The testbed for holding a more comprehensive round of talks with Afghanistan has been considered successful by the parties involved. The US and Taliban have signed an agreement on February 29, 2019, that could usher in peace after a 19-year-old war. It has taken 10 years of intermittent engagement with the Taliban for the Americans to work out an agreement. India has never been a party to it.
However, Indian representative was there to at the signing of the agreement at Doha. The agreement calls for a partial US troops drawdown and initiation of talks with the Afghan government. The Afghan government is itself in a state of flux with two claimants to victory in the recently concluded Afghan elections.
For Indians, Afghanistan is geo-strategically extremely critical. In terms of our outreach to the Central Asian Republics and as a counterbalance to Pakistan and China, Afghanistan is of vital importance. The country has the Central Asian Republics to the North, Pakistan to its East, and through Iran and Pakistan the Indian Ocean deeper south.
For Indian trade with the Central Asian Republics, the flow could be through the sea lanes of communications of Indian Ocean to Gwadar port, and thereafter by land astride the Delaram highway that India has built-in Afghanistan, to destinations in CAR states. The route also competes with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and given a boost and necessary political stability along its length, work as an alternative to the BRI.
Afghanistan also denies strategic depth to Pakistan. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border remaining active denies Pakistan the opportunity of positioning additional military capabilities along its borders with India.