1. India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links. The relationship is not limited to the governments in New Delhi and Kabul, and has its foundations in the historical contacts and exchanges between the people. In recent past, Indo-Afghan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed between the two countries in 2011. As Afghanistan was undergoing three simultaneous political, security and economic transitions in 2015, India had allayed its fears about its future by making a long-term commitment to the security and development of Afghanistan.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the two sides, inter alia, provides for assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance to re-build indigenous Afghan capacity in different areas, encouraging investment in Afghanistan's natural resources, providing duty free access to the Indian market for Afghanistan's exports support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, broad-based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation, and advocating the need for a sustained and long-term commitment to Afghanistan by the international community. As the lead country for Trade, Commerce and Investment CBM of Heart of Asia Process, India hosted Senior Officials Meeting of the Heart of Asia countries in New Delhi in January 2014 and with the help of FICCI, India is organising a 6th Regional Technical Group (RTG) in New Delhi on November 2015.
MoS Gen V K Singh led the Indian delegation to participate in Heart of Asia Ministerial Meeting in October 2014 in Beijing and the London Conference in December 2014. Secretary of M&ER Division, Shri. Sujata Mehta led the delegation to participate in the RECCA VI conference held in Kabul in September 2015.
2. There also exists a high-level political engagement with Afghanistan, which is reflected in the large number of bilateral high-level visits. There have been frequent high level visits from both sides, including among others, Prime Minister in May 2011; Vice President in March 2014 (to Participate in the funeral of FVP Marshal Fahim) and September 2014 (Inaugural Ceremony of National Unity Government), External Affairs Minister (EAM) in January 2011, February 2014 (inauguration of ANAASTU) and September 2014 (unveiling of the monumental flag and New Chancery premises inauguration) ; National Security Adviser (NSA) in March 2011, February 2013 and October 2014; Special Envoy to PM to Kabul in June 2011 for a meeting of the International Contact Group; Foreign Secretary in September 2011, August 2013 and May 2014; Minister of Law & Justice in September 2011 and June 2014, Minister for Steel in April 2013, and by Shri S. Ramadorai, Adviser to the Prime Minister of India in the National Council on Skill Development and Shri M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman of National Farmers Commission.
3. Hon’ble EAM Smt. Sushma Swaraj visited Afghanistan and called on the President Karzai and jointly inaugurated a monumental Afghan Flag on 10 September 2014. This flag, a symbol of Afghan unity and nationhood was organized with assistance from various sponsors including the Flag Foundation of India. India announced US $ 1 million for creation of a national public park around the flag. Indian initiative was widely appreciated by Afghans and the international community. EAM also inaugurated the new chancery complex in Kabul from which the Embassy has started operating since July 2014. She pointed out that this was the clearest statement of ‘no exit’ policy by India. During Heart of Asia 2015, Hon’ble EAM Smt. Sushma Swaraj led a high level delegation to Islamabad. In the conference EAM stressed on increased connectivity, regional trade and openness with Afghanistan, and also "extended India’s hand towards Pakistan" in this regard.
4. From the Afghan side, high level visits to India included Former President Hamid Karzai's visit in May, 2013, following closely after his state visit in November, 2012, when he delivered the prestigious Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Memorial lecture, had intensive discussions with political and business leaders and oversaw the signing of four MoUs with India. India also hosted the Upper House of the Afghan Parliament, Meshrano Jirga, for a study visit from 11-18 February, 2013. The former President Hamid Karzai visited India to attend the swearing in ceremony of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in May 2014. Mr Karzai visited India in November 2014 to participate in HT Leadership Summit and also attended the 125th Birth Anniversary of the First PM Pt Nehru, organized by the Indian National Congress. PM Modi met the new President Dr Ghani on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014. Gen. Karimi’s visited IMA Dehradun as the Chief Guest at passing out parade in December 2014 and also met with COAS Gen Suhag.
5. The Presidential elections were held in 2014 in Afghanistan. After a protracted electoral process for two rounds of elections and UN mediated audit process, a Political Agreement was signed between two leading contenders – Dr Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah Abdullah which led to the formation of national unity government, inaugurated on 29 September 2014. The ceremony was attended by our Vice President Dr Hamid Ansari. Our consistent signaling on the political inclusivity and peaceful transfer of power was addressed and appreciated by all sections of the Afghans. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his congratulatory message wholeheartedly welcomed the agreement between the two Afghan leaders and mentioned that wisdom they have shown respects the strong democratic aspirations of the people of Afghanistan, which was also manifested by the poll turnout. PM also conveyed that India will stand steadfastly with the new government of Afghanistan as it continues the task of building a strong, developed and peaceful nation.
6. In 14 March 2015, Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of arrived in India for a three days visit. During his visit he met with Mohammad Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India and some other high ranking government officials. He also participated in India Conclave Conference organised by India Today magazine. The President Dr Ashraf Ghani, after seven months in April 2015 paid an official visit to India in April 2015. During the visit, President Ghani met President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee; Prime Minister of India Shri. Narendra Modi; and External Affairs Minister Shri Sushma Swaraj. Both side discussed about the cooperation and assistance in various sectors including the health, education, agriculture, disaster management, power sector and electoral management. As a result of President Ghani’s visit, India has gifted Afghanistan three Cheetal helicopters; assistance for the annual maintenance of M/s Habibiyar School, Kabul and Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health; USD 5 million fund to ARCS to treat Afghan child with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) in India for 5 years; extension of ICCR scholarship till 2020 and indicated readiness to sign a bilateral motor vehicle pact to allow vehicles from both sides to traverse each other's countries.
7. The National Security Adviser of Afghanistan, Mohammad Haneef Atmar visited India on November 8-9, 2015. During his two-day visit, the Afghan NSA engaged in bilateral talks with the relevant Indian government authorities. The meetings focused on cooperation in the political, security and economic areas including the current situation in Afghanistan and the region. The National Security Adviser of Afghanistan and the Indian authorities discussed and exchanged views on mutual efforts in fighting against terrorism in line with the provisions of the Strategic Partnership Agreement. On bilateral economic cooperation, H.E. Atmar discussed with the Indian authorities expedition of investments by Indian companies in Afghanistan.
8. The Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Hekmat Khalil Karzai paid an official visit to New Delhi from November 16 – 20, 2015. Deputy Foreign Minister Karzai during his four day visit conducted meetings with Indian authorities to discuss a host of issues and the state of progress in the bilateral ties between Afghanistan and India and interacted at India based think-tanks. Accompanied by a number of relevant delegates, the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister paid his first official visit to India.The Afghan authority met with the Indian Hon’ble Vice- President H.E. Hamid Ansari, Minister of External Affairs H.E. Sushma Swaraj, Minister of Skills Development and Employment opportunities H.E. Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Foreign Secretary H.E. S. Jaishankar, Special Secretary (ER) Smt. Sujata Mehta, Home Secretary, H.E. Rajiv Mehrishi, BCCI Secretary General Mr. Anurag Thakur, and And the Director General of Indian Council of Cultural Relations Mr. C.V Rajasekhar. The Deputy Foreign Minister discussed with the authorities of the host country key issues related to the bilateral arrangement between Afghanistan as well as those of mutual interest and concern for the two countries. The head of Afghan delegation also interacted with members of Vivakananda International Foundation (VIF) under Chatham House Rule and spoke at the Observer Research Foundation on “Indo-afghan Relations: the Way Forward”. During the visit the Afghan authority also met with the National Congress Party’s Vice President Mr. Rahul Gandhi, and BJP’s National Secretary General Mr. Ram Madhav.
9. In 25th December 2015, Prime Minister along with a high level delegation paid a visit to Afghanistan. During his visit he called on President Ashraf Ghani; he met Chief Executive, Dr Abdullah and Former President Hamid Karzai. During his visit he inaugurated the newly built Afghan Parliament; he announced 500 scholarships for the children of the martyrs of Afghan Security Forces in school and colleges both in Afghanistan and in India; and Prime Minister gifted four Mi25 Attack helicopter to Afghan Air forces. During the visit, it has been decided to conduct the first Strategic Partnership Council meeting headed by the Foreign Minister of the both country in the first quarter of 2016 along with four joint working group meetings.
10. His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan visited India from 31 January- 4 February 2016. During this visit, he met Prime Minister on February I and held discussions on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest including the security situation and peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. EAM and NSA called on H.E. Dr. Abdullah, on February l & 4, respectively. India reiterated its abiding commitment to stand by Afghanistan in all possible ways during the latter's on-going political, security and economic transitions. The two sides strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Pathankot in India, and stressed the need to fully eliminate all forms and manifestations of terrorism as well as support to it, for peace and stability in the region.
11. In the context of continued bilateral development cooperation, the decision of the Government of India to approve the 3rd phase of Small Development Projects comprising of 92 projects in Afghanistan was conveyed. Both sides agreed to develop connectivity through Chahbahar port in Iran on priority. An Agreement on Exemption from Visa Requirement for Holders of Diplomatic Passports was signed. On 3rd February, H.E. Dr. Abdullah addressed a joint interaction with the three leading chambers of commerce and industry in lndia, namely ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI.
12. H.E. Dr. Abdullah delivered the Keynote Address at the Counter Terrorism Conference organised by India Foundation in Jaipur on February 2, where the inaugural address was by Rashtrapatiji.
13. Bilaterally, India has played a significant role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan. India's extensive developmental assistance programme, which now stands at around US 2 billion, is a strong signal of its abiding commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan during this critical period of security and governance transition. This makes India one of the leading donor nations to Afghanistan, and by far the largest from among the regional countries.
14. India believes that sustainable development of Afghanistan requires long-term investment in Afghanistan that can help it exploit its natural resource wealth. India is, thus, at the forefront of the promotion of investment in Afghanistan and a consortium of public and private Indian companies has been selected to make one of the biggest investments in the country's mining sector, in the Hajigak iron ore reserves.
15. Indian and Afghan authorities consult regularly regarding early completion of Salma Dam (by 2016); New Afghan Parliament building was inaugurated by the PM Modi in December 2015; Charikar sub station project was inaugurated by the Chief Executive of Afghanistan in December 2015; Doshi sub station will be ready in the first quarter of 2016; Restoration of Stor Palace is expected to be completed in 2016. India has provided high protein biscuits through WFP in schools in Afghanistan in all provinces. India also gave US$ 1 Million assistance for flood relief programme in Badakshan in May 2014. During PM’s visit in December 2015, India assured to expedite the supply of 1,70,000 MT wheat to Afghanistan, which is part of 1.1 Million MT wheat donation committed by us.
16. India, under small development projects (SDPs) Phase I& II (US$ 20 million) and Phase III (US$ 100 million) along with Ministry of Economy of Afghanistan has undertaken/committed more than 200 projects of small projects with less gestation period covering Public Health, Education, and community infrastructure in various provinces of Afghanistan. During the Chief Executive of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah’s visit to India in 2016, Government of India conveyed the approval of the 3rd phase of Small Development Projects comprising of 92 projects in Afghanistan.
17. Under Aid to Afghanistan budget, India established Agriculture University ANASTU in Kandahar in 2014. In July 2015, the Embassy completed the ICCR scholarship cycle for the academic year 2015-2016, utilizing all the 1000 slots dedicated to Afghans. Besides a record of 100 % achievement, it also had record number of women students – 90. In May 2015, Prime Minister of India extended ICCR Scholarship for Afghan students till 2020. India also sent more than 500 Officials under ITEC programme for various capacity building courses in India. Apart from the above training program, India also provides various training program for the Afghan government officials from various fields on ad-hoc basis under special discretionary slots.
18. India also realises that stability can result in Afghanistan only if all the major actors and countries have a stake in its stability, growth and prosperity. India has, thus, been championing efforts to attract regional and trans-regional investment into Afghanistan that provides a viable alternative to the dominant narrative of extremism and offers job opportunities to its population, by pioneering events like the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan in June 2012. Recognising that the region holds the key to peace in Afghanistan, India is spearheading commercial Confidence Building Measures in the region within the purview of the Heart of Asia Process. Multilaterally, it helped initiate a dialogue on Afghanistan through various platforms like the Afghanistan-India-US trilateral and the Afghanistan-India-Iran trilateral that seek to bring together international partners with disparate worldviews in pursuit of the common goal of securing peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. India also expressed its support to international cooperation on Afghanistan at the UN and at various international conferences focused on the future of Afghanistan, including the seminal Tokyo Developmental Conference in July 2012 and London Conference in December 2014.
19. The bilateral trade at 683.02 million US$ for 2013-14 ($ 474.25 million export and $ 208.77 million import by India) is at a modest level given the vast potential between two countries. The top commodities exported by India were man-made staple fibres, cereals, tobacco, electrical machinery, dairy produce, eggs, honey, rubber products, pharmaceuticals, clothing accessories, boilers and machineries whereas the imports mainly comprised of fresh fruits, dried fruits/nuts, raisins, vegetables, oil seeds, precious/semi-precious stones etc. To achieve the possibilities of trade, India and Afghanistan signed a Preferential Trade Agreement in March 2003 under which India allowed substantial duty concessions, ranging from 50% to 100%, to certain category (38 items) of Afghan dry fruits. In November 2011, India removed basic customs duties for all products of Afghanistan (except alcohol and tobacco) giving them duty free access to the Indian market. India is one of the major export destinations of Afghanistan's goods with. The operation of the Chabahar port in Iran could substantially increase Afghanistan's exports by providing a new transit route for Afghan to trade with India and the rest of the world. Recently Indian government has approved USD 85 Million for upgrading the capacity of Chabahar Port in Iran for an alternate trade transit route for Afghanistan.
20. India hosted the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan on June 28, 2012 to help forge cross-country partnerships for investment in Afghanistan and to offer a counter narrative of economic opportunities in Afghanistan. Apart from above 100 business delegates from Afghanistan and around 160 from India, around 80 delegates from the countries in the region and beyond, including China, Pakistan and Iran participated in the event. Afghan Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Mines, Trade and Commerce and Agriculture participated in the Summit.
21. MoU signed for developing Afghan Textiles industry: Afghanistan is endowed with rich quality of cotton, silk and cashmere and has significant potential for development of the textiles industry, which in turn may generate considerable employment opportunities. With this objective, a MoU was signed between India and Afghanistan on 7 January 2015, as per which India would provide the required assistance to develop Afghan textiles industry and assist in skill development, research and technical collaboration in product development and manufacturing, testing and certification and organize joint trade missions for mutual collaboration.
22. Under the Bilateral Agreement both the countries issue gratis visas to nationals each other’s. Over the years, the number of visas issued by Embassy and posts in Afghanistan has been increasing, in 2015 a total visa of 1.1 lakh were issued compared to 83, 224 in 2014, 16 % increase. In elderly applicants above 60 years of age, frequent travellers, reputed businessmen and minors of age less than 15 years are normally exempted from appearing in interview, And with a view to promote trade and business the Embassy has since December 2014 started issuing multiple entry Business Visas to reputed Afghan businessmen.
23. Consular services are extended to Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan and also Indian nationals in prison as well as to Afghan nationals per issues such as attestation of certificates, affidavits and commercial documents.
24. The Embassy has proposed to MoFA signing of following MoUs which are under process of finalising the draft text.
25. Mission has also proposed to the Ministry of External Affairs to review PRC status of Afghanistan and the requirements such as police/FRRO registration required by Afghan travellers to India within 14 days of arrival. And also to review of 60 days cooling off restriction imposed between two visits on a tourist visa for Afghan nationals.