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Indo-Russian Diplomatic Maneuvers in Afghanistan: A Strategic Path Forward

© AP Photo / Alexander ZemlianichenkoAbdul Salam Hanafi, a deputy prime minister in the Taliban's interim government, left, speaks with acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Taliban official Amir Khan Muttaqi during talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021.
Abdul Salam Hanafi, a deputy prime minister in the Taliban's interim government, left, speaks with acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Taliban official Amir Khan Muttaqi during talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. - Sputnik India, 1920, 17.05.2024
India and Russia should establish a joint venture to extract Afghan minerals within Afghanistan, while also investing in Afghan infrastructure for the transportation and processing of these minerals, according to experts.
India and Russia on Wednesday engaged in discussions concerning their approach towards the Taliban* in Kabul, preparations for the upcoming UN meeting on Afghanistan, and various other topics, including Afghan mineral resources.
Zamir Kabulov, Director of the second Asian department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, and JP Singh, Joint Secretary (Pak-Afghan-Iran) at the Ministry of External Affairs, convened in New Delhi to deliberate on Afghanistan's present circumstances.
The gathering occurred in anticipation of an upcoming conference to be hosted by the UN in Doha next month, aimed at fostering consensus among all parties on addressing the Taliban government in Kabul.
Discussions centred on the Afghan situation, underlining the importance of extending development assistance for the well-being of the Afghan people, according to Randhir Jaiswal, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs.
The radical Afghan movement, the Taliban, is no longer perceived as an enemy by Moscow, Kabulov stated, following the results of the Russian Indian consultations on Afghanistan in New Delhi.
“I cannot say that the Taliban have become our number one friend, but they are definitely not enemies. The Taliban openly say that they trust Russia as the legal successor of the USSR,” Kabulov added.
“Previously, when the Taliban fought with the Americans, they said: the Americans have the watches, and we have the time. And now Russia has both the watches and the time,” Kabulov noted.

Exploring Indo-Russia Joint Ventures in Afghanistan's Mineral Sector

“Afghanistan boasts substantial deposits of copper, iron, lithium, and various other minerals. Collaborative efforts between India and Russia in this sector hold considerable weight, especially given the complexities involved in dealing with such movements individually” Qamar Agha, a Geopolitical analyst told Sputnik India.
However, Agha advised that “Given the intricate terrain of Afghanistan, characterized by diverse hostile factions and the fractured structure of the Taliban, which consists of numerous factions with varying perspectives towards India and Russia, the prospect of collaborative ventures between the two nations appears encouraging rather than acting independently. This remains valid regardless of whether these endeavours are pursued in the public or private sector".
Ambassador Rakesh Sood, Former Ambassador to Afghanistan told Sputnik India that to tap into Afghanistan's mineral wealth, “a stable government and legal framework must be established, which will demand significant investment. Any company or country venturing into this endeavour will need to commit to a long-term presence”.
He suggested that “the extraction process will necessitate transportation infrastructure for both moving and processing the minerals, potentially on-site. Therefore, developing robust transport infrastructure is also crucial”.

Enhancing Regional Connectivity: Trilateral Pact on Chabahar Port between India, Iran & Afghanistan

Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, currently a Fulbright-Nehru Visiting Chair at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and an expert on Afghanistan told Sputnik India the significance of the trilateral pact between India, Iran, and the Taliban concerning the Chabahar port.

She emphasized that “This development in trade routes is poised to reshape regional dynamics and geopolitics significantly. Notably, Pakistan's denial of trade and transit rights to Afghanistan and Central Asia with India necessitates reliance on the Chabahar port. This alternative route reduces dependence on Pakistan, opening up other options for trade and Transit for India with Afghanistan and Central Asia."

"This trilateral agreement holds promise for all involved parties, fostering productive engagement between Iran, Afghanistan, and India. The potential for enhanced trade and transit, particularly towards Central Asia, presents a mutually beneficial opportunity for these three nations" she added.
“Indeed, Chabahar port has strategic potential as a trade route, offering India access to Afghanistan, eastern Iran, Central Asia, and Eurasia and an alternative route for Afghanistan and other international trading partners to Karachi-Pakistan route” Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhaya, Former Ambassador to Afghanistan told Sputnik India.
However, Mukhopadhaya mentioned that “realizing this potential depends on the collective political will of Iran, India, Russia, and the Central Asian Republics to facilitate its development”.

Balancing Economic Imperatives and Security Challenges: Engaging with the Taliban

From the prism of Neoliberalism, Dsouza emphasized that “trade relationships can operate on various levels, tying countries in a beneficial economic framework. For instance, the cash-strapped Taliban has expressed interest in projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, driven by economic motives and profits. Consequently, whether or not formal recognition is extended, the regional countries are engaging the Taliban based on their de facto status for economic and security purposes”.

In the realm of trade agreements, she stressed that “economic considerations often prioritized tangible monetary gains over ideological perspectives. While idealistic viewpoints may hinder engagement with certain regimes in foreign policy, pragmatic approaches to trade and economic benefits prevail. Thus, countries in the region have adopted engagement as a strategy with the Taliban, reflecting a prioritization of economic interests over ideological concerns".
“The Taliban has indeed made promises, and to some extent, they may fulfil them. However, the active presence of the Islamic State** (IS-K) poses a significant threat, casting doubt on the extent to which the Taliban can guarantee security to neighbouring countries or any economic projects in the country. The feasibility of these promises hinges on various factors, including the specific routes under consideration and the measures implemented to ensure security.” she added.
However, Agha argued that “Afghanistan, being landlocked, necessitates trade routes primarily with neighbouring countries such as Iran, branching out further to other nations. Security concerns are pertinent, but the Taliban has established an authoritarian set-up within the country, boasting the means to provide security. Additionally, there seems to be limited opposition to the Taliban within the country”.
“Therefore, the security landscape is far from perfect or secure, despite the Taliban's control in Kabul, due to the presence of other groups with interests in destabilizing Afghanistan and perpetuating insecurity” D’souza underlined.
*under UN sanctions
**ISIS (ISIL/Daesh/Islamic State/IS), a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries
A truck transporting cargo from Afghanistan to be exported to India is seen at Shahid Beheshti Port in the southeastern Iranian coastal city of Chabahar, on the Gulf of Oman, on February 25, 2019. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) - Sputnik India, 1920, 17.05.2024
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