India's Afghan Policy: Beyond Bilateralism

Smruti S. Pattanaik is Research Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • July 2012

    The India–Afghanistan relationship is not a simple bilateral engagement. India's Afghan policy is driven by, and is dependent on, many extraneous factors such as India's troubled relationship with Pakistan, its search for a land transit to Central Asia through Iran and Afghanistan and its concerns regarding use of Afghan territory by Pakistan to the detriment of Indian interests. Given the geographical constraints, India has relied on Iran for land access to Afghanistan. This has been complicated by Iran–US relations —the two countries with whom India shares common interests. India has also tried to address Pakistani apprehensions regarding its engagement in Afghanistan. Its decision to resume bilateral dialogue in spite of domestic pressures against any such initiative post-Mumbai and the inclusion of Balochistan in the joint statement issued at Sharm-al-Sheikh in 2009 are part of New Delhi's policy to build confidence with Islamabad. Simultaneously, India has gained enormous political capital through its economic engagement with other countries of the region. This is likely to help it to sustain its presence in Afghanistan after 2014, when the Taliban may well be a part of the government in Kabul.