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India's Changing Afghanistan Policy: Regional and Global Implications

Authored by Dr. Harsh V. Pant.

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Since 2001, the situation in Afghanistan has afforded New Delhi an opportunity to underscore its role as a regional power. India has a growing stake in the development of peace and stability in Afghanistan; and the 2011 India-Afghan strategic partnership agreement underlines India’s commitment to ensure that a positive momentum in Delhi-Kabul ties is maintained. This monograph examines the changing trajectory of Indian policy toward Afghanistan since 2001, and it is argued that New Delhi has been responding to a strategic environment shaped by other actors in the region. U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan in 2014, and India stands at a crossroads as it remains keen to preserve its interests in Afghanistan. The ever-evolving Indian policy in Afghanistan is examined in three phases before implications of this change for the region and the United States are drawn. There has been a broader maturing of the U.S.-India defense ties, and Afghanistan is likely to be a beneficiary of this trend. Managing Pakistan and unravelling Islamabad’s encirclement complex should be the biggest priority for both Washington and New Delhi in the coming years if there is to be any hope of keeping Afghanistan a stable entity post-2014.

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