New Delhi frets that Beijing may be stealing a march on it in Afghanstan–and note the hopes for cooperation with Iran:
India seeks to regain influence in AfghanistanGhani, Modi likely to discuss final approval of a tripartite transit agreement involving India, Afghanistan and Iran centred around the Iranian port of Chabahar
When Afghan President Ashraf Ghani makes his first official visit to India next week, it will be a chance for New Delhi to regain ground lost to regional rivals Pakistan and China and push interests including trade routes and arms sales.
More than his predecessor Hamid Karzai, Ghani has reached out to neighbouring Pakistan to help negotiate a settlement with Taliban insurgents and to China to add clout to the fragile peace process [see “Helping Chinese Hand in Afghanistan?“] as well as to invest in the Afghan economy.
That has left India as an also-ran during the first seven months of Ghani’s tenure, and talk of a strategic partnership with Afghanistan including significant sales of military equipment during Karzai’s frequent visits has faded to silence.
China’s emerging role in Afghanistan, and its announcement this week of $46 billion of investment in India’s neighbour and nuclear-armed rival Pakistan [see link at start of the post], have heightened the sense that India could lose influence in South Asia, experts said.
“China’s footprint to our west will continue to grow bigger as it seeks access to the waters of the Arabian Sea through Pakistan, the energy resources of Iran and the mineral resources of Afghanistan,” said Vikram Sood, former head of India’s external spy agency [that’s the RAW, which the Paks are convinced (probably with reason) is up to no good in Baluchistan—recently here] and an influential South Asia strategist.
Earlier this month, India delivered three light helicopters to Afghanistan, Indian and Afghan sources said, a small deal that came three years late and was a far cry from Karzai’s requests in 2013 that included field guns and battle tanks [see “Indian Interests in Afghanistan, Part 2“].
“There was a shopping list, the expectation was it would be delivered,” said a source with direct knowledge of the security cooperation between the two countries, who was not authorised to speak to the press...
According to an Indian government official, on the leaders’ agenda will be to discuss final approval of a tripartite transit agreement involving India, Afghanistan and Iran centred around the Iranian port of Chabahar.
India’s access to landlocked Afghanistan, and potentially on to Central Asia, Russia, and Europe, is either through Pakistan, which is not seen as feasible given their mutual suspicion, or via Iran and northwards by land.Again, India has been accused of dragging its feet.
“There were several opportunities, even the new government in Delhi had opportunities. But they didn’t act on it.”..
India all set to ink deal to develop Chabahar port in Iran
- Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi|
Developing Iranian port will help India counter neighbours…
Sure is a lot of jostling for influence by those in the region–and note the US seems pretty peripheral. Earlier: