Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] India’s Afghan Policy

U.S. President recently said that Countries like India, Iran, Russia and Turkey would have to fight against terrorists in Afghanistan, which came after he indicated that the U.S. forces would not completely withdraw from Afghanistan.
By IT's Video Summary Team
September 03, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Background
  • How did India help Afghanistan in fighting against terrorism?
  • India’s stand in Afghanistan
  • Influence of Taliban and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
  • Why did US wants to have residual force in Afghanistan?
  • External factors influencing Afghanistan
  • Suggestions
  • Way Ahead

[RSTV The Big Picture] India’s Afghan Policy

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  • US President recently said that Countries like India, Iran, Russia and Turkey would have to fight against terrorists in Afghanistan at some point of time as the job against terrorism was being done only by the United States.
  • He also said that US forces would not completely withdraw from Afghanistan and it would have somebody there to make sure that the Taliban does not regain control.
  • He accused India and Pakistan for not doing enough against terrorism in Afghanistan.
  • He also said the U.S. was holding thousands of European IS fighters and European countries had to take those prisoners captured by US otherwise would release them into the countries from which they came which is Germany and France.


  • The US-Taliban problems began when Taliban gave hospitality to Osama Bin Laden, which resulted in a series of four coordinated terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 in US. This is the reason why US went to Afghanistan to counter terrorism.
  • The primary objective of US in Afghanistan is to protect Afghanistan from becoming a base for international terrorism, which can adversely affect US interests.
  • Hence, US is demanding form the Taliban that the Taliban should not permit the use of the territory under their control by the international terrorist groups.

How did India help Afghanistan in fighting against terrorism?

India has been helping against terrorism in Afghanistan indirectly,

  • By helping Afghan government to rehabilitate
  • By being good friend of afghans by showing that India’s and Afghan’s interests coincide.
  • By promoting the development of Afghanistan, by taking away large number of youth form the terrorism.

India’s stand on Afghanistan

  • Earlier, as per US, apart from the developmental purposes, India should not intervene in military issues such as providing weapons to Afghanistan. This is due to the fact that military intervention of India in Afghanistan was not in favor of Pakistan as well as of US.

There are two views on whether India should intervene in Afghanistan or not:

1) If India did not fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, terrorists will come in Kashmir valley and India have to fight against them in Kashmir. Hence, it is better to fight with them in Afghanistan instead of in India.

2) Given the adverse terrain of Afghanistan, putting troops in Afghanistan is not sustainable and require more number of troops. Moreover, providing logistics to the Indian troops will be a nightmare. Even Afghans will not be happy with Indian military intervening in their region.  

Also, the US has trained and financed almost 300,000 afghan security personnel, who did not deliver as expected. Hence, it is a disaster for India if it goes in Afghanistan with combat presence.

Influence of Taliban and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

  • The factions (such as ISIS), separating form the main rebel groups, often occur in complex long term internal wars, as seen in the Columbia, Philippines and many other countries.
  • Pakistan is now realizing that once the Talban enters in the power sharing agreement with afghan government, as a part of the US peace process, they will not be able to control Afghanistan as before.
  • Hence, Pakistan is looking on ISIS to control Afghanistan, especially in the eastern part such as Nangarhar region of Afghanistan. Moreover, the haqqani network (Afghan guerrilla insurgent group), which is close to Pakistan, is also now the part of Afghan-ISIS factions.
  • In fact, as per the afghan intelligence, the recent bomb blast in a wedding ceremony in Afghanistan was enabled by the Pakistani military.
  • Both ISIS and Taliban wants the dominance in Afghanistan by enforcing Sharia rules. On the other hand, Afghanistan government wants to run as per Afghan constitution. This contradicting approach will make any peace deal unsustainable.

Why did US wants to have residual force in Afghanistan?

  • In July 2019, US president announced that US will be fully out of Afghanistan by September 1, 2019. However, the US president recently said that the US forces would not completely withdraw from Afghanistan.
  • There are two views within US towards Afghanistan. First is to have permanent power in Afghanistan while second is to pull out from there.
  • The US president wants to pull out from Afghanistan and want to show US citizens that he pulled out the US from Afghanistan and bring peace dividend to US. However, some US states demand permeant power in Afghanistan.
  • This two track presidency led to the compromise solution of having residual forces in Afghanistan, in which US is neither full in or fully out of Afghanistan.
  • This will increase the influence of ISIS as they are attacking people on sectarian grounds unlike Taliban who follows nationalist movement. Moreover, this will also increase the control of Pakistan as there is a strong link between Pakistani Taliban and ISIS factions within Afghanistan.

External factors influencing Afghanistan

  • The only country that can majorly influence Pakistan is China as the China is now the lifeline of Pakistan.
  • In 2018, after the first Wuhan summit, India and China agreed on a ‘China-India Plus one’ or China-India-X cooperation’ model in Afghanistan, in which China and India together decided to train afghan troops.
  • India and China can jointly restrain Pakistan from interfering in Afghanistan. In this context, china has the major influence power on Pakistan as Pakistan owes debt to China in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
  • However, one view is that china is not doing enough against terrorism in Afghanistan due to the fear of Islamic terrorist in Xinjiang provenance of china.
  • The US pressure on Pakistan has failed as US’s withdrawal of all of its forces from Pakistan and occasionally threating Pakistan against terrorism did not made any behavioral change in the Pakistani attitude.
  • However, there are some civil societies which is opposing the informal military dictatorships of Pakistan. For instance, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) opposes the barbaric behavior of the Pakistani military force in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. PTM is being also praised for their genuine humanitarian cause. Hence, India should focus on such anti-terror sectors of Pakistan.


  • India need to train afghan army on Indian territory and send back them to Afghanistan as a units of packages. For Instance, India can train some Afghan military personnel as a helicopter pilots and make a helicopter unit in Afghanistan along with providing helicopters.
  • One of the problem with afghan army is that their commandos have very short tenure of 5-7 years. Hence, India can provide support by training their commandos, equip them and send back to Afghanistan as part of a special mission. Moreover, the life of trained troops sent from India should be protected similar to the Indian soldiers.
  • However, from the US experience of failing afghan troops, there is an another view that training and sending security personal back to Afghanistan is a waste of resources.
  • The Indian approach should be towards building excellent relations with whoever is in power in Afghanistan. At the same time, India should not ignore Taliban factor, as in some case, Taliban is more important than the Afghan government.
  • Currently, India is training about 1000 military officers every year. This needs to be expand.
  • India need to think about central Asian republics around Afghanistan as India has very strong ties with these countries. Moreover, India should also need to take aid from shanghai cooperation organisation (SCO).
  • US could not resolve the afghan issue because the support to terrorism was coming from Pakistan. In contrast, Sri Lanka resolve their battel because they isolated the battlefield. Hence, India needs to isolate the Afghanistan in order to resolve the conflict.
  • As Afghanistan is poor and needs $3 billion dollar annually to sustain its army, India needs to support afghan army financially.
  • India needs to quickly mobiles cooperative security mechanism within central and south Asia, such as South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), in place as a backup plan to avoid the possible takeover of afghan region by unwanted elements.

Way Ahead

  • The best way forward, in short term, is to engage everyone in Afghanistan while maintaining support to the afghan government.
  • If India is invited to the Intra-Afghan dialogue as observer, India should not show any reluctance in attending it, as US may want India to be present there.
  • China will not influence Pakistan to stop their interventions in Afghanistan. Hence, India need to sensitize the world that the problem of Afghanistan lies in Pakistan.
  • India has the greatest amount of goodwill in Afghanistan. However, it can be easily diminished if the wrong party comes in power.


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