India & Afghanistan’s relations are decades old & have grown stronger & deeper. Both nations see each other as crucial geopolitics partners, & are also bound together by the shared problem of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
- India was the only South Asian country & the first non-communist country to recognize the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
- India aided the overthrow of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
- India has become the largest regional provider of humanitarian & reconstruction aid to the country.
- Roughly around 4000 Indian personnel are carrying out aid & construction projects in Afghanistan.
- Bilateral trade has almost doubled in a decade to $680 million in 2015.
- India has invested in Afghan infrastructure like power projects, mines, built over 400 miles of road, constructed a bronze Parliament & even an India-Afghan ‘friendship’ dam.
- India is also training the Afghan National Army.
- In December 2015, India donated 3 Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan as a part of a strategic partnership to counter the Taliban.
- India & Afghanistan signed a tripartite agreement with Iran to turn the Iranian port of Chabahar into a transit hub bypassing Pakistan.
- In 2016, Prime Minister Modi announced an additional aid of $1 billion to Afghanistan.
Money Can’t Buy Happiness
India & America are two nations which have huge economic involvement in Afghanistan. There’s a huge difference between the funds poured in by the two – By 2011, America had invested around $50 billion whereas India just over $1 billion. Yet, the Afghans trust & praise India more. Here’s why –
- Matiullah Kharoti, a political analyst in Afghanistan, says, “We have a long history of relations between Afghanistan & India. India is our only neighbour who doesn’t interfere in our internal affairs.”
- Afghan youth are involved in working on Indian medical & infrastructure projects. One of them had to say, “They (India) are working in Afghanistan on basic things like dams, roads & other things. But America doesn’t. Also whenever India starts a work or project here they complete it.”
- The prevailing view, or rather a complaint amongst Afghan people is that American projects are inefficient & poorly-funded. On the other hand India is better at developing projects that the Afghans want & appreciate.
- Matiullah Kharoti also says, “Afghans love India. In my experience India is better at implementing projects that the US. American projects suffer from inefficiency & bad planning.”
- In a poll conducted in 2011, 1 in 2 Afghans wanted the US to leave the country, whereas 3 in 4 Afghans wanted India to take its place.
These opinions will surely leave America in a dizzy as it has primarily been a nation that has funded its way into popular opinion. That sort of a strategy might have work for the Pakistanis but not the Afghans. The Afghans consider India a more trustworthy friend & rather approve of an Indian leadership that an American or a Chinese one.