HomeAfghanistan :- A Cultural And Historical BackgroundAfghanistan :- A Cultural And Historical Background

Afghanistan :- A Cultural And Historical Background


“I dream of a day, while retaining our national identities, one can have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. That is how my forefathers lived. That is how I want our grandchildren to live”

Former Prime Minister – Manmohan Singh



Each country needs economic cooperation and political stability and a foothold in the international system where it has a say and is recognised for a straightforward reason: progress for the country in all spheres – economic, political, human development, infrastructure, education etc. There are many forces which come into play when one talks about Afghanistan as a region, the geopolitical factors; the relation between the Islamic world and the west; mutual relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan; the role of illegal rise of the economy through drug cartels and above all aspirations of citizens of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is a place that has been tossed by unrest for over three decades.1 It has been used as a battleground for many conflicts. There are many forces which come into play when one talks about Afghanistan as a region, the geopolitical location, the relation between the Islamic world and the west and the role of illegal rise of the economy. But away from the international system Afghanistan has different ethnic groups and minorities, which leads to a twisted war other than the Soviet Invasion or the US invasion or first and the second Anglo-Afghan war.


The Afghan state was made by the opponent pioneer powers, British-India and the former Soviet Union. Afghanistan borders have existed for the past century as a territory which has
[1 Role of NATO after 2014 in Afghanistan. Afghanistan.pdf ]
visited shifting empires from one time to another, with Persian, Central Asia, the India Subcontinent and the Middle East which thus makes this country interesting. One can rebuild its history and its interesting intermingling of empires and ethnic groups which have been lost due to the long trodden war since 1979 (invasion of Soviet Union). The Afghan nationalism occasionally bloomed with stories of empires’ defeat in humiliation who tried their luck against the Afghans.
Violence has always been a part3 of the Afghan way of life. There is no single cause of violence in Afghanistan. Suppose one looks at the religion in Afghanistan. In that case, one sees a majority of Muslims and that the significant part of the population that adheres to Islam espouses Sunni Muslim. Shias who can be differentiated from Sunnis based on Mohammed’s appropriate succession are a very definite minority in Afghanistan.


The script of Afghan’s area all written in Pashtunwali, which becomes a barrier and followed by this Pashtuns claim that Afghanistan is of Pashtuns with a vital nationalism element from them. Afghanistan’s national anthem perceives 14 ethnic groupings among the nations 27 million individuals:- Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Balochis, Turkmens, Nooristanis, Pamiris, Arabs, Gujars, Brahuis, Qizilibash, Aimaq and Pashai.


Afghanistan geological landforms divide and reinforce separation amongst the Afghan people. Afghanistan mountains divide the country into four distinct zones that support different types of economic livelihood, including agriculture. Within each zone, the terrain is highly compartmentalized, which makes travelling, contacts with other people and political, social unity are difficult. Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain dominates the cater of the country and is one of the most prominent features.
The country’s watershed and water system have sustained for distinct regions: Herat in the west, Kandahar in the south, Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Kabul-Peshawar area in the east.

Booker: ‘Right-Wing Extremists…Behind the Majority of Shinwari, S. (2012), “The Importance of Durand Line Recognition”, The Khaama Press News Agency, Available at –
extremists-behind-majority-terrorist-attacks-country ]
The area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (Durand Line) opposite Peshawar and the north-west frontier province (NWFP) constitutes the fifth region.

  1. Herat – The west region, with its major city of Herat is located next to the Iranian border and exhibits Iranian cultural influences. It is arid and draws sustenance from the Harirud River that flows through the lowlands from the mountainous source. Sunni and Shi’a Persian speaking ethnic groups make up the population, these people have historical ties to the silk route joining China and Iran, Both international trade and agriculture have ensured the regions survival.


  1. Kandahar – Helmand river is the main attraction in the southern region of Afghanistan that is Kandahar. Vastly wheat, fruits and opium (illegal product for trade) are grown here. The region is dominated by desert and inhabited only by nomadic tribes. The regions dominant ethnic group is Pashtun. The city of Kandahar serves as a major trade centre for goods moving between India towards Kabul.


  1. Mazar-i-Sharif – Mazar-i-sharif is the forth largest city in Afghanistan. Its border touches with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. It is held sacred as the alleged burial place of Ali , son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad a noted mosque of Ali is in the city. During the Afghanistan War , the city was an important link on the line of defences guarding the strategic road between Kabul and Termez in Soviet Uzbekistan, and in the subsequent civil war it was the key to the control of Northern Afghanistan and the defence of Kabul. Mazār-e Sharīf is located in one of Afghanistan’s most fertile regions, extensively irrigated by the Balkh River and produces cotton, grain, and fruit. The town’s industries include flour milling and the manufacturing of silk and cotton textiles. The base at Mazar-e-Sharif is home to the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps, responsible for providing security to most of northern Afghanistan, including Kunduz province – which has seen heavy recent fighting.

[ Available at – afghanistan.html  ]

  1. Kabul – Kabul is the capital and the largest city of Afghanistan. It lies along the Kabul River in the east central part of the country. In the 13th century the Mongol invader Genghis Khan inflicted considerable damage on the city. Kabul was the capital (1504–26) of the Mughal dynasty, under Babur,  and  it  remained  under  Mughal  rule  until   1738,   when Nadir Shah of Iran took it. And since 1776 Kabul has been the capital.

Afghanistan is predominantly a mountainous desert which has been considered as an extension of the Iranian plateau. The Hindu Kush range separates the north from the south, 200km long from the Iranian border and extended up to the extreme north east. North and northeast Afghanistan feature high mountain pass that flows into central Asia’s steppes, granting access to Pakistan and India to the east. The northern portion of Afghanistan connects to Turkmenistan.
Afghanistan borders have existed for the past century as a territory that has witnessed shifting empires from one time to another, with Persian, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, thus making this country’s history interesting. One can rebuild its history and its exciting intermingling of empires and ethnic groups which have been lost due to the long- trodden war since 1979 (invasion of Soviet Union). The Afghan nationalism occasionally bloomed with stories of empires’ defeat in humiliation who tried their luck against the Afghans.


In 1992, Minority Rights Group published a report in the form of a book named – Afghanistan: A nation of minorities that stated that there is no ethnic group that makes half of the population.
Ethnic group was first used as Groupe Ethnique by a French anthropologist DOLLOT. Till 19th century the term ethnic group did not exist, thanks to the foreign academicians. They started dividing the people within the country based on sect, language, culture and geography.
One of the astonishing facts is that the ethnic groups which exist, neither of them have separatist aspirations, nor do they have contention over resources. There are a couple of uniting factors between the groups which can bridge to good governance in a fragile democracy, but the dividing factor sets in with the linguistic issues. This patchwork of ethnicity in the country which hampers the ethnic unity and a uniform national culture can act as a bridge rather than a barrier.
Ethnicity is an unavoidable factor in Afghanistan, just like in India, and also the common factor is that they all seek security and governance. If the country wants to get rid of the ethnic trap, they need to address rational ethnic representation in fragile democracy and eliminate de- politicization of ethnicity. The divide is between the North, and South Afghanistan that is north is linked with Central Asia and south is linked with Afghanistan, NWFP and Baluchistan.
Afghanistan is a country made up of numerous ethnic groups. These groups, throughout time, have used violence to achieve their goals.5 There are three main factors which can be put forward for the complications which prevail in the country. 1. Family loyalties, or religious and ethnic issues or local and national politics or cultural matters. 2. The second factor that causes violence includes geography, regional influences, historical effects, ethnic factors, governmental considerations, illegal drug trade, economic and education matters. 3. The third factor is the impact of the Taliban which infuses in nearly all aspects of Afghan life. The Taliban incite religious and cultural motivations for violence. The Afghan propensity to use violence has impacted this country throughout history.
With the ethnic tension and fluid boundaries, there has been no policy, plan, or proposal that can address any single group. Ethnic violations have always played a significant role in the country ever since the inception of Afghanistan’s modern state. In 2001 Bonn conference it was highlighted that the country should be multi-ethnic.
dynamics of ethnic groups work differently. Ethnicity is very divisive, hard to deal. They collapse if there is no central government. They are very descriptive. The country at the crossroads had never been able to evolve a strong, powerful, and centralized state, equal to other Islamic empires of Safavid, Ottomans, or the Fatimids. In the absence of a structured state system, the internal power struggle within various Afghan ethnic and linguistic groups aimed at creating their alternative state institution, through violence and the militarization of their respective groups.6
There is no single group which has represented more than 50 per cent of the population, even though the largest group, the Pashtuns, has tended to play a dominant role.
From the perspective of identity, it is difficult to determine whether men or women have been under the majority category. Men have likely to have died in the conflicts of the past 22 years than women. Whereas, women are generally acknowledged as being disadvantaged within society.
The ethnic footing is only in the eyes of foreigners, but it’s a standard differentiated group for them. For instance:- A Pashtun person wants to join the Taliban, it’s okay for them, as each one of them wants representation. To apply in simple terms in IR theory – “Man is a social animal and looks for his own interest” – Aristotle.
Ethnic groups in Afghanistan are not subjected to one region and in many cases, overlap, weaving a colourful tapestry of a multitude of languages and cultures that in many ways the intricate pattern of the Afghan rug. Afghanistan is home to dozens of ethnic groups such as Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Hazaras, Aimaqs, Kyrgyz, Arabs, Pamirs, Qizilbashs, Balochs, Pashais and Nooristanis. However, there are four primary groups:- Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks/Turks and Hazaras.7

Beyond the TAPI Project: An Afghan Factor in India ETHNIC VIOLENCE, IMPACT ON AFGHANISTAN.
7 Afghanistan: The Rise of Ethnic Consciousness Through History. 2015-ali-Afghanistan_the_rise_of_ethnic.pdf?sequence=1   ]


  1. Pashtuns – (the dominant ethnic group)

Pashtuns as a group are more in Pakistan, which leads to more cross border movement. The original Pashtun region goes down till the Indus river and till Karachi, which makes half of Pakistan. They speak Pashto, and in Kabul, they speak Dari. The Pashtuns demanded a separate nation during the creation of Pakistan, but that would have meant that the Pashtuns in Afghans would have been in the minority. The Pashtun ethnic tribes are organized into smaller groups of clans – Durrani, Ghilzais, Gurghust and Karlanri. Historically, Pashtuns have been the most influential ethnic group. In the 18th century, they were handed the reigns of leadership by the British for the Kingdom of Afghanistan. This was when Abdul Khan of Kandahar established the Durrani Empire.
During the 1890s the Pashtuns were deployed in the northern region. Under the reign of Abdur Rahmon, there was a movement of ethnic cleansing of Hazaras. They were chopped off, or they were sold into slavery. Till date, the leadership is in the hands of this group except for – Habibullah Kalakani (1929) and Burhanuddin Rabbani (1996-2001).

  1. Tajiks – Tajiks are basically the merchant class who are the second largest group. Approximately 30% of the Afghan population. Tajiks are a Persian-speaking Sunni nontribal group. Tajiks make up a large portion of Kabul’s population. They are historically engaged in the work of merchants, bureaucrats and educated clergy. This group has maintained powerful roles, no matter who is in control of the government. Tajik has been used to describe Dari-

speakers, individuals of Persian heritage, and settled people. 8 With the emergence of few leaders in 20th and 21st century like – Ahmad Shah Masood, Burhanuddin Rabbani (President
– 1992 -1996), Abdullah Abdullah and Amrullah Saleh the status quo changed. Tajiks eventually demanded more rights and they were a big part of the creation of the modern state Afghanistan.

  1. Turks/Uzbeks – Uzbeks are a Turkic people that dwell in the northern plains of Afghanistan. Uzbeks are estimated to be 8% of the population.9 A good portion of Uzbeks fled Afghanistan during the Russian conquest of Central Asia.


  1. Hazaras – Hazaras are a Mongoloid people from Central Afghanistan that comprises 7% of the population. They are unarguably the most persecuted and marginalized group in Afghanistan. Unlike most Afghans, they are Shia Muslims. A majority is Imami Shia while minority is Ismaili Shia.10

Under Emir Abdur Rahmon their land was taken away and distributed to Pashtuns. They also had harsh taxes imposed on them. When the Hazaras revolted, the Emir brutally massacred them and sold the remaining population into slavery. Until 1919, the Hazaras were legally slaves. Till this day, anti- Hazara sentiment continues. Under the Taliban rule, they were singled out and murdered, most notably in the massacre of Mazar-e-sharif in 1998.* Although Afghanistan has developed since then, this sentiment has risen again as Hazara specific attacks have increased.11
Other than these four main groups there are several groups of which there is less track and less literature.
[9 Ibid8 Afghanistan: The Rise of Ethnic Consciousness Through History. 2015-ali-Afghanistan_the_rise_of_ethnic.pdf?sequence=1
10 Ibid]

  • Kuchis – Kuchis are Afghan nomads, generally wanderers and nomads who does not have a place to live. They move for substance of their living.
  • Aimaq – the Aimaq make up more or less 4% of the Afghan populace and live essentially on the steppe land in north-western Afghanistan.  


    The Afghan problem did not start with the emergence of the Taliban or the U.S. invasion; it can be traced to two major, historical events that date back centuries.
    In 1499, Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama discovered a sea route to India, which meant the region now known as Afghanistan – once a connecting point between Central Asia and the west – lost its commercial importance. The second event came in 1893 when British India annexed a large portion of Afghanistan known as Pashtunistan into India with the Durand Line Treaty. That left the country land-locked. Ever since Afghanistan has been unable to become stable and prosperous, instead, it served as a graveyard for a succession of governmental experiments: monarchy, republic, communism, Islamism and now a western-built democracy. All failed. As a gateway to India, this area has been invaded by such powers as the Greeks, Persians, Arabs and Mughals who sought to conquer India. Many got bogged down and stayed.12
    British India favoured Pashtun tribes, and in their idea, the country belonged to the Pashtuns. That became the motivation factor why Afghan became an equivalent word to Pashtun and Pashtun became Afghan national dialect.
    Like in India, the work defines the caste/Varnas, i.e. Bhramins, Kashtriya, Vaishya and Shudra, the same way the four major groups are also seen from that perspective. Pashtuns are prominent in the region and command the military and are belligerent. Tajiks are the financial keepers and thrift. The Uzbeks are known as ruthless. The Hazaras are disregarded in general; they are the unskilled and poor people.
    [12 Afghanistan Slides to the Brink of Ethnic Warfare. ethnic-warfare/  ]

  • Since the beginning, there have been differentiations between the rural and the urban regions. Whatever the government thought for the development, it has always taken care of the interest of the metropolitan area than the rural area.After the decade-long Soviet Union invasion in the 1980s, however, the ethnic balance shifted. The inhabitants became polarized and started bickering over the distribution of power. Civil war raged throughout the 1990s, and an estimated 400,000 died because of infighting in Kabul.13Arising from the perception that ethnicity is the predominant argument in the Afghan War, a peace process was initiated at the Petersburg Conference near Bonn at the end of November in 2001. The motive for this conference was ethnic representation in the government.After the overthrow of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban in 2001, then-president Hamid Karzai (himself Pashtun) attempted to end ethnic divide by appointing two leaders as his vice presidents: Mohammad Qasim Fahim (a Tajik) and Karim Khalili (a Hazara).14 With the help of United States money, it is said that some cooperation could be seen otherwise it was obvious that there would have been a full scale war between the ethnic groups and the Afghan government and army. 
    In 2014 again, when Obama administration ordered for cuts many afghans lost their jobs. The Afghan Government, headed by Ashraf Ghani and his CEO Abdullah Abdullah, ran out of controlling the country. And the country started falling back into

In 2014 again, when the Obama administration ordered for cuts, many afghans lost their jobs. The Afghan Government, headed by Ashraf Ghani and his CEO Abdullah Abdullah, ran out of controlling the country. And the country started falling back into its historical cycle of anarchy and chaos. Again, it has led to bad governance and a stagnant economy. But if one sees that with coming of the regional powers in the country that is India and China with their wide-scale projects like – TAPI, CHABAHAR PORT and OBOR it is possible that the people Afghan will be better equipped with jobs and housing and infrastructure.
Tribalism is assumed as one of the causes of ethnic conflict in Afghanistan. According to scholars, loyalty to ethnic groups has impeded true nationalism and unity in Afghanistan.
From the beginning of Modern Afghanistan till today, ethnic leaders have used ethnic biases to win power. And such a mechanism of gaining control just has divided the citizens of the country along the ethnic lines. If we trace back the root of the conflicts, we would reach to ethnic sentiments that have been fuelled by selfish political motives. Most of the conflicts that take place in the country begin from this ancient ethnic sentiments. Thus, tribalism in history has divided the people and has fostered favouritism in Afghanistan.15
Corruption and unqualified leaders have intensified ethnic conflict in Afghanistan. Gross mismanagement of national and international resources by incompetent leaders has impoverished and denied opportunities to most Afghans, which has led to agitations by citizens.
[15 Main Causes of Ethnic Conflict in Afghanistan and]
With a simple glance at the government employees’ list, one can conclude that evident inequality exists in the way Afghanistan shares its public positions and allocation of infrastructure projects among the provinces as well.
It was not always that the conflict persisted, but due to the bad governance and favouritism, the civil wars are exiting. President Ashraf Ghani should move towards decentralising power, giving more autonomy to the provinces, rather than keeping it with his community.
The Tajiks blame Pashtuns for sympathizing with the Taliban, which led to the fall of major cities like Kunduz and surrounding districts. The Pashtuns accuse Uzbek militias of committing crimes against them in northern Afghanistan and charge Tajik leaders with sabotaging the peace process with the Taliban. (Wahab Raofi, – 2016).


 In 1979 the Soviet them with armament and also humanitarian aid. In 1989 the soviet union was exhausted in the cold war conflict there they decided to withdraw its troops from, but until the USSR disintegration i.r 1991 they got support from them. The end of the communist era in Afghanistan came in 1992 when resistant groups of Mujahedeen overthrew Kabul’s communist government. *
The Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan Union (former) occupied Afghanistan, which led to a sense of loss to the United States. They felt that they are losing its influence in the middle east. Therefore, they decided to support the Mujahedeen (which was a group who was against the Soviets ideology of communism(atheism) which was undermining their Islam religion) and provided and left the Afghan communist government to fend for itself against the mujahedeen factions.
In 1996 the Mujahedeen group was named as Taliban led by Mohammed Omar and was supported by Pakistan. It was Pakistan from where the group was getting aid from China and the United States, and they took control of Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Taliban also became notorious for its restrictions on human rights, especially the ones of women.16 The Taliban was also in good graces of Osama bin Laden who supported this militia group financially and cited the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the17 “the only true Islamic state”.
9/11 – the attack on the world trade centre led the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution where Article 3 gives a general authorization for action to bring the perpetrators to justice. On October 7th 2001, the USA with British support began bombing the Taliban region and supported the Northern Alliance.
[17 Ibid16 Role of NATO after 2014 in Afghanistan. Afghanistan.pdf ]
Ten years of intervention by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Afghanistan’s security situation is still a significant concern for the international community. There has been a lack of proper planning, shifting policies, inattention to geopolitical realties and over-reliance on military power without the necessary attention to18 the development and human dignity has made the state in a sinking ship.
With the fall of the Taliban’s power and the capturing of Osama Bin Laden, the UNSC passed one more resolution that would call for establishing a transitional administration and asking for peacekeeping forces. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led by NATO was created in Kabul, and they made Hamid Karzai as interim administration head.19 Operation in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) in Afghanistan was one of NATO’s expensive operations.
From 2003 ISAF started training the Afghan National Security Forces. In 2006, the Taliban began the Jihadist methods of attacks like suicide attacks across the country. By the end of 2014, the Afghan Security forces were supposed to become competent and take over Afghanistan’s responsibility. After 2014, NATO mission in the country was a non-combatant mission that provided further training, advice and assistance to local Afghan forces.


Between Afghanistan and India, there has been an exchange of religions if one has to begin with. In 305 B.C the Indian Mauryan Empire brought Buddhism, and eventually a touch of Hindu and Zoroastrian culture stepped in. This is a reason why it was referred to Indian subcontinent before. Only after the Westphalian notion of the nation-state was that the idea to have a sovereign border came to this region. As a result, in return, Afghans brought an introduction to the Islamic culture and introduced Sufi tradition in India.
Migration of peoples from Central Asia to India and expansion of Central Asian empires into India was a recurring theme in the region’s history. Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan – Pride of Afghanistan – The Frontier Gandhi was the prominent leader during the Indian Independence movement.
[19 Refworld | Education Under Attack 2018 – Afghanistan. Political Developments in Afghanistan after 2001.   ]


 Historically, India has enjoyed good cultural, historical and economic relations with Afghanistan, a land where civilization flourished in ancient times. During the rule of King Zahir Shah (1933-73), India cultivated strong relations with Afghanistan. Even after Zahir Shah was overthrown in 1973, India maintained close ties with the subsequent Soviet-backed regimes in Afghanistan. Except for five years of Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001. After the Taliban’s fall, India resumed its ties and started assisting Afghanistan to reconstruct the democratic process. The two countries need each others’ support. India has political and strategic interests in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan needs India for its economic development stability.
The relationship is not limited to the government in New Delhi, and Kabul; preferably, its foundation has a historical construct. The bilateral relationship between India and Afghanistan has deep historical and geographical roots.20 Till now, India’s engagement in Afghanistan has been mainly focused upon civilian contributions and economic development. With growing ties between the two countries, the government’s Delhi activities cover five broad areas: infrastructure projects including road building; humanitarian assistance; small and community- based development projects; education and capacity building. India has also assisted in training Afghan police and civil administration and few military personnel in Indian training facilities.
A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is of strategic importance for India. Serving as a region in Asia’s heart, Afghanistan can act as a bridge and can open India’s continental trade to Central Asia via Iran by circumventing Pakistan. The Istanbul’ Heart of Asia’ process – a regional dialogue that was launched in November 2011 to increase security, political, and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbours- represents India’s anchor as it is the most enormous regional power and more importantly in its neighbourhood. Both India and Afghanistan are members of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC),21 supporting economic and social development through intra-regional cooperation.
President Karzai’s recent requests to Delhi to re-open the question of how to tackle the constraints affecting India in Afghanistan. It also highlights the problem of how to fill the security vacuum that threatens to develop in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Western forces – and who should fill it. Karzai’s wish list included various weapons and equipment, including tanks, artillery, mortars, transport aircraft and medium-lift helicopters – in addition to requests for Afghan troops and air force personnel to be trained at Indian defence facilities. If granted, this would significantly step up India’s military role in Afghanistan. (Eva Gross is a senior analyst at the EUISS- 2014). The announcement of 1 USD billion in September 2017 for the New Development Partnership project has added new highs for the near future.
India’s approach to its neighbours has swung in recent years. In the mid-1990s, a policy of non- reciprocity, the ‘Gujral Doctrine’, reflected an understanding that India, as the dominant

Ibid20 Afghanistan: the view from India.  ]
regional power had a duty to support and accommodate its neighbours without necessarily expecting to receive reciprocal benefits. India does not wish to take any unilateral security grip in Afghanistan. This stems from long-standing memories of the ill-fated peacekeeping mission to Sri Lanka in 1987-90 and the recognition that this would raise Pakistan’s tension. 22 Therefore, India helps Afghanistan in rebuilding, keeping our stance secure and visible and at the same time keeping the relations moving in the right direction. There is a recognition that India’s development work and soft power projection in Afghanistan have benefited from Western troops’ presence.
In 2012, Kabul’ Heart of Asia’ conference, India offered to lead two confidence-building measures:- intended to support Afghanistan and second integrate the country into regional economic outcome. India recognizes that social and economic development in Afghanistan is vital to ensure regional security. To that end, President Karzai signed Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) during his visit to India in 2011 that formalized a framework for cooperation in the following areas:- political and security collaboration, trade and economic cooperation, capacity development and education, social and cultural cooperation, civil society and people to people relations. India has contributed majorly in infrastructure development. The two main being construction of the Salma Dam Power Project and structure of the Parliament Building.

A key for Indian engagement is in the security relationship between the two. India has agreed to increase training for Afghan soldiers and police within India.

Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) – 2011

 Indo-afghan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA)23 signed between the two countries in 2011. The Agreement provides assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance. Encouraging investment in Afghanistan’s natural resources is also a domain where India is focusing as Afghanistan holds natural resources like natural gas. India is now the 5th largest
[22 India’s Policy towards Afghanistan – Chatham House Pages 1
23 India-Afghanistan Relations. ]
development donor in Afghanistan, 24 providing aid worth $2 billion to date. The SPA comprises four Joint Working Groups in political and security issues; trade, commerce and investment; development cooperation; and human resource development, education, and culture.25

 Activities of Indian NGO’s and Civil Society

 The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)26 which has achieved great success in the Indian state of Gujrat, has been started in Afghanistan by Indian Government since 2008. Second, a Pune based NGO, Sarhad committed to funding educational sponsorship’s for 50 Afghan students to pursue higher education in India. This initiative, which has been supported by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs, is intended to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries. And third, India provides significant humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, partly in support of its soft power strategy.

10. India – Iran – Afghanistan

India, Iran and Afghanistan are building a maritime road-rail link to Central Asia through Chabahar port.27 This could link up with Chinese built routes, to access Central Asia and Russia as well as Europe. This will give India a win-win cooperation. Afghanistan has extended its support to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Beijing is understood to be contemplating to extend the economic corridor to Afghanistan. Iran is keen to join too.
Chabahar Port
 The Chabahar port is aimed at enhancing trade and transit opportunities between Iran-Afghanistan-India.28 It has a strong economic potential and viability across the region. Chabahar port will add a new dimension in the bilateral cooperation within the countries in the region.29 The trilateral pact signed on 24th May 2016 gave clear indication of prioritizing economic engagement in bringing prosperity and engineering trade relations. There are immense investment opportunities available in the zone that will enhance business and trade and connect other regions of the world. In February, Tehran leased out India of operational

“Afghanistan,India : Joint Statement on the 2nd Strategic Partnership Council Meeting between India and Afghanistan.” MENA Report, Albawaba (London) Ltd., Sept. 2017, p. n/a.24 Afghanistan: the view from India.
26 SEWA’s work a role model all: US – Indian Express.
27  Explaining  China’s  Belt  and  Road  Initiative  –  ICS  Research
28 Embassy of Afghanistan – Regional Cooperation. cooperation
29 Chabahar port hopeful to rekindle  Afghanistan’s untapped]

control of the Iranian east coast port of Chabahar for 18 months.30 The Chabahar deal has three objectives :- first to diversify and increase India’s oil and gas supplies, second to enhance connectivity and trade with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond Iran, and third to balance the power in the region given Chinas presence in the Gwadar port.31

International relations’ watchwords are mutual trust, no suspicion, multi-lateral or bilateral cooperation, non- dominance, inclusivity, not exclusion. It would facilitate in opening a new vista of trade and commerce. This deal is a landmark in Indian history as it would build its security without making others vulnerable, and it would break barriers among other nations. Scholars believe that this deal will improve trade and commerce and boost regional connectivity and give impetus to the growth of the economy of neighbouring countries in a positive manner. Also, rather than the land route, the maritime route to get crude oil through a shorter route will be cheaper.
Chabahar port, located in the Sistan-Baluchistan province in an area that is energy-rich lies outside the Persian Gulf and is easily accessed from India’s western coast, bypassing Pakistan.32 India’s Kandla port and Chabahar port are less than the distance between Delhi and Mumbai. The city’s inhabitants are ethnic Baluch. This port is located 300 km east from Strait of Hormuz and is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean, Oman Sea and the Persian Gulf.
The two main ports of the Chabahar port are Shahid-Beheshti and Shahid-Kalantari. India is finalizing a plan to construct a 900 km railway line that will connect Chabahar port in Iran to mineral-rich Hajigak region of Afghanistan. The port is also central to India’s effort to circumvent Pakistan and open up a route to landlocked Afghanistan where it has developed close security ties and economic interests.33 With India’s access to Central Asia blocked by Pakistan, the Chabahar deep seaport and INSTC (International North-South Transit Corridor) running inwards through Iran and Afghanistan would provide New Delhi vital access to Central Asia, Russia, and ultimately European markets enabling India to effectively compete with China.
The agreement on the establishment of a Trilateral Transport and Transit Corridor has the potential to alter the course of the history of the region. It can spur the unhindered flow of commerce throughout the region, and economic fruits will expand trade, attract investment, will build infrastructure, develop industry and create jobs for all three countries. Chabahar’s portability to play a vibrant role will depend on how well it is able to leverage the transit routes in the region.
[30 Ibid
31 India’s Chabahar Conundrum | Global Peace Operations Review.
32  India, Iran and Afghanistan sign historic land transit
33 India and Iran agree to fast-track the Chabahar port
Critique A senior fellow at the centre for policy research, New Delhi believes that while the trilateral relation between Iran, India and Afghanistan showcases cooperation, it is unlikely to translate into effective political cooperation as long as Afghanistan’s permanent problems persist. All these initiatives by India is deeply dependent on the stability of one nation – AFGHANISTAN. As mentioned above, Afghanistan is the gateway for West to Central Asia in as much as it is a pathway from the subcontinent to Central Asia. Post-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan is currently being phased out, hence there is a window/vacuum of opportunity for India and China to become the dominant players in the country. And given China’s strategies and her projects all over, India needs to be careful and has to take the initiative as fast as possible. It will thus benefit India as it has made investments in Afghanistan.

11. TAPI – Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India

The South Asian region has energy deficiency due to its vast population size in comparison to Central Asia. Though with the fall of the Taliban, South Asian economies have received a boost. Countries like India and Pakistan want the affordable, secure, and feasible energy flow to sustain their current economic growth.
Turkmenistan is the source of the vast amount of natural gas that can be tapped and energy transported to India. The energy trade between the energy deficit South Asia and energy-rich Central Asia should be beneficial to each other, but considering that Afghanistan a route that is a transferable area should be stable. The Project is also known as the CASA-1000 electricity transmission line and the TAPI natural gas pipeline. TAPI was expected to be completed by 2019 if there were no hindrances, but it didn’t happen and still continues. The 1814 km pipeline is expected to deliver 33 billion cubic metres of gas annually.
Afghanistan is playing a bridge to facilitate and help the Central Asian resources get exported to South Asia. The Afghanistan route can open up Eurasian hinterland for Russia and Central Asian states.
The pipeline has equal stakes distributed to the multinational companies: TAPI Pipeline Company Limited, GAIL, Afghan Gas Enterprise, Inter State Gas Systems Limited and Turkmen Gas. There are numerous idioms which are used for TAPI – “More than a project, Superhighway of cooperation and coordination, Peace Pipeline, Magic glue” are a few which are frequently used for the pipeline. Some scholars believe that one of the crucial reasons the US invaded Afghanistan was to make it a conduit between Central and South Asia to impede Russia’s dominance in the region. The prime issue that concerns the TAPI pipeline route planners and designers is related to the third-party intervention and rugged hilly terrain of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.
The gas pipeline will start from Galkynysh gas fields in Turkmenistan connecting with Afghanistan’s Herat-Kandahar highway, then via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan ending up at Fazilka that is India’s town bordering Pakistan. The Asian Development Bank funds the TAPI project. Reports that have recently flooded that China is pursuing/pushing for Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-China/ Central Asian China gas pipeline have raised concern for India. It can be said that it is a counter approach to the TAPI approach. Additionally, this route is in confluence with the One Belt One Road initiative and CPEC.


 “Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity” – has been a theme of Heart of Asia. The Heart of Asia Istanbul Process was founded on 2nd November 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. The Heart of Asia provides a platform for sincere and result-oriented regional cooperation by placing Afghanistan at its centre, recognising that a secure and stable Afghanistan is vital to the prosperity of the region.34 This platform was established to address the shared interest35 of Afghanistan and its neighbours and regional partners. The Heart of Asia comprises 14 participating countries, 17 supporting countries and 12 supporting regional and international organization.
India and Afghanistan have called for terror emanating from Pakistan as the “greatest threat” to regional peace and stability. They were set to press hard for adopting the counter-terror framework on the day of Amritsar Declaration which happened in 2016. “For the first time, a Heart of Asia conference expressed concern over violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Daesh, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed,” said Jaitley.36
Heart of Asia also takes initiatives and dialogues on the Chabahar project, the five-nation railway project, and TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project. The criticism of Pakistan might yield some pressure on its leadership to act, as it did briefly after the Pathankot attack. However, this approach, in the long run, may deplete the two countries of their limited leverage as Pakistan’s neighbours driving more obstacles to trade between India and Afghanistan. In the past year, the cornering of Pakistan by the South Asian neighbours before the SAARC summit has yielded deeper ties between India and Afghanistan.37
The measures India and Afghanistan have taken to avoid Pakistan, such as land trade from the Chabahar port (in Iran) and a dedicated air corridor between Delhi and Kabul, might prove to be insufficient by the time they are put in place as Afghanistan is connected more closely via a rail line from Yiwu (in China) and Tehran (in Iran). Thus, The Heart of Asia process remains critical in forging cooperation to realize Afghanistan’s potential to be a vibrant Asian “hub”.
connectivity34 Heart Of Asia Summit To Focus On Security, Economic
[ 35 Ibid
36 Heart  of  Asia conference adopts ‘Amritsar Declaration
37 Reading Comprehension for NIACL Mains 2016. ]


a. China’s Role In Afghanistan
Gwadar could hardly be a threat as India is well placed at Chabahar, just 80 km away. India also has close ties with Oman and enjoys access to Omani ports on the Indian Ocean coast and to other important ports in the Indian Ocean Region. Concerns about China’s role plays a part in Indian thinking towards Afghanistan. Reports show that China is pursuing an alternative gas pipeline which will come down from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan to China, which will thus lead to India’s leadership role less important in the country. Afghanistan has recently joined China’s overambitious One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative on which Indians have made serious objections, particularly with regard to the Road’s passage via Pakistan-held territory of Kashmir.

b.  Pakistan An Obstacle

 Pakistan takes India-Afghan relations as detrimental to its own interests. Its zero-sum attitude to regional cooperation creates many security dilemmas in the region. President Karzai is in an unenviable position. On the one hand, he sees Pakistan as playing a destabilizing “double game” in Afghanistan; and, on the other, he regards Pakistan as a “brother”, while describing India as a “great friend”. The nuance to be underlined here is that friends always help while brothers can sometimes do great harm. Pakistan is singularly placed to hurt Afghanistan’s interest. This is well recognised in Afghanistan where India enjoys warm welcome while Pakistan often comes for stinging criticism. Pakistan, concerned over the India-Afghanistan strategic partnership, is likely to  step up  pressure on the Afghan government.
India´s difficult relationship with Pakistan has so far obstructed a stronger strategic and political role for India in Afghanistan. Islamabad´s chase of a policy of ‘strategic depth’ – that is, control over Afghanistan’s government to hedge against India’s growing influence and strength. It has led Delhi to try to lessen Pakistani suspicions over the nature of Indian engagement in Afghanistan, in part by focusing on economic initiatives. Indian engagement in Afghanistan has not been without risks. Recurring attacks on installations – such as the bombings of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 and October 2009, or the assault on a residence housing Indian aid workers in 2010 – that were alleged to have been instigated or supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) impact on Indian involvement and expose the long shadow cast by the fractious relationship with Islamabad.38


In Afghanistan’s diplomatic vocabulary, “Pakistan is a twin brother and India a great friend” as famously stated by President Hamid Karzai during his visit to India in 2011 when he signed a strategic partnership with India stating, “The strategic agreement with our great
[38 Afghanistan: the view from India.]
friend would not affect our twin brother. Neither India nor Afghanistan intends this strategic partnership to go beyond us”, Karzai stated to balance between the two countries.39
The economic assistance provided by India to Afghanistan and Afghan people has strengthened the ties. Afghans feel more benefited by India’s contribution than that of several other countries. That is because India focuses more on providing solutions to the problem faced by a normal citizen and they do not try to interfere in the internal matters. If one asks any Afghani
– what do Afghans think of India? Every Afghan then will answer:-

We see India as an honest friend and brother. India has become an important economic assistance partner for Afghanistan. We love India. We welcome Indian alliance wholeheartedly.
By :- Sawabdin Makhksh. 16th June, 2016)

As highlighted above that India ought to win the support of Afghans through gigantic development projects to build roads, power lines and other civilian projects and one of the largest projects that India has successfully completed in the country is the construction of a road in southern Nimroz province that provides a link for landlocked Afghanistan to the Iranian port of Chabahar. This road serves as a way to break Afghanistan dependence on Pakistan for transport links. India thus realizes that its campaign against the Taliban takeover may not succeed unilaterally and that it needs Iran on its side in any meaningful campaign against the Taliban.
The sending of Indian diplomats last week to Moscow format for the talks with the Taliban, though nonofficial, has raised many speculations. The delegates did not raise any questions nor did they make any comments, then why did India had a kind of engagement with this meeting when earlier during the Taliban control of Kabul (5 years – 1996 till 2001) it restrained itself from not holdings any talks. Isn’t it correct in the 21st century that the countries need to leave Afghanistan alone as it is sovereign and everything is “Afghan-led” and Afghan-owned”?
It has also also criticised that the group which India did not recognise and now, given status by attending the talks.
[pakistan-diplomacy-180419110526773.html39 Beyond the TAPI  Project: An Afghan Factor  in India]


 Zahiruddin Babur, who founded the Mughal Empire in 1526 and once ruled Kabul, wrote in his memoir that Kabul’s inhabitants speak ten different languages. That kind of diversity persists in Afghanistan.
The Taliban movement is undoubtedly a complex consolidation of religious, tribal and regional influence. The erosion of the Afghan state over the past 30 years has significantly affected the society of Afghanistan. Since the inception of the country three centuries ago, Afghanistan has been trapped in a whirlpool. It vacillates from autocracy to short-lived “tranquillity,” then slides back into anarchy. Societal and political ties are questioned by the younger generation as slowly, and gradually, globalization and modernity are coming into the state. Afghans have a feeling of nationhood despite their absence of uniform national society.
Before the invasion of soviets or the rise of the Taliban or the NATO enforcement setting, the problems between the groups used to get solved with the JIRGA. Jirga’s were the meetings of the ethnic leaders. The purpose was to solve the problem and end the conflict with negotiations.
In a report, it is known that the Balkanization of Afghanistan has begun. The country is already divided north and south. The north is controlled by powerful Balkh governor Atta Muhammad Noor, and the south by police chief Abdul Raziq Achakzai. Each reportedly is untouchable and won’t take orders from President Ghani.40
To conclude, there is no single cause of violence in the country. Not to forget the Taliban, which has evolved mostly from the Pashtun ethnic group that leverages violence within the country for several reasons. Afghanistan’s issues are incredibly complex. Factors such as – geography, region, history, ethnic considerations, religion, tribal social structures, ineffective governance and fragmented economy have created violence. Also, the struggle comes for political power and access to resources.
Post-2014 Afghanistan, India aims to maintain its influence in the country to prevent Afghanistan from falling under near-exclusive Pakistani influence. Afghanistan history has been steeped in conflict, distress and social unrest. India’s relationship with Afghanistan is multi-layered. There is clearly a military and security angle.41 India aspires for stability within Afghanistan and hanging on top of Pakistan, which blockades the relationship. Also, concern about Chinas role plays a part in Indian thinking towards Afghanistan. Reports that have recently flooded that China is pursuing/pushing for Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-China gas pipeline have raised concern for India.
India and Afghanistan have been cooperating for the last ten  years. India has provided nearly
$ 1.5 billion worth of assistance and trained many Afghans in India, including the Afghan

Afghanistan Slides to the Brink of Ethnic Warfare. ethnic-warfare/
41 Afghanistan turns to India for military helicopters – DAWN.COM.  ]
police. The partnership agreement consolidates the various interactions and provides a robust institutional mechanism to build the relationship further.42 More positively, there is a social and economic engagement, including investment by Indian firms and development projects undertaken by the Indian government. India’s lead role under the Istanbul Process of regional engagement reflects its attempts to normalize Afghanistan in the region’s eyes. India also assists in facilitating trading link through Iran.43
A country of war and conflicts if the international system needs to establish peace and security must be a regional collective security treaty organization. Keeping the neighbouring countries on a constant upliftment, and that would be India, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the central Asian countries.
There is no doubt that the ISAF and NATO have failed their operation. The loss of life both civilian and military, creating more ethnic divides and troubled borders has led the country into a situation where it will take a decade to come over the conflicts. When the United States build its forces, it was unaware of the local cultural knowledge and the language. They were unaware of the fact that how the country used to work when there were tribal skirmishes. A group of US scholars had observed “our unfamiliarity with the way Afghanistan works exaggerated the scale of the problems we must solve, and it makes it even hard to describe the clear series we can take that can lead to the achievements of our goals in the end”. Also in the early years of invasion, a veteran military officer who was commissioned by the Pentagon to examine the war in Afghanistan expressed a pessimistic view saying that the “conflict – created conditions that have to give warlordism, banditry and opium production a new lease on life.44
To conclude in a nutshell, Afghanistan has become a playground for political influence between rivals and allied powers like Iran and the United States or India and Pakistan or Russia or China and few other countries. It is also assumed that the US strategy in Afghanistan was to fight against international terrorism and establish permanent bases in this important geostrategic area, contain China, control Russia, and face up to the rise of Iran.


 1.Marsden, P., 2001. Afghanistan : minorities, conflict and the search for peace / by Peter Marsden., London: Minority Rights Group.
2.Barfield, T., 2010. Afghanistan, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
3.Bradford, J.T., 2019. Poppies, Politics, and Power, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
4.Ewans, M., 2002. Afghanistan : a short history of its people and politics 1st Perennial., New York: Perennial.
5.Griffiths, J.C., 2001. Afghanistan : a history of conflict Updated., London: Carlton Books Ltd.
[afghanistan-india-showcases-its-soft-power-analysis/42  Strategic   Partnership   With   Afghanistan: India  Showcases
43 Ibid
44 Political Developments in Afghanistan after 2001. ]

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  11. India’s look west policy : why central Asia matters by Vibhuti Hate
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By :- Raagini Sharma



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