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India hoping for survival of Afghan government

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WASHINGTON – India has long backed the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, but his final term of office expires in 2014 at the same time that U.S. and coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, notes Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The upcoming convergence has created many security challenges for New Delhi. If it does nothing to influence who succeeds Karzai, India will see an increase in the Taliban and an encroachment from nemesis Pakistan. The Pakistani government is expected to resume instigating militant attacks in the Indian-administered regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

At the same time, India may be forced to open up channels of communication with the Pakistani-created Taliban, since it will have control over large areas of Afghanistan.

As U.S. and coalition forces have left areas of Afghanistan in preparation for the 2014 departure, the Taliban has quickly filled the void, making any non-recognition of the group all but unrealistic.

Afghanistan, however, represents too much of a strategic and security interest to New Delhi.

India has invested some $2 billion in development aid to Afghanistan. The two nations have a strategic partnership that will have India train and equip Afghan security forces which are supposed to take on the Taliban with the departure of Western combat forces.

New Delhi also looks at Afghanistan as important for its energy security. Afghanistan is the gateway to energy-rich Central Asia. For example, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have constructed a pipeline that will start bringing natural gas from Turkmenistan to India in 2017.

For India, U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan have considerably lessened the number of attacks in the India-administered regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

India also has major investments in Afghanistan. It has been funding a major road in Afghanistan that will give the landlocked region access to the sea through Iran. India uses the Iranian port of Chabahar to send supplies to Afghanistan, since Pakistan won’t allow India overland access to Afghanistan.

India’s need for Iran helps explain why New Delhi also has been reluctant to sanction Iran over its nuclear development program, especially in the purchase of oil which India needs to further economic development and employment.

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