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India And Afghanistan Ties Are As Ancient As History

The relations between the people of Afghanistan and India traces to the Indus Valley Civilisation[1] Following Alexander the Great's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the region known today as Afghanistan. In 305 BCE, they ceded much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty.

In the late 2nd century BCE, much of Afghanistan has been influenced by Buddhist, Hindu and Zoroastrian cultures until the arrival of Islam in the 7th century. But despite many Afghans converting to Islam, the Muslims and Hindus lived side by side.[2]

The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush. Over the mighty Hindu Kush and through the forbidding Khyber Pass, monks, merchants and monarchs have linked us through knowledge, culture, religion, commerce and kingdoms.
In the timeless Buddhist symbols of Aynak and Bamyan of Afghanistan and in the majestic monuments of Delhi, in Indian cultures, arts, languages, literatures, foods and festivals, both nations see the imprint of bilateral timeless relations.

In the heart of every Indian and Afghan, there is boundless love for each other. Indo-Afghan love each other's culture and cinema, music and poetry, food and festivals also now admire each other's cricket, every Afghans see India as a natural destination for education, health or a family home.

Indians remember the support of Afghans during freedom struggle; the contribution of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, revered as Frontier Gandhi; and, the important footnote of that history, when, exactly hundred years ago, the first Indian Government-in-Exile was formed in Kabul by Maharaja Mahendra Pratap and Maulana Barkatullah. King Amanullah once told the Maharaja that so long as India was not free, Afghanistan was not free in the right sense.

India continued to build Afghan capacity for governance, security and development; also India has helped rural communities get schools, minor irrigation, health centres, and welfare for children and opportunities for women.[3]

The Afghanistan-India relation is unique and dynamic prefacing shared vision of economic, social and cultural periphery.

The proximity is accounted with active engagement and prioritizing to accomplish better strategic relation of India with Afghanistan in bringing economic development, stability and peace that will ultimately usher progress in the country. The prestigious history of Afghanistan-India relations is an excellent reputation on the bilateral front covering all the aspects of friendliness, trust, mutual interest, people-to-people contact. Today both the nations cherish this bonding on a wider spectrum and prioritizing the multilayered dimensions seeking greater bilateral cooperation.

In September 2017, India hosted the India-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Show in New Delhi. A high level of participation from the Indian corporate sector resulted in business propositions being signed between the respective private enterprises of the countries worth more than US$200 million.

India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links. India has been, and continues to be, a steadfast partner in the reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan.
India's support is guided by the needs and priorities of the Government and the people of Afghanistan; activities are undertaken in partnership with the Afghan government; and projects are spread across Afghanistan in wide range of areas. The following assistance programmes have been initiated:

India and Afghanistan established a Direct Air Freight Corridor[4]

India and Afghanistan established a direct air freight corridor with the arrival of the first cargo flight carrying 60 tonnes of cargo from Kabul to Delhi on 19 June 2017

Chabahar Port[5]

Chabahar Port, located in the Sistan-Baluchistan province in Iran, is an important infrastructure development project being currently undertaken by both India and Iran for enhancing sea-land connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asian Region.

First shipment of wheat from India to Afghanistan[6]

It open up new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan and enhance trade and commerce between the three countries and the wider region.

Road from Zaranj to Delaram[7]

Construction of a 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram for facilitating movement of goods and services to the Iranian border was completed in 2010. The highway will connect Iran with the Garland Highway, which links Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif Herat and Kunduz.

Afghanistan Parliament Building[8]

Spread over 86 acres and built over 28,370 sq m area, the Afghan Parliament is India's gift to the people of Afghanistan. The project included construction of the Parliament building, service block cum parking and reception office. The Afghan Parliament was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India jointly with President of Afghanistan on 25 December 2015. The sessions of both Upper House (Meshrano Jirga) and Lower House (Wolesi Jirga) are now being held in the new building.

Afghan India Friendship Dam[9]

The most important symbol of India's assistance in the reconstruction of Afghanistan has been the construction of the multipurpose Afghan India Friendship Dam (AIFD). The project implementation faced several challenges, including logistical and security aspects. The project was inaugurated jointly by the Prime Minister of India with the President of Afghanistan on 4 June 2016. The Dam has an installed capacity of 42 MW and supplies water for irrigating 75,000 hectares of land. Since then, the project has been generating electricity and releasing water for irrigation.

India-Afghanistan: New Development Partnership[10]

116 new High Impact Community Development Projects' in 31 provinces of Afghanistan, including in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure, administrative infrastructure.
Small Development Project.

India-Afghanistan Scholarships Programme

Human resource development and capacity building initiatives, which constitute an important segment of India's assistance portfolio in Afghanistan, include: Following the reconstruction and renovation of Habibia School in Kabul, India is extending assistance for training and maintenance of the school. A Special Scholarship Scheme of 1000 scholarships per annum to Afghan Nationals. (Administered by ICCR) has been very successful with 100% utilization.[11] In the area of skill development, the Government of India has been providing education to Afghan nationals.

India offers 500 Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) slots to Afghanistan annually.
The Afghanistan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University (ANASTU) set up with Government of India assistance is contributing to capacity building in agricultural sciences. The Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) is involved in training, equipping and establishing the university.

Restoration of Stor Palace[12]

The historic 100 year old Stor Palace located in Afghan Foreign Office premises in Kabul was restored to its previous splendour with India's assistance in 2016. The Stor palace was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India and the President of Afghanistan on 22 August 2016.

Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul [13]

The Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health IGICH - a 400-bed hospital is the main hospital in Afghanistan that caters to the well-being of children from all across Afghanistan.

Conclusion:
Indians and Afghans have always stood for each other, never against another. Both have a glorious tradition of pluralism and respect for diversity and beliefs. And, as Hindi cinema's most famous Pathan character, Sher Khan in Zanjeer sang: Yaari hai iman mera, Yaar meri zindangi (Friendship is my faith, the friend is my life). This is the creed of Afghans and Indians.

End-Notes:
  1. Nancy Dupree (1973): An Historical Guide To Afghanistan, Chapter 3 Sites in Perspective.
  2. Rajadhyaksha, Abhijit (2 August 2009). "The Mauryas: Chandragupta". Historyfiles.co.uk. Retrieved 9 March 2012
  3. https://thediplomat.com/2015/09/india-and-afghanistan-a-growing-partnership/
  4. https://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/28546/India_and_Afghanistan_establish_Direct_Air_Freight_Corridor
  5. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/topic/Chabahar-port
  6. https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/first-indian-wheat-shipment-leaves-for-afghanistan-via-irans-strategic-chabahar-port/
  7. http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/indian-built-zaranj-delaram-highway-under-taliban-control/
  8. Siddharth Varadarajan, ed. (August 30, 2005). "Democracy not the preserve of the West: Karzai". The Hindu. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan-India_Friendship_Dam
  10. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/india-steps-up-development-partnership-with-afghanistan-118091001297_1.html
  11. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/afghan-by-birth-indian-by-heart/article19096586.ece
  12. https://www.akdn.org/project/restoration-stor-palace-kabul
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indira_Gandhi_Children%27s_Hospital

Videos on India - Afghanistan: An Enduring Friendship:


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  2. Written by: Sayed Qudrat Hashimy, Student of 1st Year LL M (International Law), Department of studies in Law, University of Mysore , Mysore
    Email: [email protected], Mobile no. +91 9008813333 - +93700383333

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