Drawing Kabul into a closer embrace

Updated - November 26, 2021 10:23 pm IST

Published - June 04, 2016 01:31 am IST

India’s policy of deepening its engagement in the post-Taliban Afghanistan through economic reconstruction will mark a milestone when Prime Minister Narendra > Modi inaugurates a dam built with Indian aid in Herat province . The 42 MW dam, with an investment of over $275 million, will boost the agricultural and industrial sectors of Herat, one of the few success stories in this war-torn country. The project underlines India’s resolve to sharpen its profile in the region. The Herat visit comes close on the heels of a regional corridor agreement > Mr. Modi signed with Iranian and Afghan leaders in Tehran, under which India will finance the development of Iran’s Chabahar port, which will be linked to Afghan road networks.

India’s interest in seeing Afghanistan move towards greater peace and prosperity cannot be overstated. India is one of the closest regional powers that has invested in institution and infrastructure building in Afghanistan. For India, Afghanistan has immense strategic potential. Besides the infrastructure work India has initiated and completed, it has also signed the > TAPI pipeline project that aims to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. More important, a friendly, stable regime in Kabul is geopolitical insurance against Pakistan’s deep state. Both countries share concerns about Pakistan’s good-terrorist-bad-terrorist nuancing. Afghanistan is currently going through a particularly turbulent transition. The government in Kabul has been stretched in trying to stop Taliban advances over the past few months. President Ashraf Ghani seems to have realised that a complete military victory is improbable. In fact, Mr. Modi goes to Afghanistan at a time when > Mr. Ghani is openly targeting Pakistan for supporting the Taliban . This raises the question of whether New Delhi’s engagement should be limited to infrastructure development or whether it should expand its relationship. Lately, India has signalled a small shift in its policy by delivering M-25 attack helicopters to Kabul. But it remains cautious about making larger overtures on security and is wary of being sucked into a never-ending war. Such caution is required. But it should not deter India from playing a bigger role in a country whose stability is vital for its regional ambitions and whose people traditionally count India as a well-meaning friend. As the Chabahar agreement brought together India, Afghanistan and Iran, New Delhi should work to bring together more regional powers invested in Afghanistan’s stability and economic development.

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