India’s Changing Approach towards Central Asia and the Caucasus after the Afghanistan Debacle
By: Gulshan Sachdeva
India’s ambition to raise its profile and connect with Central Asian neighbourhood was reflected through its ‘Extended Neighbourhood’ and ‘Connect Central Asia’ policies. Prime Minister Modi further elevated these policies through India’s SCO membership and other institutional mechanisms. India’s strategy towards the region has been linked to its Afghanistan, China and Pakistan policies as well as Russian and U.S. designs. With the Afghanistan debacle, the earlier connectivity strategies are no longer valid as a Taliban-Pakistan-China axis will further strengthen the BRI profile, in which India has not participated. In coming years, New Delhi will work with Central Asian partners to safeguard the region from negative repercussions of the Taliban takeover in terms of radicalization, increased terrorist activity and drug trafficking.
Central Asia and the Caucasus have long been part of the Indian imagination because of old civiliza-tional linkages and cultural connections. After the Soviet break-up, new geopolitical realities and geo-economic opportunities further influenced Indian thinking in the 1990s. The emergence of new independent states opened opportunities for energy imports as well as trade and transit. There were also worries of rising religious fundamental-ism. Therefore, developing political, economic and energy partnerships dominated New Delhi’s “ex-tended neighbourhood” policy in the 1990s. Alt-hough India established close political ties with all countries in the region, economic ties remained limited. An unstable Afghanistan and difficult India-Pakistan relations created problems for di-rect connectivity. New Delhi tried to resolve the issue through working with Russia and Iran via the International North-South Trade Corridor (IN-STC) and its tributaries. Due to the U.S.-Iran ten-sions and stagnating India-Russia trade, this op-tion did not prove very effective. In the mean-while, the Chinese profile in the region increased significantly.
By Umair Jamal
August 25, 2021, the CACI Analyst
For more than two decades, India has openly opposed any prospect of the Taliban returning to power in Afghanistan. New Delhi has continued to oppose the Taliban even in the face of the international community’s ongoing effort to engage the group to find a negotiated settlement. Pakistan, on the other hand, supports efforts to engage the Taliban in an attempt to bring the Taliban back to power. After the collapse of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Islamabad believes that it has scored a major win against India as it can isolate New Delhi’s political influence and interests in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s return to power risks turning Afghanistan into an India-Pakistan proxy battleground.
By Umair Jamal
September 30, 2020, the CACI Analyst
China and Iran’s US$ 400 billion trade deal will hurt India’s economic and security interests. With Iran likely to offer China the Chabahar port project, India’s Central Asia policy has suffered a huge setback. The Iran-China deal increases the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project that India opposes. Going forward, India’s ability to isolate Pakistan and balance China’s role will be severely circumscribed. The concerted effort of Iran, Pakistan and China to increase economic connectivity will definitely also involve Afghanistan, whereas India’s diplomacy faces an uphill task with the loss of a key ally to China.
By Umair Jamal
July 21, 2020, the CACI Analyst
The growth of the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Afghanistan poses a formidable challenge to India and Pakistan’s security interests in the region. Recently, an ISIS-claimed attack on a Sikh Gurudwara in Afghanistan involved a suicide bomber from India. On April 4, Afghan security forces arrested a Pakistani national and a high-ranking ISIS commander in Afghanistan, who authorized the Gurudwara attack. Reports indicate that ISIS is rapidly gaining recruits from India and Pakistan for its Afghanistan and Central Asia operations. The emerging threat in this regard would require close counterterrorism cooperation between Islamabad and New Delhi if the group is to be successfully defeated in Afghanistan. However, given Pakistan and India’s competition and record of undermining each other’s interests in Afghanistan, ISIS is set to gain exponentially in the coming months.
By Fuad Shahbazov
June 1, 2020, the CACI Analyst
On March 1, 2020, India outperformed Russia and Poland in a US$ 40 million defense deal with Armenia to supply it with four domestically made SWATHI counter-battery radars. The system is developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). It provides accurate information on enemy artillery firing positions weapons up to 75 kilometers away. The decision came amid India’s growing efforts to boost its national “Make in India” brand in the defense industry sector, which could make new inroads into European, Middle Eastern and Asian defense markets. However, the new Indian – Armenian defense deal could undermine Delhi’s relations with Russia on the one hand, and Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan on the other.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.