Naser Koshan

Indian Assistance to Afghanistan (One Billion at a Time)


The largest democracy in the world does indeed have an even bigger heart when comes to reaching out to its neighbors in need, particularly the war torn Afghanistan. No doubt India and Afghanistan’s cordial bilateral relations go back to centuries; India has been a trustworthy and credible partner through thick and thin to Afghanistan, therefore the Afghan people have an exceptionally high regards for their Indian counterparts.


In a 21st century world, every single country needs to adopt a role model for its economic development and political security. Luckily Afghanistan has a privilege to follow the Indian suit in enriching its paled economic infrastructures as well as strengthen its fragile democratic institutions. Being at a crossroad between south and central Asia, Afghanistan can easily replicate and adopt proven reform policies from its strategic partner India.


Despite having major economic challenges at home, India, nonetheless, has been a true friend and a reliable partner to Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts post 2001, with a contribution of USD 3.0 billion; it has been one of the largest donors to Afghanistan.  Luckily with the assistance received, the Afghan government has been able to build numerous schools, pave roads and highways, rejuvenate major electric dams, as well as train a humongous number of civil servants and military officers in major Indian academic institutions.


On the other hand, as an emerging economic power, India is consciously aware of its pragmatic role in the region, and the expectations for its active political and economic engagements in this trade enriched geography of South Asia. There is a huge potential in this particular region which requires regional harmony and open togetherness. No doubt the whole region can hugely benefit from the Indian model in modernizing their trade policies, and market their domestic products in vastly growing Indian markets. But as we speak, the single biggest constraint that precludes the region from a robust economic integration is Islamic radicalism, which at the end of the day harms the victims and condolers equally.


On the global stage, India has moved on to playing a bigger league political engagement around the world. While apparently its adversary is still stuck with small league politics, harboring terror and exporting fanatics. Prime Minister Modi as a charismatic and prudent politician deeply understands the challenges and opportunities both India, Afghanistan and the region entail when it comes to their mutual national interests and regional harmony. They have repeatedly extended their goodwill and friendship to their common neighbor for a joint fight against terror, regretfully with no avail as yet. 


Coming back to Afghanistan, as a historic trading partner, afghan products enjoy special custom treatments in Indian markets. There is a niche market for Afghan fresh and dried fruits in Indian markets. Unfortunately in the past, the flow of  exports were constantly denied access to enter Indian markets via Pakistan’s WAGA port, luckily the recently signed agreement by the Indian and afghan officials to air transport the same to India certainly opens a new chapter of economic cooperation between the two countries.


For Afghanistan, India provides both the platform to train its civil and military personnel as well as equip its emerging armed forces with Indian made arsenals. Despite being concerned about the sensitivities indulged in military cooperation between the two states, India so far has graciously provided three combat mi-35 helicopters with the fourth in the pipeline to the Afghan air force command, which is deemed critical in effectively eliminating militants across Afghanistan.


Moreover the restoration of Salma Dam officially called the India-Afghanistan friendship dam with a price tag of 1,775 Indian crore is singlehandedly the most valuable gift of the Indian people to the Afghan nation. The goodwill and sincere assistance of the Indian government is highly plausible and critical to Afghanistan’s national survival and state building efforts.


Meanwhile, India built a brand new parliament for the country to symbolize its belief of a democratic and peaceful Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources provide a remarkable opportunity for Indian companies to dig in and initiate investment ventures. So far Indian private sector has been actively involved in these endeavors with more to step in soon.


On the other hand Indian expatriates and professionals are playing a pivotal role in shaping the Afghan economic endeavors; they are either in charge or advising their Afghan counterparts in private and public sectors simultaneously. The Afghan banking system has extremely benefited from the expertise provided by setting Indian CEOs who have gradually transferred their know how to their Afghan colleagues in the concerning fields.


Despite deterrence and visible intimidations to sabotage this healthy relation between the two countries, the leaders on both sides rightfully acknowledge the deep roots shaping this mutual bonding, which goes beyond regional politics and regardless of constant ill-fated intentions by their common neighbor. India aspires for a strong and stable Afghanistan, as Afghanistan is actively pursuing alternate routes to connect with regional economies and revive its historic silk route and transit hub status, India indeed is a key component in fulfilling this strategic objective.


The recent state visit of president Ghani to New Delhi and the concurrent agreements on strengthening trade ties, closer cooperation on extradition as well as intelligence sharing will have a huge impact on the prevailing war against terror. Both the leaders reiterated on joint cooperation on curbing terrorism which is the single biggest threat facing the region and their respective countries’ national security.


Needless to say India has provided Afghanistan’s national cricket team with a home ground to effectively assist the rapidly growing sport in the country, besides pledging a USD 1.0 million dollars to build a full-fledged grand cricket stadium in Kandahar, Indian coaches provide technical expertise to the infant Afghan Cricket Academy. 


Globally with a large number of skilled workers, Indians are securing highly paid jobs around the world, here in the United states the largest multinational corporations and prime financial centers employ Indian CEO’s and managers to boost their operations in target countries. Meanwhile India is a key and founding member in recently formed BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), an alliance of emerging economies looking for investment opportunities beyond their respective borders. India as a good friend can persuade these member states to invest in Afghanistan in the future.


As recently as the 71st UNGA, diplomats from Afghanistan, U.S. and India met on the sidelines to discuss ways to go around Pakistan which does not allow access to Indian and Afghan trade vis-à-vis its Karachi port. Since the United States buys its access to accommodate its resident troops in Afghanistan from Pakistan, a very frequent act of hostility and use of trade routes for political aims have urged the U.S. to think of an alternate solution for this growing problem. Evidently this trilateral meeting could put reasonable pressure on Pakistan to rethink its official policies, and avoid further isolation from the rest of the world.


Written by:

Naser Koshan


Washington, U.S.

September 2016

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