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Research Questions

  1. What are India's and Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan?
  2. How has each state tried to further its interests there?
  3. How has Afghanistan navigated the rivalry between India and Pakistan to protect and advance its own interests?
  4. What are the rivalry's implications for U.S. policy?
  5. How can Indian engagement in Afghanistan further India's interests, as well as those of the United States, after the drawdown of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan?
  6. How might Pakistan react to increased Indian engagement in Afghanistan?

India and Pakistan have very different visions for Afghanistan, and they seek to advance highly disparate interests through their respective engagements in the country. Pakistan views Afghanistan primarily as an environment in which to pursue its rivalry with India. India pursues domestic priorities (such as reining in anti-Indian terrorism, accessing Central Asian energy resources, and increasing trade) that require Afghanistan to experience stability and economic growth. Thus, whereas Pakistan seeks to fashion an Afghan state that would detract from regional security, India would enhance Afghanistan's stability, security, economic growth, and regional integration. Afghanistan would welcome greater involvement from India, though it will need to accommodate the interests of multiple other external powers as well. India has a range of options for engaging Afghanistan, from continuing current activities to increasing economic and commercial ties, deploying forces to protect Indian facilities, continuing or expanding training for Afghan forces, or deploying combat troops for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency missions. To avoid antagonizing Pakistan, India is likely to increase economic and commercial engagement while maintaining, or perhaps augmenting, military training, though it will continue to conduct such training inside India. Increased Indian engagement in Afghanistan, particularly enhanced Indian assistance to Afghan security forces, will advance long-term U.S. objectives in central and south Asia. As the United States prepares to withdraw its combat forces from Afghanistan in 2014, it should therefore encourage India to fill the potential vacuum by adopting an increasingly assertive political, economic, and security strategy that includes increased security assistance.

Key Findings

India Has Multiple Interests and Strategies in Afghanistan

  • India seeks to prevent anti-India terrorism, undermine Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan, increase its access to Central Asian energy resources, and project power.
  • India seeks political influence in Afghanistan, provides development assistance, promotes investment, regionalizes solutions to Afghanistan's security and stability problems, and provides military training.

Pakistan Has Multiple Interests and Strategies in Afghanistan

  • Pakistan seeks to block India's influence, maintain strategic depth, establish safe havens for Pakistan-trained extremists, undermine Pashtun separatism, and curb other states' influence in Afghanistan.
  • Pakistan makes itself essential to reconciliation tasks, offers limited development aid, opposes Afghanistan's regional economic integration, seeks Central Asian energy resources, and pressures the United States to protect Pakistan's interests.

Afghanistan Navigates the Rivalry Between India and Pakistan

  • Afghanistan secured additional Indian assistance, as well as military training, in the October 2011 Indo-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement.
  • Afghanistan must address Pakistani interests, even though Pakistan is ill-positioned to contribute constructively to Afghan stability or development.

India Has Options for Future Engagement

  • India has a range of options for engaging Afghanistan, from continuing current activities to increasing economic and commercial ties, deploying forces to protect Indian facilities, continuing or expanding training for Afghan forces, or deploying combat troops for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency missions.

The United States Should Encourage Increased Indian Engagement

  • Increased Indian engagement, particularly enhanced security cooperation, will help advance U.S. interests in Afghanistan after the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization draw down combat forces in 2014.

Recommendations

  • The United States should promote an active Indian role in Afghanistan to fill the potential security vacuum created by the drawdown of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops.
  • The United States should reduce its dependence on Pakistani cooperation regarding terrorism and the Afghan war because Pakistan actively works to undermine U.S. objectives.
  • Because India has far more to offer Afghanistan over the long term than Pakistan does, the United States should no longer encourage India to remain on the sidelines in Afghanistan in order to accommodate Pakistan's concerns.
  • India should increase its economic, commercial, and military engagement in Afghanistan.
  • Indian policymakers will need to determine how to calibrate India's engagement in Afghanistan so as to advance its interests without provoking Pakistani retaliation.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    India

  • Chapter Three

    Pakistan

  • Chapter Four

    Afghanistan

  • Chapter Five

    Implications for the United States

  • Chapter Six

    Implications for India

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusion

The research described in this report was conducted within the RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy under the auspices of the International Programs of the RAND Corporation.

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