The relations between India and Afghanistan underwent a sea change after the Taliban regime was overthrown. The new government in Afghanistan was a democratic one, and India sought to help it with aid and also played a major part in the various reconstruction-related projects. To date, the total worth of the aid provided by India has been estimated between 650 and 750 million US dollars. India has extended critical assistance in areas such as reconstruction of air links as well as power plants. It has also made an effort to revive the education and health sectors in Afghanistan through investment.
Infrastructural and soft skills support
Over the years, India has also provided training to civil servants, police officers and diplomats in Afghanistan, and awarded scholarships to the deserving students from this war-torn country. It is also looking to develop the supply lines of electricity, natural gas and oil in this country. The Border Roads Organization of India has built a road in Nimroz, which is a far-flung Afghan province. Through this road, Zaranj has now been connected to Delaram. The importance of this road lies in the fact that it will prove to be a viable substitute as far as movement of tax-free goods via the Iranian port of Chabahar to Afghanistan is concerned. One of India’s main strategies regarding Afghanistan is to develop transport avenues that will bypass Pakistan and thus reduce its dependence on Pakistan.
Afghanistan’s membership at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was proposed by India during 2005. In recent times, both the countries have been developing cooperation in military and strategic domains in order to counter the threat of Islamic insurgency. Afghanistan has had problems and repeated tensions with Pakistan, who it suspects is sheltering the Taliban. This also has encouraged Afghanistan to work more closely with India.
MOUs between India and Afghanistan
To date, India has signed several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Afghanistan in order to improve the level of cooperation in areas such as education and rural development. Then there is also the important issue of achieving some sort of standardisation between the Afghan National Standardisation Authority and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The countries have also inked pacts to improve business relations with each other.
The international peace-keeping forces are supposed to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, and this is expected to threaten internal security and governance. India has stated that it will wholeheartedly support Afghanistan in assuming this responsibility and executing it properly, and that it will be providing military training for the security officers of Afghanistan.
India is expected to provide more assistance to Afghanistan, after the NATO forces withdraw, through a number of projects. These include establishing iron ore mines, hydroelectric power projects, steel plants, transmission lines, power plants, roads etc. India and Iran are also supposed to sign a transit agreement that will help with transport of goods to the landlocked country.