India and Afghanistan have forged one of the world's most enduring alliances, which may be more important now than ever before. Jules Suzdaltsev has the story in today's Seeker Daily report.
The two countries, as they exist today, share a similar origin story. Both were once part of the sprawling British empire before they gained independence. In 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, India was one of the first non-Communist countries to recognize the new Soviet-backed government. Perhaps even more importantly, India supported the the country again when it transitioned out of Soviet rule a decade later.
The alliance was severed in 1996, however, when Afghan government was overthrown by the violent Islamist group known as the Taliban. India refused to recognize the Taliban government, and relations bottomed out when the Taliban ordered the destruction of two ancient stone Buddhas. As the birthplace of Buddhism, India was deeply offended.
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When the Taliban were overthrown, India and Afghanistan renewed diplomatic ties - and the alliance has strengthened ever since. India has pledged more than $2 million in aid to its neighbor and cooperates with various humanitarian and security initiatives, like training police and emergency workers.
Bilateral trade has doubled in the last decade, surpassing $680 million in 2015. India is also pouring money into Afghan infrastructure projects, including a massive hydroelectric friendship dam. India's longtime rival Pakistan threatens to complicate matters, however. Pakistan is suspicious of India's motives in helping Afghanistan, and suspects a regional power play. As such, Pakistan - which is situated directly between the two countries - has blocked Indian goods from passing through, forcing India to build a sea port in Iran.
Today, with the U.S. pulling troops out of Afghanistan, India's friendship will be more important than ever. Watch Jules' report here for more details.
-- Glenn McDonald
Office of the Historian: The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. Response, 1978-1980
Council on Foreign Relations: India-Afghanistan Relations
NPR: Panetta Calls on India to Step Up in Afghanistan