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India and Afghanistan: Positioning for Withdrawal

November 9, 2011

Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan signed a wide-ranging Strategic Partnership Agreement in New Delhi. Karzai’s visit came shortly after the assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was the head of the Afghan High Peace Council. Following this latest killing of a prominent Afghan leader by the Taliban, Karzai announced he was adopting a new approach on peace efforts with a shift toward talking to Pakistan instead of reconciliation efforts with the Taliban: “We are involved with the governments and not the forces that depend on them, that is why we should talk to the governments who make the decisions.”

The signing was Afghanistan’s first strategic partnership agreement with any country. Most significantly, the agreement included provisions for India to train and equip Afghan security forces to fill what the Afghan government fears will be critical gaps as NATO troops leave in the years ahead. The agreement also calls for closer “cooperation in the area of national security,” to be led by the respective national security advisers. And the agreement deals with the prospect of regional economic cooperation and envisions Afghanistan emerging “as a trade, transportation, and energy hub connecting Central and South Asia and enabling free and more unfettered transport and transit linkages.”

In sum, said an editorial in Mail Today, the Singh-Karzai summit in New Delhi provided the “evolving contours of India’s Afghanistan policy. It shows that New Delhi is determined to remain a player in Afghanistan…even if the United States abandons the region.”

Download a PDF of the full article, originally published in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ “U.S.-India Insight” November newsletter.

Asia Foundation trustee Karl F. Inderfurth is the former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs and a senior advisor and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at CSIS. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

View all posts by Amer S. Latif

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