Center for American Progress

RELEASE: An Agenda for U.S.-India Cooperation in Afghanistan
Press Release

RELEASE: An Agenda for U.S.-India Cooperation in Afghanistan

Washington, D.C. – India and the United States have an opportunity to more constructively engage on supporting Afghanistan’s long-term stability, according to a report released today by the Center for American Progress and the Observer Research Foundation.

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan has become very dynamic in anticipation of the 2014 presidential elections and the departure of U.S. troops. Actors in the region, such as Pakistan and Iran, appear undecided on how to navigate and potentially influence the transition process. As the United States reduces its military presence in Afghanistan and transfers security control to the Afghan government in 2014, the governments in New Delhi and Washington must find ways to strengthen their partnership in Afghanistan while embedding it in a sustainable structure of regional cooperation in order to ensure the future stability of Afghanistan.

The United States and India share a number of objectives in Afghanistan and the wider region, including:

  • A unified and territorially integrated Afghanistan
  • A sovereign, independent, and functional Afghan government based on the principles underlying the current constitution, including democracy, nonviolent political competition, and basic human rights for both women and men
  • An Afghanistan that prevents terrorist groups from using its territory to train and mount attacks both in the region and around the world
  • An Afghanistan that serves as a central trade and transit hub connecting South and Central Asia
  • A stable and responsible Pakistan that prevents militant groups from operating within its territory and seeks economic and political cooperation with its neighbors

The following recommendations offer a way to move toward a common regional strategy between the United States and India:

  • Support a strengthened political consensus in Afghanistan.
    • Support Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections in 2014 through greater encouragement and emphasis on the creation of an Independent Election Commission, an electoral complaints mechanism, and clear rules surrounding the elections.
    • Encourage political consensus building among Afghan elites and civil society that is occurring alongside the formal election process in order to foster a more legitimate electoral outcome.
    • Strengthen Afghan government institutions and advance broader Afghan political reforms through training Afghan government officials at all levels, and allocating more assistance through the Afghan government while leveraging these funds to push for good governance reforms as committed to in the Tokyo Framework.
    • Consult more extensively on negotiations with the insurgent groups, while recognizing that the United States will play a more central role in those negotiations than the Indians.
    • Facilitate a larger reconciliation effort among a diverse set of Afghan stakeholders and countries in the region.  The United States and India should use their unique relationships and membership in organizations to advance political agreements among Afghans, while nesting them within a larger regional framework.
  • Encourage political and economic regional integration through U.S. and Indian collaboration on bolstering regional trade and dialogue.
    • Consult more closely on U.S. and Indian approaches to Pakistan; the United States should attempt to facilitate dialogue among India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in a quadrilateral forum and between India and Pakistan.
    • Maintain focus on economic integration through sustained engagement with the private sector, multilateral forums and organizations, as well as other countries to ensure sustained financial support for Afghanistan’s economic integration into the South and Central Asia regions.
    • Extend dialogue to additional countries by leveraging the respective regional partnerships and alliances of the United States and India to advance shared goals in Afghanistan; this includes India’s relationship to Iran and Russia, and the United States to Pakistan.
  • Strengthen Afghan National Security Forces with India providing more financial assistance, training, and support. The Indian government should allocate their funding in consultation with existing NATO and U.N. security force trust funds, including the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, in order to best coordinate with other international donors, in line with the needs of the Afghan forces.
    • Respond positively to the requests from Kabul for greater material assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces.
    • Increase training of the Afghan National Police and continue training the Afghan National Army.
    • Support the development of military infrastructure in Afghanistan based on the needs of the Afghan government.
    • Create a mechanism for consultation between the Government of India and the NATO-ISAF to increase the effectiveness of their security-assistance programs to Afghanistan.

Washington and New Delhi can complement each other’s efforts by utilizing their strengths and unique relationships with countries in the region and Afghan actors to further mutual goals related to security, economic integration, and political stability.

Increasing the Indian role in Afghanistan has risks, especially as it relates to Pakistan, but the benefits of increased cooperation between the India and the United States on shared objectives has the potential to outweigh the drawbacks, especially if done with transparency and ongoing dialogue with countries in the region.

Read the full report: Toward Convergence: An Agenda for U.S.-India Cooperation in Afghanistan by C. Raja Mohan, Caroline Wadhams, Wilson John, Aryaman Bhatnagar, Daniel Rubin, and Peter Juul

To speak with a CAP expert on this topic, contact Katie Peters at [email protected] or 202.741.6285.