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Genesis Of Indo Afghan Relations History Essay


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Afghanistan, as evident from its history had always remained a battleground between the great Powers. Owing to its geo-strategic location, it has excessively suffered from external interferences led to constant instability and internal power struggle in the country. Attempts by the external players to control Afghanistan, has proved to be considerably difficult. Of late, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan influenced the policy makers to re-evaluate their strategy towards Afghanistan, which led to a decade long armed struggle. The post 9/11 situation and subsequent invasion by US yet again altered the regional dynamics and is viewed as beginning of a new 'Great Game' whereby regional and global players are pursuing their politico-economic interests in the region. India, being the emerging military and economic power is also venturing to exert her influence in Afghanistan along with other players.

The growing relations between India and Afghanistan and her presence in our backyard is a matter of great concern for Pakistan, keeping in view the historic animosity between the two. The greater representation of Northern Alliance in an interim administration provided India with opportunities to re-establish its links in Afghanistan. In subsequent years, it contributed millions of dollars for up-gradation/ reconstruction of various projects and dams along with investment in communication infrastructure, revealing her efforts to reach at CARs energy sources through Iran. [1] On the other hand, situation in Afghanistan pose new security challenges for Pakistan. The geographical proximity invites regular trespassing through porous border having many crossing points. About 40,000 people cross the border on daily basis. Pakistan, a frontline ally in the Global Campaign on Terror, finds itself in a vulnerable situation wherein increased Indian influence is appreciably compromising its western borders. Cognizant to new geo-political developments, Pakistan visualizes Indian influence in Afghanistan as part of its strategic encirclement. [2] 

The aim of this paper is to assess the regional implications for the growing military, economic, political and diplomatic influence of India in Afghanistan to devise a policy response against this new dimension of Indian threat emanating from Pakistan's western frontiers. The present study is an effort to understand Indian motives in Afghanistan and beyond and assess the emerging scenarios' of new 'Great Game' in the region. Following hypothesis will be theoretically and empirically tested in the course of the research work.

a. The new 'Great Game' in Afghanistan is constantly disturbing the Balance of Power in the region, which is not in favour of South Asia.

b. Increased Indian presence in Afghanistan especially after US invasion may further enhance after drawdown of NATO Forces, surrogating the US. Emerging scenarios' may pose serious security challenges for Pakistan, require a formidable policy response. The divergence of interests of global/regional players may again destabilize the Afghanistan with its ripple/spillover effects.

There are many theories in International Relations (IR), which can be used to research the assigned topic especially with regard to new 'Great Game' in Afghanistan. However, my research work will be theoretically grounded within the parameters of Neo-Realism or Structural Realism outlined by Kenneth Waltz in 1979 in his book "Theories of International Politics."Neo-realism holds that the international structure is based on the principle of anarchy. This anarchic International structure is decentralized, means no central authority, and it comprises of equal sovereign states. These states act in accordance with their own national interests and never subordinate their interest to another's.

Following major/minor questions derived from the Hypotheses will be addressed to investigate the gap of the knowledge during the course of research:

a. What is the geo-political significance of Afghanistan from the historical perspective?

b. What is the genesis of Indo-Afghan relations during and post-cold war?

c. What is the nature of new 'Great Game' and Indian involvement in Afghanistan?

d. What will be the implications for the region in general and Pakistan in particular due increased Indian influence in Afghanistan?

e. What will be the future map in Afghanistan post 2014?

f. What should be the response options available with Pakistan to counter the increased Indian Influence in Afghanistan?

A logical, systematic and an organized approach will be adopted by using primary, secondary and Tertiary data sources to address the above-mentioned queries. Both qualitative and quantitative research techniques/methods will be employed to incorporate facts, perceptions, opinions, attitudes, statistics, images, behavioral reports regarding the field of investigation etc. Survey through Questionnaires and Interviews will also be carried out to ascertain the facts, if so required. However, research will primarily be focused on the extensive use of Tertiary data sources which include Articles, Journals, Periodicals, Internet, Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and News Papers etc due to paucity of time. Accordingly, the data and material, so collected, will be minutely analyzed and selected in support of the queries under the expert guidance of the supervisor and thereby produced in line with the plan of the research paper.

The paper has been divided into five chapters. Theoretical debate will be undertaken in the first three chapters while its application will be followed in the next two. Chapter-1 will briefly focus on the Geo-political significance of Afghanistan from the historical perspective. Chapter-2 will delineate the genesis of INDO-AFGHAN relations pre and post-cold war. Chapter-3 will cover the concept of the "New Great Game" and the nature of Indian involvement in Afghanistan. Chapter-4 will highlight the repercussions of increased Indian influence in Afghanistan, regionally and with special emphasis to Pakistan. Chapter-5 will focus on the most likely emerging scenario in Afghanistan post ISAF drawdown in year 2014 and will lay out a broader policy frame work for Pakistan authorities in order to mitigate the growing Indian influence in its western neighborhood.




Rudyard Kipling said, "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains and women come out to cut up what remains, just roll to your rifle, blow out your brain and go to your God like a soldier". [3] 


Afghanistan is landlocked country located at the crossroads of South and Central Asia. Its unique central positioning makes it accessible to many important parts of Asia even stretching to Eastern Europe. According to world fact book:

It has an area of 647,500 sq km and share borders with Pakistan in the South West (2430 km), Iran in the west (936 km), Central Asian Republics in the North including Tajikistan (1206 km), Uzbekistan (137 km), Turkmenistan (744 km) and Chinese province Xinjiang in North-East (76 km). It stretches 1300 km from Southwest to the Northeast and has a general width of about 600 km. A narrow stretch of territory known as "Wakhan corridor" [4] was carved out by the British to prevent the Russians from having a direct access to their possessions in India. For the most part, the boundary runs along navigable Amu (Oxus) Darya. The Durand Line forms the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The boundary runs most of the way through precipitous mountain ranges. [5] (See Annex A)


In view of its vital geographical location, it has always remained a pivot area in Global politics. Its culture, ethnicity, history, economy, language and certain other demographic indicators are shaped because of its unique geostrategic position (South and Central Asia). Its Geo strategic significance can be traced back to history as illustrated by Rudyard Kipling in the famous Old Great game. It has remained a cause of geo political rivalry between two great empires i.e. "Russia" and "Britain". The British Empire considered Afghanistan as vital for the defense of Indian subcontinent and it remained as a buffer state between the two imperial powers. Latter during the cold war, importance of Afghanistan again surfaced in the global politics when Soviet Union invaded it. Accordingly, it remained a battle ground for Soviet Union and United States in the latter period of twentieth century. The geo strategic significance of Afghanistan once again emerged when US led NATO forces attacked Afghanistan in 2001. Presently, it is a part of New Great game being played by the regional as well as global players, each trying to consolidate its influence. Although, economic opportunities in Afghanistan are not very potent, however, its geostrategic location makes it important regionally and globally. [6] 


Afghanistan has a varied ethnic mixture due to its central location being at the cross roads of Central, South and West Asia. The population of Afghanistan is divided into various groups on the ethnic and linguistic basis. However, due to lack of a comprehensive survey since last many decades, the exact demographic statistics are not available. Talal Hussian in his thesis on Afghan complex situation writes:

The estimated population of Afghanistan in July 2003 is28,717,21310 out of which Pashtoon are 44%, Tajik 25%, Hazara 10%, minor ethnic groups (Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, and others) 13%, Uzbek 8%. Major and minor languages include Pashtu 35%, Afghan Persian (Dari) 50%, Turkic languages(primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%. Farsi is the dominant language in Kabul and widely regarded as more cultured than Pashtu [7] .


Decades of conflict and foreign interventions has adequately destabilized the Afghan economy. According to the estimates, "The GDP stands at about US $27 Billion and GDP per Capita is about US $900. Its un-employment rate is 35% and roughly the same percentage of its citizens live below the poverty line. About 42% of the population lives on less than one US dollar a day." [8] However, on the positive side, the nation has a very low external debt and is gradually recovering with the assistance of the world community. "The Afghan economy has been growing at about 10% per year since the last decade, due to the infusion of over US $ 50 Billion as international aid along with remittances from Afghan expats. The economy of the country is mainly relying on agriculture, horticulture, cattle herds and minerals." [9] 


The modern history of Afghanistan dates back to 1709 with the establishment of "Hotaki dynasty" in Kandahar. Subsequently, in 1747 Ahmed Shah Durani came in power. However, throughout the 19th century Afghanistan remained engulfed in the power struggles between two imperial nations, "Britain" and "Russia" widely known as the "Old Great Game".

Old Great Game:

The old Great game is a term coined in Kipling's novel "Kim". [10] It was a war for influence between the two great powers "Britain" and "Russia" fought in the lonely passes and deserts of Central Asia throughout the 19th century. Britain status as an Indian sub continental colonial power was challenged by the Tsarist southward expansionist policies. According to David Fromkin:

In the early part of the century, the focus of strategic concern was Constantinople. Later, as czarist armies overran Central Asia in 1869, attention shifted to Persia, Afghanistan and to the mountain passes of the Himalayas. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it was a common assumption in Europe that the next Great War was going to be the final showdown between Britain and Russia in Afghanistan. [11] 

Britain fought two wars in Afghanistan to build its influence so that Afghanistan may become a buffer zone and Tsarist southward expansion could be ceased. The same was achieved during the second war when finally Afghanistan came under British influence. According to Qaeem Ahmed Shayeq:

In July 1887, an Anglo -Russian agreement was signed at St. Petersburg by which the Russian agreed to halt further advance southwards. By another Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1895, the Wakhan corridor became a permanent part of Afghanistan. In 1893, Great Britain and Russia agreed to earmark river Oxus as Northern frontier of Afghanistan. Accordingly, Durand Line was established by "Sir Mortimer Durand" to demarcate the boundaries between Russian and British Empires in 1893 [12] .

This century long power struggle finally came to an end in the beginning of 20th century. "Anglo Russian convention" was signed on Aug 31, 1907 which formally ended the old great game [13] .

Cold War period:

King Amanullah rose to power in Afghanistan after the Afghan War of 1919 and peace accord called "Treaty of Rawalpindi" [14] . Prior to World War II, US maintained a policy of Isolation and did not meddle in Afghan affairs. However, the changing geopolitical realities; US emergence as a global power and Soviet Union expansionist policies after World War II compelled United States to adopt a proactive approach to this battle hardened region .As the cold war started to take momentum, it was further intricate by the invasion of Soviet Union on Afghanistan in 1979. The invasion united the broken Afghan society and they waged war against the invaders backed by Pakistan and US in which over a million Afghans lost their lives.

During ten years of war in Afghanistan, the Afghan society was badly disintegrated. Many of the locals migrated to Pakistan as Afghan refugees thus burdening the Pakistan's economy. Infrastructure, roads, institutions, economy, culture and standard living opportunities were all devastated. With the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989, the war was formally over. However, its culmination gave birth to two important developments i.e. the disintegration of Soviet Union resulting in a unipolar world dominated by United States and Afghan civil war which further crippled the Afghan society.

Afghan Civil War and beyond:

Throughout the Afghan war, United States continued backing Pakistan's ISI to fight the proxy war with the Soviets. However, when their objectives were achieved by the disintegration of Soviet Union, they completely alienate themselves from the Afghan cause. The instant withdrawal of United States from the Afghan arena left the war torn region upon the mercy of war lords and tribal factions. Anarchy prevailed in Afghanistan resulting in a civil war and power struggles among the warring factions. Groups who were earlier trained and armed to fight against Soviets were never disarmed. The civil war continued for nearly a decade with the succession of weak governments one after another.

Although, the phenomenal rise of Taliban's in 1996 gave some hope of a centralized government. However, those hopes were completely dashed as civil war continued and AL-Qaida-Taliban nexus brought United States to jump in the region as a result of 9/11 attacks. The US invasion in Afghanistan in Oct 2001 and Pakistan's decision to act as a frontline state altogether brought a new dimension to regional politics. As a spillover effect of Global war on terror, many of the Taliban-Al-Qaida groups took sanctuaries in the Pakistan's tribal area bordering Afghanistan and started overt & covert terrorist activities both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. "In 2007-08, more than 1,500 people were killed in suicide and other attacks on civilians". [15] After more than a decade long fighting, US led NATO Forces have not been able to eradicate the Taliban's resistance. The fact is that Taliban's power has slowly increased especially in southern Afghanistan, restricting ISAF control in major cities only. Drawdown of US forces in 2014 has posed new challenges for lasting stability in this country/region.




Relations between Afghanistan and India can be traced back to the ancient history when different dynasties' in India had maintained cordial relations with the Afghans. Northern India was invaded by the number of Turkic invaders based in Afghanistan during tenth to eighteenth centuries and founded the Muslim empire in India. Due to political unrest and instability in their region, especially during the Mughal period (1526-1857), many Afghans began immigrating to India. During Nineteenth century till the beginning of Twentieth century, the Afghanistan again became the focal point and interplay between the empires of Soviets and Britain for their so called 'Great Game'.


Afghanistan has been the focal point of Indian Foreign Policy since 1947, and they have enjoyed cordial relations for a long time. The relationship strengthened more when the "Friendship Treaty" was assigned in 1950. This pro-Soviet era witnessed various agreements and protocols between the two countries. [16] 

Despite Pakistan's physical proximity to Afghanistan, Indians have always remained very close to Afghan regimes, influencing them against Pakistan, taking advantages of their differences over Durand Line and sparking Afghanistan's irredentist claims on some parts of Khyber Pakhtoonkha (KPK).Abubakar Siddique, in his article "The Durand Line: Afghanistan's Controversial, Colonial-Era Border" explain this paradox as:

Afghanistan-Pakistan border had exacerbated the tensions between the two countries since the end of British rule in India. The ethnically Pashtoon and Baloch belts straddling the Durand Line made that demarcation illegitimate in the eyes of many in the tribal areas. The Durand Line runs directly through traditional Pashtoon lands, splitting one of the world's largest tribal societies in two. Those to the west of the line are Afghan and to the east are Pakistanis. India was soon able to exploit this rivalry following partition. Pashtoon nationalists, who had already been advocating for a "Pashtunistan," took the matter to a loya jirga in 1949. The jirga believed that Pakistan, being a new state at the time, was not an historic extension of British India, and therefore all treaties signed prior to independence were nullified. This included the demarcation of the Durand Line and Pakistan's putative annex of tribal areas more closely aligned with Afghanistan. Throughout the Cold War, India kept paying lip service to the idea of a "Pashtunistan" with the goal of keeping Pakistan's army occupied on its restive western borders. [17] 

India was consistent in following a policy of improving ties gradually with Afghanistan during King Zahir Shah's rule (1933-1972), excluding a brief rift during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan conflict. King Zahir's overthrow did not obstruct this process and India maintained good relations with successive governments. In 1965 and 1971 wars, Indians continuously pursued Afghanistan to engage Pakistan at its western borders; however, Afghans choose to remain neutral, thanks to the wisdom of King Zahir Shah, which provided Pak Armed Forces an opportunity to remain focused on eastern borders. [18] 

Indians always remained involved in various construction projects in the garb of India's rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, which provided ample opportunities to RAW, Indian intelligence agency to continue its covert mission of training, funding and maintaining insurgents to malign Pakistan. These workers were estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,000 at any given time with the main objective to fuel instability and insurgency all along western borders of Pakistan. [19] 


During the Soviet Afghan war, Indians were not able to extend much of their geo-political influence in the region, particularly due to US-Pak-Afghan alliance. However, they en-cashed this opportunity to strengthen economic ties with Afghanistan. While maintaining their support for the occupation by Soviet Union, they also augmented reconstruction/development activities in Afghanistan. According to Fahmida Ashraf:

After failing to engage Pakistan with the prospects of a regional solution to the Soviet invasion and faced with substantial American military and economic assistance to Pakistan ($3.2 billion for six years), India avoided any public censure of the Soviet occupation. It chose instead to work with successive Soviet puppet regimes in Afghanistan because it cared little for the Islamist ideological orientation shared by a bulk of the Afghan mujahedeen groups that Pakistan was supporting on behalf of the United States. During this period, India massively increased its investments in developmental activities by "co-operating in industrial, irrigation and hydro-electric projects" in Afghanistan. [20] 


The rise of Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet invasion mainly supported by Pakistan and the US, the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991, the formation of a government by Mujahideen in Afghanistan after overthrowing the pro-Soviet regime of Najibullah in 1992, all were events that led to the first instance of diplomatic isolation and lessening of Indian influence in Afghanistan. [21] However, in 1992, when Burhanuddin Rabbani established his government, dominated by non-Pashtoons, India again become active in building its relations with Afghanistan. The continuity of their cordial relations was not long lived and was fractured by the emergence of a Muslim fundamentalist group i.e. Taliban [22] in 1996. According to Iram Khalid:

In 1996, Taliban's captured Kabul and took control of the government and renamed the country as "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," which was recognized only by Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Pakistan. Ahmad Shah Massoud created the United Front (Northern Alliance) in opposition to the Taliban and fought for the democratic system to be implanted in Afghanistan, while Al Qaeda supported the Taliban with troops from Central Asia and other Arab countries. By July 1998, the Taliban had taken control of much of the area north of Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Massoud stayed in opposition until his assassination in September 2001. [23] (See Annex B)

The rise of Taliban and removal of Rabbani government in September 1996, led to the sidelining of Indian influence in Afghanistan. India ceased its diplomatic relations with Afghanistan and closed its embassy in Kabul, sensing increase in militancy in the region. During this period, the non-Pashtoon groups opposing the Taliban regime formed the Northern Alliance and controlled most of the Northern areas of Afghanistan, bordering the Central Asian states of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. As part of its efforts to maintain its influence in Afghanistan and to counter Pakistan's support to the Taliban government, "India established its links with the Northern Alliance and strengthened their defense by providing high-altitude warfare equipment, helicopter technicians and technical advice." [24] According to one report, "Indian military support to anti-Taliban forces totaled US $70 million, including five Mi-17 helicopters, and US $ 8 million worth of high-altitude equipment in 2001." [25] 

The primary reason to support Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance was because of its enmity towards the Pakistani-supported Mujahideen groups and Indian dislike for the Taliban being an extremist Muslim fundamentalist group. India also remain distant from Taliban regime because of their antagonistic behavior towards the Afghan Hindus and Sikhs but much more serious issue in Indian eyes was the Taliban pronouncements on Kashmir, the training of Kashmir's, Pakistanis and foreign militants in Afghan training camps. These activities used to touch the core of India's vital interests and New Delhi was compelled to strengthen its assistance to the non-Pashtoons forces. [26] 

Therefore, throughout the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan (1996-2001), Indian efforts were aimed at marginalizing the Taliban's influence and to encourage groups having links with India. However, the regional dynamics took another U-turn with the invasion of US led NATO forces in Afghanistan post Sep 9/11. With the support of ISAF forces, Northern alliance ousted the Taliban from power in Kabul in December 2001.




Just like the old great game, Afghanistan is now part of another venture for influence and greed for resources among the Global super powers and regional players in the so called "New Great Game" [27] .According to Alexander Cooley:

The "New Great Game is a conceptualization of modern geopolitics in Central Eurasia as a competition between US, UK and other NATO countries against Russia, China and other SCO countries for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and Trans-Caucasus. It is a reference to the old 'Great Game', the political rivalry between the British and Russian Empires in Central Asia during the 19th century. [28] 

It has been argued that 'Central Asia, the place of old 'Great Game' is once more a key to the security of all Eurasia, as Russia and China are engaged in a complex geo-political drills and West does not permits their domination. The aspects of New Great game are appended below:

Quest for Caspian petroleum:

Caspian petroleum has become a focal point and a subject of interest for the participants of the Great Game. Realizing the great potential of Caspian reserves, it has motivated corporate interests and rekindled regional and international rivalries. "As struggle for Eurasian oil is a multi-dimensional geopolitical and economic game, this Great Game is quickly becoming a paramount challenge for policy makers." [29] K. Meyer and S. Brysac in their book "The Great game and race for empire in Asia" are of the view that, "India and China, each with exponentially growing energy needs are vying for access along with Russians, Europeans, and Americans. Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan have their own political, economic, and cultural interests in the region, whereas slumbering rivalries have also abruptly awakened amongst various factions." [30] 

Pipeline Politics: As per the Great Game hypothesis, the quest for the Caspian resources has resulted in formation of a pipeline regime which is directly related to route, safety, composition of consortia etc. The same includes Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) and Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) who are major players in the struggle for influence in pipeline and oil politics. [31] With oil remaining a strategic commodity, issue of secure supplies of oil, gas and other energy resources became of paramount concern after the Gulf Wars. Currently, Turkmenistan and China receive most attention with number of pipeline projects in all over Central Asia and even up to Siberia for oil. [32] (See Annex C)

Security aspects: In the aftermath of9/11 and US led invasion of Afghanistan, the concept of new 'Great Game' was revisited. The presence of the western troops in Afghanistan and Central Asia certainly has an impact on regional politics. The extension of 'War on Terror' into Georgia was seen as a challenge to Russian hegemony in the region. There have also been reports of Israel undertaking military co-operation with Uzbekistan. The above shows the type of actors involved in new 'Great Game'. "Multinational companies, state governments, transnational organizations and sub-state influences have all allegedly been part of this New Great Game. Therefore, it is multifaceted, covering arrange of sectors from economic to social and cultural too hard security, with a variety of actors operating in different geographical areas". [33] 

New Silk Route strategies:

New Silk Road Strategy is a socio-economic approach having geo-political objectives to neutralize influence of US led NATO coalition in Afghanistan and vice versa. As per the classical definition:

The Silk Road/Route is a modern term referring to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa. Extending 4,000 miles (6,500 km), the Silk Route gets its name from the ancient Chinese silk trade route began in 206 BC. New Silk Road (NSR), the term is coined by US in 2011 and then China to sell their political ideas. The route of 'New Silk Road' is extending from Europe through Egypt, Somalia, the Arabian Peninsula, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Java-Indonesia, and Vietnam until it reaches China [34] (See Annex D)

The purpose of new silk route strategies is to extract the enormous resources of Caspian Sea and CAR's, transportation of those resources throughout the Eurasian and African landmass via rail-road links and deprive the rival powers from such an economic benefit. As trade through the sea's is quite expensive and time taking, therefore, trade through rail-road links not only save time but also cost effective. Every Global and Regional player has his own version of Silk road/route. According to Praveen swami:

The US route is combination of modern highways, rail links, and energy pipelines running across Central Asia, as a way of preparing Afghanistan's economy, whereas China's NSR is based on three main corridors across the Eurasian continent, called the Eurasian Land Bridge, which serves as the main arteries from which offshoot rails, highways, and pipelines will be built. China has totally left out Afghanistan from its project, thinking that this land will remain unstable, while US project stands on the foundation of promoting Afghanistan and linking developments in South Asia and Central Asia through Afghanistan. The United States' New Silk Road left out Iran due to obvious reasons; while the original Silk Road has Iran as its greatest component, with Afghanistan as on off shoot. [35] 

Another version of Silk route was being worked out by India, Russia and Iran. The International North South Transport Corridor was founded by aforementioned nations which were motivated with the aspiration to link Central Asia, Russia and Europe. However, the project could not be materialized due to multifarious problems in Iran i.e. lack of infrastructure, international sanctions and Iran-US tensions. However, India is inclined to work with any state which can provide her a spring board to access resource rich Central Asian republics. [36] 


India's main foreign policy objective is to achieve Regional power status. However, it depends greatly on its relationship with US and other power nodes. Besides US, China's rise also poses challenges to India's dominance and invites competition. Energy security is another area, which clearly influences India's foreign policy due to rapid economic growth. [37] The manner in which India's foreign policy has evolved in 21st century is a clear indication of sensible decision-making over idealist thinking.


In retrospect, Indo-US relations generally remained at odds, mainly because of divergence of interests on international issues and cold war dynamics. However, the relationship fostered during the first decade of 21st century (2005-09), mainly due to the convergence of interests w.r.t containing the emerging Chinese power and Terrorism. Civil-nuclear agreement is considered one of the facets of China containment strategy. In turn, India's unconditional support for US in its Campaign against terrorism further strengthened the relations. According to Raja M khan:

India as a linchpin in US defense strategy that is aimed at re-balancing its forces in Asia-Pacific region. Perhaps this was a riposte to President Barrack Obama's earlier statement in Indian Parliament that ties between US and India - the world's two largest democracies - would be the defining partnership of 21stcentury'. Implicit in these statements is the recognition of both the big powers that fast-growing India could well be a decisive influence in the future power equation, at least in Asia. [38] 


As far as India is concerned, it is very active to play its role in the New Great game. India is aware of its significance as an important regional player and its economic/political interests Vis a Vis Afghanistan and CAR's. Therefore, it is investing heavily for reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan. Currently, India is one of the biggest donors of Afghanistan; both states have signed many treaties and agreements of cooperation, which indicates long-term interests of India in the region. India wants to marginalize Pakistan's influence in the region to secure its access to CARs natural resources. [39] Furthermore, US after drawing down the forces from Afghanistan requires a reliable ally who can look after its long term interests in the region, India is perfectly capable to undertake the said task. According to Iram Khalid:

Since 2001, India has been involved in many developmental projects in Afghanistan i.e. construction of road networks, Salma Dam power project etc. During the visit of Hamid Karzia to Delhi, India and Afghanistan signed preferential trade agreement, according to which 38 items that Afghanistan exports to India have been given 100% tariff concessions. In addition, role and number of Indian consulates in Afghanistan is also very controversial, as these are considered as training camps of RAW to fuel insurgency in Baluchistan. [40] 

Although, Indians and Afghanistan Ambassadors in Pakistan deny any such involvement but situation is far more complicated than claimed. [41] 


Political and Strategic: India has always looked for a significant role in Afghan affairs. The objectives of India's heavy investment in Afghanistan are to increase her influence in Afghanistan for secure access to CARs, limit Chinese dominance and marginalize Pakistan in the region. US attack on Afghanistan has also provided India an opportunity to pursue its foreign policy goals in the region. [42] In addition, India's leased military base in Tajikistan (Farkhor) is a deliberate effort and testimony of her ill designs to tactically encircle Pakistan, as war planes from the said base can reach Pakistan within few minutes. [43] India depends on Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan for access to energy resources in CARs and pursuing import of gas from Turkmenistan via TAPI (see Annex E).However, execution of project depends upon stability in Afghanistan, which is not forthcoming. Growing energy demands of India will force her to realize the project in early time frame.

Economics: India is heavily investing in reconstruction, rehabilitation and communication projects in Afghanistan. Even if pipeline project does not come through, exploration of minerals / oil etc and trade opportunities with regional countries would be still very lucrative motives for India to stay in Afghanistan. India is presently relying on Iranian port Chabahar for its trade to Afghanistan / CARs; however, it is now pursuing Pakistan for trade access through Wagha border. [44] India also intends signing preferential agreement with CARs on same lines concluded with Afghanistan.

India is sixth-largest crude oil consumer and the ninth-largest oil importer, relying on other countries for more than 70 percent of its oil, which is increasing 2.9 percent per year, reaching 5.6 mbd in 2030. Besides reaching out to CARs for new energy sources, India has also factored in northern Afghanistan's substantial resources of minerals, oil and gas reserves, which are reported to be 5 to 36.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and up to 100-200 million barrels of oi1 [45] .

Internal and External Security Centric: India is a huge country and has deep security concerns on both internal and external fronts. The Jammu and Kashmir insurgency has corresponded with the rise of the Taliban. The Taliban's involvement was also revealed in fueling insurgencies and terrorism activities in India. Internally, India is facing many rebellion movements of Sikhs, Mao and Kashmir movement. A friendly and stable government in Afghanistan can lessen India's security concerns. [46] 

Sociological: Indians are very keen to promote their Culture and Hinduism in the region as part of their Akhand Bharat dream. Due increased involvement in Afghanistan/CARs, Indians will effectively use cultural diplomacy to achieve political ends. [47] 


Diplomatic Missions in Afghanistan:

Earlier, India had a consulate at Mazar Sharif besides its embassy in Kabul. Taking advantage of the goodwill it enjoys with Afghan administration, it has recently established three more consulates at Jalalabad and Kandahar with basic objective to support rebellious segments in Balochistan and FATA. [48] 

Military Presence and Influence in Afghanistan:

India is aspiring for greater military presence and influence in Afghanistan to accrue greater strategic advantage against Pakistan. Such an Indian desire can come very handy for US in their exit strategy. US administration has already offered India to join Afghanistan bandwagon by employing regular troops. India completed refurbishment of a Military base at Ayni-Farkhor Tajikistan in Mar 2007 costing US $ 10 M. Initial plans were aimed at deploying 12-14 MiG-29 fighters; however, in final outcome MI-17 helicopters have been deployed at the base. Indian intent is best described in the words of an Indian analyst, "A base at Ayni allows India rapid response to any emerging threat from volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan arc." [49] 

Capacity Building of Afghan Armed Forces (ANA):

One of an important objective of India is to develop strong military relations with Afghan Armed forces. Apart from combined exchange exercises programs and training commitments, India is also very keen to provide defense assistance to Afghan National Armed forces. Following assistance has been provided so far.

a. Technical assistance for repair / maintenance of grounded aircraft (mostly MIG-21) of Afghan Air Force

b. Training of ANA and pilots in Afghanistan and India.

c. Provided more than US$ 20M worth of military equipment to ANA, which includes 300 military trucks, jeeps, misc security equipment etc.

d. Deployment of troops for security of Indian consulates and vital installations in Kandahar, Ningarhar and Kabul. Estimated Indian Army / intelligence presence in Afghanistan is about 5000-8000 troops. [50] 

Development and Reconstruction Activities:

Besides assisting Afghanistan in rehabilitation efforts, India has managed to influence Afghan people using cultural heritage and people-to-people contacts. "India is one of the largest donors in Afghanistan having pledged US$ 750 M out of which US $ 204 M have already been disbursed. US $100 M are planned to be spent in next three years for community based small development projects". [51] Indian involvement in Afghanistan can be summarized into three broad categories, short term high visibility welfare projects, long term infrastructure development and covert intelligence / diplomatic overtures. The first two are aimed at earning goodwill and creating conducive environment for accruing maximum benefits out of the last one i.e. covert ops.

Long Term Projects: India is involved in long-term projects like electricity transmission; hydro-electric power generation, road construction, industry and agriculture to kick start Afghanistan's energy and services sectors. Details are as under:

Salma Dam Power Project: India has recently completed 42 MW Salma Dam Power Project in Herat at US$ 110 M.

Construction of Zaranj - Delaram Road: Due to Pakistan's denial to India for trade and transit rights for Afghanistan and beyond through its territory, India has constructed 218 KMs road in remote SW corner of Afghanistan at US$ 84 M. The road is of little use to Afghanistan and has been primarily constructed to link Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway with Iranian road network for transportation of Indian goods using Chahbahar Port. In addition, construction of Jalalabad-Asadabad-Asmar Road has recently been completed at the cost of US$ 40 M.

Construction of New Parliament Building: Afghanistan's new parliament building has been completed at an estimated cost of US $ 75 M. [52] 

High-Visibility Short Term projects: Most of these are high-visibility low cost projects with maximum community participation to achieve desired socio-cultural effects [53] .

Indian Covert Operations in Afghanistan:

Militancy, suicidal attacks, bomb blasts, target killings, sectarian strife, and ethnic violence are not some random instances but are part of a systematic and well organized operation. In fact, Pakistan is being subjected to methodically planned and professionally executed covert war. [54] "Ever since, domination of Northern Alliance in government affairs, RAW has become fully entrenched in Afghanistan. Backed by Afghan Intelligence Agency, Mossad, CIA and others, it is aiding and abetting insurgency in Balochistan, FATA and terrorists activities in urban centers." [55] Salient are as under:

RAW and RAAM: RAAM (Hindu god) has recently organized Afghan intelligence agency under close supervision and guidance of RAW. A large number of RAW personnel and agents are operating in Afghanistan in close collaboration with RAAM. Both the agencies are extensively involved in recruiting suitable youth for their ulterior motives. [56] 

Use of Diplomatic Cover: Indian embassy in Kabul and Consulates in Afghanistan are serving as launching pads for covert operations against Pakistan. Leading political figures in government are in league with RAW, providing weapons to sub-nationalists in Balochistan especially in Dera Bugti, Sui, Kohlu, Panjgur and Turbat areas. Indian delegations are regularly hosted by Afghan MOl to hold meetings with Baloch tribal elders. Moreover, many Bangladeshi come from India to Kabul on valid Afghan visas for onward journey to Iran but are directed towards Pakistan by Indian Embassy / consulates with the plans to conduct terrorist acts. [57] 

Siphoning Explosives into Pakistan: Indians transported several thousand tons of explosive from Tajikistan for construction of Salma Dam in Herat. Considerable chunk of that explosive was later siphoned into FATA by RAW / RAAM for terrorist activities [58] .

Training of NSAs in Afghanistan: Credible reports indicate that RAW has established several training camps in Afghanistan in collaboration with Northern Alliance. These camps are being used for militant training to Bugti/Marri Ferraris and other anti-state elements in bomb blasts, weapons/explosives handling etc. [59] 

Identified Crossing Points used by RAW: Two crossing points used by RAW for launching and retrieval of Baloch sub-nationalists are:

(1) Mastung - Panjpai - Shorawak and Kandahar

(2) Noshki - Killi Zaro - Dist Reg - Shorawak - Spin Boldak and Kandahar. [60] 




Having discussed the New Great Game and the nature of Indian involvement in Afghanistan, this chapter will generally focus on the regional responses to Indian involvement along with its implications for Pakistan in particular. Of significant concern are the repercussions associated with enhanced Indian presence in Afghanistan especially after the expected drawdown of ISAF forces post 2014. At present, "the increased Indian presence in Afghanistan is receiving multiple responses globally and regionally. On international level USA, Britain and Russia are supporting while regional players such as Pakistan and China are containing Indian presence in Afghanistan. Iran on the other hand occupies an intricate position". [61] Regional responses to Indian involvement are briefly discussed below:


The regional stake holders in Afghanistan include Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Central Asian Republics and India. The enhanced Indian presence in Afghanistan is viewed by some as a positive step in stabilizing the war hardened region. However, few of the regional countries see it as an indication of Indian hegemonic designs which may likely disturb the balance of power in the region and cause instability in South Asia. Interestingly, the type and magnitude of response to Indian presence depends on the nature of Indian relations deeply rooted in past dispositions with its Southern and Central Asian neighbors.

Russians on Indian involvement:

Russian response to the greater Indian presence is naturally predictable keeping in view its formidable relations and consistent alliance with the former super power. Russia and India always enjoys cordial relations with each other. Therefore, it seriously endorses the presence of India and considers it to be a helpful element in stability of Afghanistan. Russia always supported India on all international forums and vital issues. India and Russia have reiterated their common position on Afghanistan and agreed to step up cooperation in the region. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told journalists after talks in Moscow that, "Russia has expressed support for a greater role by India in Afghanistan, saying that both Russia and India were on the same side in their fight against international terrorism." [62] 

China on Indian involvement:

China views Indian increased presence in Afghanistan backed by United States with suspicion. Keeping in view its past hostilities with both US and India, it is cognizant to the implications of Indian hegemonic designs in the wake of US departure from this region. "Chinese foreign policy in Afghanistan is also interlinked with Pakistan, both Policies enacted to ensure economic access across the region and to counter both U.S. and Indian influence in the region, which would have a negative effect on a growing China." [63] China wants stability in Afghanistan in order to further its own economic and security interests. Their policy focuses mostly on financial support for the UN mission, protecting China's investments and personnel in the region, and maintaining a strong alliance with Pakistan. China has a declaratory policy which allows it to contribute more but is still waiting on a clear strategy. "China's level of engagement will remain constrained, however, by its own national interests. Chinese analysts predict Indian domination of the region supported by United States and warn of possible encirclement, with U.S and Indian military buildup remaining near China's borders." [64] 

Iran on Indian involvement:

Iran occupies an intricate position over the magnitude of Indian involvement in Afghanistan. Keeping in view its cordial relations with both the Government of Kabul and India, it endorses the Indian role in terms of development and constructional projects inside Afghanistan but at the same time it does not want India to dominate the regional balance of power. Moreover, it also views US presence in the region with suspicion and considers the development of INDO-US alliance as unfavorable for its national interests.

Relations of India and Iran can be traced back to "New Stone Age", both shares significant cultural, linguistic and ethnic characteristics.

Both states wants to minimize the dependence of land locked states of Afghanistan on Pakistan that's why work is underway to link Afghanistan to the Iranian port of Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman, which would alleviate Afghan dependence on the Pakistani port of Karachi, India has also its share in construction of this port. [65] This highway will allow India to transport its exportable goods into Afghanistan via the Iranian port, negating the current trade agreement with Pakistan that India's commerce moves overland through Pakistan into Afghanistan. [66] 

Apart from the cooperation both states have differences too, Iran wants the abrupt withdrawal of NATO forces from the Afghanistan while presence of NATO and US in Afghanistan is vital for the national interests of India. Moreover, another stumbling block between the relations of both countries prevails due to Indian stance on Iran's nuclear program. India cannot afford to favor Iran nuclear plan by going against the will of US and UN." [67] 

CAR's on Indian involvement:

Central Asian republics generally support Indian influence in Afghanistan. According to Baktybek Beshimov ex-ambassador to Kirgizstan, "The influential part of Central Asia's elite to this day views India through Moscow's lens, which constrains their international relations thinking to the somewhat authoritarian and "look-at-big-brothers mentality." [68] 

Additionally, there exists variety of views in the capitals of Central Asia:

…Astana is very grateful that India was one of the first countries to support Nursultan Nazarbaev's idea to establish the Conference on the Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA)…Dushanbe is open about its willingness to strengthen strategic, even military, relations with India. Uzbekistan has been focusing on trade, security and cultural relations with India. No doubt, the gas-rich Turkmenistan will be happy to export its gas to India and is extremely excited to diversify its energy sales…. [69] 

Thus, all Central Asian countries have very positive views of India and both sides have common goals and interests in strengthening strategic partnerships.


India's growing influence in Afghanistan is creating problems among military and political elites in Pakistan. In addition, the overwhelming support of NATO and US to Indian presence in Afghanistan is upsetting balance of power in the region. Policy makers in Pakistan view Indian designs in Afghanistan as a plan to derail security of Pakistan. However, stable Afghanistan is a political and strategic priority for Pakistan. [70] Mr. Dalrymple adds: "The stage is now open for a deal whereby India could agree to minimize its presence in Afghanistan - which it could accept as Pakistan's sphere of influence - in return for Pakistan withdrawing its longstanding sponsorship of the Kashmir jihad, which it could accept as India's domain." [71] 

General Stanley McChrystal, former Commander ISAF forces in Afghanistan, stated in 2009 that "the current Afghanistan government is perceived by Islamabad as pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan." [72] Pakistan has following concerns over the growing Indian influence in Afghanistan:

National Security concerns:

Pak-Indo relations have always remained a zero sum game .Since last sixty years; the foreign relations between both nuclear nations have remained hostile mainly because of the land disputes that arose upon their partition. This has resulted in three major wars and tense developments over the disputed territory of Kashmir. "Speculations that both countries are executing a proxy war in Afghanistan in order to gain strategic advantage over the other are prevalent". [73] The growing Indian-Afghan alliance has enhanced Pakistan's fear that "India hopes to use Afghanistan to reacquire the subcontinent land mass that was formerly part of its nation." [74] Accordingly, such developments have heightened Pakistan's national insecurities. J. Alexander Their (director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace) commented about the regional dynamics:

Pakistan has existential concerns about Indian involvement in Afghanistan, as they see it as a form of encirclement aimed at the weakening or dismemberment of Pakistan. Pakistan relies on Afghanistan for 'strategic depth'-it would support Pakistan in the event of another war with India, including providing a retreat area for overwhelmed conventional forces. [75] 

For Pakistan, India's intrusion in Afghan affairs poses a dangerous threat to its existence. Pakistan's perspective on this issue can be gauged through a political background. Since the unfavorable outcome for Pakistan during 1971 war with India, it had been trying hard to obtain "strategic depth" in Afghanistan.

Simply stated this has involved the search for a pliant Afghan regime that Pakistan could count upon to provide the Pakistani military sufficient geographical space in the event of a deep Indian incursion into Pakistani territory during a future conflict. This argument had some veracity until the late 1980s. However, once Pakistan had acquired an incipient nuclear deterrent, the argument about "strategic depth" lacked much substance. With its nascent nuclear weapons capabilities, Pakistan could effectively ensure that Indian could no longer mount a serious conventional offensive against it. [76] 

Pakistan believes that India is using soft power tactics in Afghanistan to prevent the formation of a pro-Pakistani Afghan government. Pakistan views this endeavor by India as an effort to gain strategic advantage in a possible future conflict. The empirical evidence for such concerns is prevalent to the fact that India has opened six consulates in Afghanistan and an embassy in Kabul since 2001. Additionally, "India's employment of more than 4,000 Indian citizens in Afghanistan to work on development and reconstruction projects perpetuates Pakistani suspicions of India's intent. Pakistan assumes that these projects serve India's strategic goals of developing a pro-Indian Kabul." [77] 

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