Afghanistan has emerged as a platform for new possibilities in India-China cooperation. This development has huge strategic implications. Not only will it improve trust between New Delhi and Beijing, but it can contribute significantly towards peace and the development of war-ravaged Afghanistan. India and China are likely to hold a bilateral dialogue very soon to identify projects that can lead to improvement in the lives of Afghan citizens.
India’s engagement with Afghanistan has been significant since 2001, with New Delhi investing considerably in many capacity-building projects for the Afghan state. The Kabul regime believes India’s involvement is crucial for Afghanistan’s long-term viability. The Modi government has extended vital economic and political support to the regime led by President Ashraf Ghani.
While New Delhi is of the view that any negotiation between the Afghan government and the Taliban to end the conflict must be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned,” without any outside interference to dictate terms, Pakistan’s security establishment continues to thwart all efforts at finding a sustainable means towards lasting peace in Afghanistan. In pursuit of its policy of having a pliant regime in Kabul, Islamabad has never stopped nurturing terror groups in Afghanistan. The use of terrorist proxies is justified by Pakistan to pursue its “legitimate” security concerns.
Islamabad’s exaggerated fear that New Delhi wants to cultivate the Kabul government so as to trap Pakistan militarily has led it to oppose Indian involvement in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s military establishment frequently levels unfounded allegations of an Indo-Afghan nexus stoking ethnic Baloch and Pashtun separatist movements in Pakistan.
There have been many instances of kidnappings and attacks on Indian workers in Afghanistan aimed at frightening India into leaving the country. In particular, a car bomb attack near the Indian embassy compound in Kabul in July 2008 that killed fifty people, including India’s defense attaché, was the handiwork of the Haqqani, a network that is responsible for increasingly deadly terror attacks in Afghanistan. The Afghan government openly accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of having a hand in the attack.