IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

India and Afghanistan ties

1st December, 2021 International Relations

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Context: Several countries including the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan and the European Union begin to discuss the possibility of re-staffing embassies in Kabul, New Delhi is considering its options on its presence in Afghanistan.

Does it means recognizing the Taliban regime?

  • Recognition for the Taliban is still “far away” and not even being “remotely considered” by Indian government.
  • Establishing a presence in Afghanistan has nothing to do with recognition.
  • It simply means to have people on the ground dealing with the new regime, to continue engagement with the people.

India and Afghanistan bilateral relations

Why relations with Afghanistan matters?

  • Afghanistan has been a key player in Asian geopolitics owing to its geostrategic and geopolitical location.
  • Being situated at the crossroads of the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, it has been a transit and transport hub since the ancient Silk route.
  • In the context of global affairs, its central location and borders with six other nations including Iran, Pakistan, China, Turkmenistan have made it a hot-bed for conflict and cooperation.


Historical background:

  • India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links.
  • The relationship has its foundations in the historical contacts and exchanges between the people.
  • In recent past, India-Afghanistan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was signed between the two countries in October 2011.

Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA)

·        The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the two sides, provides for assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance to re-build indigenous Afghan capacity in different areas, encouraging investment in Afghanistan's natural resources, providing duty free access to the Indian market for Afghanistan's exports support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, broad-based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation, and advocating the need for a sustained and long-term commitment to Afghanistan by the international community.




Political relations:

High Level Visits

  • Prime Minister of India visited Herat in 2016 and inaugurated the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam.
  • Prime Minister along with a high level delegation paid a visit on 25 December 2016 to inaugurated the newly built Afghan Parliament with approx INR 970 crore; announced new 500 scholarships for the children of the martyrs of Afghan Security Forces and gifted four Mi-25 Attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force.
  • President Ghani paid a working visit to India in 2018 and expressed satisfaction at the increase in bilateral trade that had crossed the US $ 1 billion He expressed determination to strengthen connectivity between the two countries, including through Chabahar port and Air-Freight Corridor.
  • It was agreed to deepen the ‘New Development Partnership’ in the areas of high impact projects in this field of infrastructure, human resources development and other capacity building projects in Afghanistan.
  • India agreed to implement important new projects such as the
  • Shahtoot Dam and drinking water project for Kabul that would also facilitate irrigation; water supply for Charikar City;
  • road connectivity to Band-e-Amir in Bamyan Province that would promote tourism;
  • low cost housing for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar Province to assist in their resettlement;
  • a gypsum board manufacturing plant in Kabul to promote value added local industry development and import substitution;
  • a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif among others.
  • In addition, India also committed to take up additional 116 High Impact Community Development Projects in 34 provinces of Afghanistan. These projects will be in areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydro power, sports and administrative infrastructure.

Commercial Relations

  • Given the geographical proximity and historical linkages, India has been a natural trading partner for Afghanistan and is the largest market in South Asia for its products.
  • The total bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan for CY 2019-20 was at US$ 5 billion.
  • Difficulties in transit via Pakistan was a major hurdle in expanding the trade ties.
  • In order to expand trade to India, the Afghan government in collaboration with Government of India launched a dedicated Air Freight Corridor on 19 June 2017.
  • Operationalization of the Chabahar Port in December 2017, followed by commercial agreement to manage port operations in February 2018, clearly demonstrate the feasibility of Chabahar Port as a transit point for Afghanistan and eventually to Central Asia.

Afghanistan-India Culture Relations

  • There have been several exchanges of artistes and music troupes over the past few years.
  • In addition to the above people to people exchanges, the two Governments came together to establish an India- Afghanistan Foundation (IAF) in 2007.
  • IAF is a trust fund which finances projects aimed at fostering India-Afghanistan relations through enhancement of economic, scientific, educational, technical as well as cultural cooperation.

Sports Cooperation

  • India and Afghanistan have robust relations in the field of sports.
  • Since 2011, Afghanistan Under-14 & Under-17 Boys’ and Under-17 Girls’ football teams have been participating in the Subroto Cup International Tournament organised every year by the India Air Force.
  • Cricket has been a major factor in promoting people-to-people ties between the two countries. Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has been alloted three cricket home grounds in India (Noida, Dehradun and Lucknow).
  • India is also involved in construction cricket stadiums and grounds in various provinces of Afghanistan.

High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP)

  • Since 2005, India and Afghanistan have partnered in the area of community development through the HICDP program.
  • Under this scheme, US$ 120 mn has been committed till date to various small to medium scale projects in areas such as education, health, water management, government buildings, sport facilities, agriculture and irrigation, etc.
  • Around 433 High Impact Community Development Projects have been completed with Indian financial support in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan so far and around 110 projects are ongoing in various provinces of Afghanistan.
  • During FY 2019-20, 37 projects were completed in various provinces of Afghanistan under the High Impact Community Development Project (HICDP) scheme of Government of India.

Human Resource Development and Capacity Building

  • Human resource development and capacity building initiatives constitute an important segment of India's assistance in Afghanistan.
  • On an average, more than 3,500 Afghan nationals undergo training/education in India every year.
  • More than 15,000 Afghan students pursue education in India on self-financing basis.
  • India’s assistance in human resource development has helped to create a large pool of trained manpower that has been an asset to both the public and private sectors in Afghanistan.

Humanitarian Assistance

  • Major humanitarian assistance by India to Afghanistan in recent years include the following:
  • To combat the global pandemic of COVID-19 and related issues of food security, India is commited to deliver 75,000 MT of Wheat to Afghanistan in 2020.
  • In addition, India has also undertaken supply of 5 lakh tablets of Hydroxy-chloroquinine, 1 Lakh tablets of Paracetamol and 50,000 pairs of surgical gloves to Government of Afghanistan in 2020.
  • To promote food security, particularly children during the times of drought, India has distributed 2000 tonnes of pulses to Afghanistan in 2018.
  • A Medical Diagnostic Centre in Kabul was set up in 2015. The Centre provides latest diagnostic facilities to children of Afghanistan thereby generating goodwill for India.

Indian Diaspora in Afghanistan

  • Presently, there are estimated to be about 1710 Indians in the country.
  • Most of the Indians in Afghanistan are engaged as professionals in Banks, IT firms, construction companies, hospitals, NGOs, telecom companies, security companies, universities, Govt. of India sponsored projects, Govt. of Afghanistan and UN Missions.


India has invested heavily in peace and development in Afghanistan and believes that the gains of the last two decades must be preserved and the interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections must be ensured.

  • As an important stakeholder, India must looks forward to walk hand in hand with the people of Afghanistan and world community in working towards a peaceful, prosperous, sovereign, democratic and united Afghanistan.