USA Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Implications for India UPSC IAS Target

USA Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Implications for India UPSC

07 Nov 2019

Category : International Relations

Topic: USA Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Implications for India UPSC

Bilateral relations between India and Afghanistan have remained strong and friendly over the decades. India and Afghanistan had been historical neighbours, and share cultural ties through cricket and Bollywood. The Republic of India was the only South Asian country to identify the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s, though relations were reduced during the 1990s Afghan civil war and the Taliban government. Indians are working on various construction projects, as part of India's rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan claims the Indian intelligence agency R&AW (Research and analysis wing) is working in cover to malign Pakistan and train and support insurgents, a claim rejected strongly by the United States and India, the latter historically being a strong ally of Pakistan.

Indian Diaspora in Afghanistan

Presently, there are estimated to be about 2500 Indians in the country, though only about 850 are registered with the Mission. Most of the Indian Diaspora is engaged as professionals in Banks, Govt. of India sponsored projects, IT firms, Construction companies, NGOs, Hospitals, Telecom companies, Security companies, Universities, Govt. of Afghanistan and UN Missions. The Mission interacts closely with the Indian citizens, assisting them to resolve their problems, and routinely invites them to attend National & Embassy functions.

India-Afghanistan Development Partnership

  • An agreement on exemption from Visa requirement for holders of diplomatic passports was signed.
  • Extradition Treaty, the agreement on cooperation in civil and commercial matters, and the Memorandum of Understanding (mou) on Cooperation in Peaceful uses of outer space were signed.
  • In continuation of India’s development support to Afghanistan, the Government of India approved the 3rd phase of Small Development Projects comprising of 92 projects.
  • India also announced an additional USD 1 billion assistance for capability building in spheres such as skill development, agriculture, women’s empowerment, health, education, energy, infrastructure, and strengthening of democratic institutions of Afghanistan.
  • On 4 June 2016, Prime Minister visited Herat in western Afghanistan along with President Ghani and they jointly inaugurated the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, formerly known as Salma Dam. It also highlights India's continued commitment to Afghanistan's reconstruction and development.
  • India also proclaimed that on-going programmes for education, capacity building, skills, and human resource development of Afghanistan, one of the largest such programmes in the world, will continue for the next five years from 2017 to 2022.
  • It was also stressed that prompt implementation of the trilateral agreement involving Iran, signed in May 2016, which would use Chahbahar port to augment connectivity in the region.
  • These important investments will be in the fields of education, health, drinking water, agriculture, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydro power, irrigation, sports, and administrative infrastructure.

The two sides agreed to expand and enhance cooperation in the field of education & human resource capacity development, including through expanded opportunities for training and education for Afghan students in India and an extension of the ongoing Small Development Projects (SDPs) scheme for grass-root level development in all parts of Afghanistan, especially distant and rural areas, and for the welfare, particularly of Afghan women and children.

Afghanistan after the USA and NATO withdrawal

The United States has announced to completely pull out its forces from Afghanistan and has started delegating control of parts of the war-torn country to Afghan authorities. NATO will withdraw its troops after 13 years of fighting the war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. As a part of transferring power to the Afghan government, US forces have handed over charge Afghan troops. By the same token, on the political front, the US has also begun a discussion with the Taliban that has passed few phases of suspension and resumption but remains far away from success. Taliban launched their office in Qatar for holding talks with representatives of the Afghan government and the US, though, later the office was closed. Such steps clearly indicated the significance of the US handing over power to the Afghan government.

Implications of withdrawal of troops

Regional Security It is considered that after reduction/withdrawal of the coalition forces from Afghanistan, the militants would be re-organized and could warn the peace of the entire region by drawing the neighbouring countries in the war. Thus the reduction/withdrawal can endanger the stability of south and central Asia. History discloses that after the complete withdrawal of Soviet Union forces from Afghanistan in 1988, America ceased taking interest in Afghanistan and the fighters create their way to Pakistan-India eastern borders.
Afghan Forces The key question is:
Will the Afghan forces be able to discharge their responsibility effectively?
NATO´s withdrawal from Afghanistan can offer a golden opportunity to the Taliban to challenge the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) potential to keep the country intact. The ANSF will simultaneously combat on two fronts.
  • Firstly, it will fight against the Taliban, which will use all their power to re-take areas from the army in the remotest rural territories.
  • Secondly, the Taliban will try hard to eliminate the country´s internal security and political apparatus – the police, government, and the army by demoralizing and deserting the security forces.
The international community is prepared to help the Afghan forces by providing money, equipment, and training. But it is not known whether this help will be sustained over a longer period of time. There is also a possibility of the ANSF disintegrating along ethnic lines, in case the Taliban, a predominantly Pashtun-majority entity, successfully overruns Kabul after 2014.
Economy Afghanistan’s economy is fully dependent on foreign aid that has been cut down to a great extent. In case of instability, foreign investors can cease their projects in Afghanistan that will be a great blow to its economy. Afghanistan needs to stand on its own feet, which would be something very difficult for this war-torn country.

Afghanistan is decades away from self-sufficiency — it now covers only about 20 percent of its own bills, with the rest paid by the United States and its allies.
As the country is dependent upon help, therefore it has been less focused upon trade over the last decade. Vibrant trade ties with neighbouring countries could save Afghanistan's economy from sinking after 2014.

Afghanistan spent a very little amount of the foreign funds on its industrial sector. Afghanistan imports are larger than its exports, the biggest export of Afghanistan are dry fruit. Uncontrolled smuggling and corruption have almost ditched Afghanistan’s economy.
Political uncertainty Currently, Afghanistan has a very weak government. The upcoming presidential elections are very important because Afghanistan requires a strong leader to implement not only the writ of the government but also bridge the gap among the conflicting ethnic groups. Political parties are very weak in Afghanistan, and the Jihadi groups can again become vibrant. The Parliament is separated into disunited groups comprising of disgruntled elements, this disunity and hatred can pose a serious threat to the political situation in Afghanistan.
Pakistan Interference Pakistan interference can rise in Afghanistan. The stability of Afghanistan is closely intertwined with developments in neighboring Pakistan. Islamabad has assisted the Taliban in the past and once again stands accused by the United States of supporting the Taliban groups fighting ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

Some researchers argue that the Pakistan military actively succors the insurgents through funding, the provision of weapons, strategic planning, and through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency
Illegal drug trafficking Illicit drugs are one of the major problems that must be urgently addressed. Afghanistan remains by far the leading cultivator and producer of opium in the world. Poppy cultivation and illegal trafficking of opiates menace the health and well-being of people in the region and beyond. They fuel crime and corruption, weaken stability, and can be used to finance terrorist activity.

Possibilities for India

  • A stable Afghanistan is important to India’s security. Several Indian citizens have been killed on duty in Afghanistan, and the Indian embassy in Afghanistan
  • Afghanistan is imperative for the revival of the silk route that can be a gateway for India to Central Asia for trade and energy resources. In return, transit routes will generate substantial revenue for Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan is important for India’s energy security. India has vital economic interests in Afghanistan in terms of natural resources, i.e. iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and critical industrial metals like lithium and prospects for additional natural resources reserves in a war-torn country. Natural resources are very significant for the economic development of Afghanistan that primarily relies on international development assistance.

Challenges for India

  • Growing Chinese influence in Afghanistan has created a diplomatic challenge for India.
  • Growing terrorism in Afghanistan under influence of Al Qaeda and ISIS has created security concerns for India especially Pakistan motive to infiltrate them through Kashmir and other border areas.
  • India’s efforts to provide support to Afghanistan are hampered considerably by the lack of geographical contiguity and restricted access, also Pakistan bloc the route connecting to Afghanistan
  • In 2011 Afghanistan and Pakistan signed Afghanistan Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA) which has been restrictive in the bilateral trade between Afghanistan and India
  • The prevailing security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s continuing intervention in Afghan affairs and supporting militant by Pakistan's state agencies create hindrances in the development project by India.

Steps should be taken by India-

  • Reforms in Afghanistan political and institutional sphere like a transition to the parliamentary system, electoral process, political parties, opposition active role, etc. So the role of India is vital in judicial, political, electoral, and constitutional reforms
  • India can expand its role in training Afghan national security forces and assisting in the development of the institutions in judiciary, politics, and other spheres. India’s expertise in building counter militants operations in Jammu & Kashmir and reintegrating the militants in the mainstream could have some important parallels and lessons for security sector reform in Afghanistan.
  • India has always been vocal for afghan led-afghan own reintegration and reconciliation process and solution to the Afghanistan problem instead of the external party's role. Respect for Afghan constitution human and women rights and provisions for dialogue, autonomy, and special representation of minorities, women, and marginalised groups.
  • Afghanistan could adopt India's Panchayati Raj system which aids in the deepening of the democratic process on the ground level and provide an opportunity to the common man and a flourishing participatory democratic process.
  • India needs to further capitalise on its traditional, historical, social, and cultural capital. As part of counter-radicalization campaigns, messages of moderate Islam from the Deoband would be a good way to counter and neutralise the radical Wahhabi messages. Also, setting up of Pushtun centres in India and Hindi centres in Afghanistan would help in greater linguistic and cultural exchanges.
  • Natural resource exploitation, thermal power generation, and industrial development in the relatively stable north and west could provide a chance for employment for the youth. Moreover, India can help in the skill development of youth and vocational training. Social media platforms can also help afghan youth to get the education and innovative means for employment.
  • There is also an urgent need to establish industries to encourage economic independence and generate employment, which would actively engage the youth of the country. Need to focus on the development of domestic industry and manufacturing base. India could contribute to establishing small-scale industries like the carpet industry along with handicrafts and ornaments to help weavers, artisans, and craftsmen.
In spite of its many challenges, India-Afghan relations have been stronger than ever. Indian policy narrative of sustained reconstruction and concerted socio-economic development in Afghanistan has helped to bring peace and prosperity to this war-torn country. India’s investment in its relationship with Afghanistan has already paid off, as India’s constant developmental efforts and its aid and assistance programmes in Afghanistan have generated plenty of goodwill for India among the people in Afghanistan. As developments in Afghanistan will directly intrude in India’s security, and the search for the ‘end game’ quickens, New Delhi will have to strengthen its position as a grave stakeholder in the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan and as a partner in the nation-building process.