy, the Taliban continue to be unwilling to commit themselves to larger democratic processes and vital issues like women's rights.
  • Any procedure in Afghanistan must not create ungoverned areas where terrorists and their proxies can migrate.

Significance of India- Afghanistan relations-

Political importance-

  • Afghanistan has been among India's reliable friends.
  • In 2016 Afghanistan supported a boycott of the SAARC summit hosted by Pakistan.

Strategic importance-

  • Afghanistan's location is strategic as it acts as a crossroad between south Asia and central Asia and south Asia and the middle east. Thus making it extremely important for India.

Economic importance-

    • India has been actively involved in the reconstruction process. E.g., the construction of dams, highways, and the afghan parliament.
    • India has a strategic partnership agreement (SPA) with Afghanistan.


  • Dedicated air cargo corridor between Kabul- Delhi and Kandahar- Delhi.


  • Afghanistan's significant mineral heritage- it has over 1400 minerals recorded to date, which include gold, copper, lithium, uranium, iron ore, cobalt, natural gas, and oil.

Challenges/ issues faced in India- afghan relations- 


  • Inconsistencies of India's policies towards Taliban- 


      • As India has always supported the Afghan lead government. It has carried out active engagements only with the elected Afghan government and has sidelined the Taliban. 
      • Now that the Taliban has gained control, it has become very difficult for India to talk with the Taliban.


  • Security concerns- 


    • India is very much skeptical w.r.t. Afghanistan as far as its security is concerned mainly due to the earlier incident of the Kandahar hijack which took place in 1999, whereafter the relation between the two countries soured.
    • Even today India continues to face threats from terrorist factions such as the Hakkani group, a key member of the Taliban.
    • Afghanistan can be used as a safe territory by terrorist groups like the Taliban.
    • Taliban has increased its influence in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, and Taliban leaders have escaped into Pakistan tribal areas in the NWFP along Afghanistan- Pakistan border. This poses a threat to India as they can enter India via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
  • Issue of drug trafficking between India and Afghanistan-
    • The Golden Crescent Route is the main entry point for drug traffickers into India.
    • The golden crescent is one of Asia’s two illegal drug superhighways, located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia and overlaps between the mountain ranges of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and

China extends China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan- India is opposed to CPEC as it crosses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which hurts India's sovereignty.

  • Withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul- India had made a considerable investment in Afghanistan due to the presence of U.S.-led troops in the region. The withdrawal of the US has now posed a serious threat to all the investment activities done by india in Afghanistan. Eg the afghani parliament, Salma dam, etc.

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