Tuesday

23rd May 2017

Analysis

EU and India must converge in Kabul

  • Europe must work with India to safeguard Afghanistan's future

Despite common interests, shared objectives and similar initiatives, biased perceptions have persistently hindered dialogue and cooperation between India and the European Union in Afghanistan.

In New Delhi’s perspective, Brussels’ Common Foreign and Security Policy remains on paper and the EU’s efforts in Afghanistan are thus determined by the geostrategic interests of the United States and NATO.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Europeans, in turn, tend to dismiss every Indian initiative in Afghanistan as a ploy against Pakistan that risks transforming the country into a proxy battleground.

As President Donald Trump threatens to scale back American engagement globally, the EU and India will have to take on a more prominent role and cooperate to keep the United States involved and at the same time, rope in other stakeholders committed to supporting a democratic regime in Kabul.

In a joint research project between Carnegie India and the Global Public Policy Institute (Berlin), we found significant areas of EU-India convergence that could facilitate cooperation in Afghanistan.

Work with Afghanistan's neighbors

First, the EU and India should not shy away from a frank dialogue on how best to balance incentives and disincentives to ensure that Pakistan plays a constructive role.

Besides guaranteeing transit rights to ISAF, billions of US dollars and Euros in assistance have failed to force Islamabad to seal the Durand Line.

As Pakistan’s largest trade partner and a major source of development assistance, Brussels must use its economic leverage to compel Pakistani civilian and military authorities to cease all support for terrorist organisations, isolate the Taliban, and normalise relations with Kabul.

If the EU is serious about promoting regional cooperation in South Asia, it must also pressure Islamabad to stop impeding trade and transit between Afghanistan, India and the rest of South Asia.

Second, Brussels and Delhi will have to learn how to talk to each other about talking to the Taliban.

India has determinedly opposed any type of outreach to the insurgents but, below the radar, it has secretly built communication channels with several Pashtun factions to keep all options open.

The EU, on the other hand, played an active role through the Quadrilateral Coordination Group to promote a reconciliation process with the “good” Taliban, and been more optimistic about the chances for a negotiated settlement.

If Brussels and New Delhi develop a high-level and frank political dialogue on the potential and dangers of engaging the Afghan Taliban, it is likely that they will find a lot more common ground than expected.

Third, Brussels and New Delhi will have to step up their commitments to ensure that the Afghan state’s capacity is further strengthened.

The EU and India should pool efforts, for example through joint training for Afghan officials. By rotating through European and Indian institutions, Afghan civil service, military, police and intelligence officials would benefit from a comparative experience.

Brussels and New Delhi should also consider joining hands in their democracy assistance projects, supporting Afghanistan’s nascent parliamentary, electoral and civil society institutions, with special emphasis on the rule of law, minority rights, and media freedom.

Fourth, following the Iran deal and a timid rapprochement between Brussels and Moscow, there is now scope for greater EU-India convergence on the regional environment.

Iran, China, Russia

In order to avoid Afghanistan from turning into a turf for geopolitical rivalries, Brussels and Delhi must create conditions for greater dialogue and coordinated behaviour between the powers committed to supporting a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan, including Russia, China, and Iran.

By hosting the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia ministerial conference, late last year, the EU and India indicated their commitment to this multilateral approach.

Fifth, the EU and India have a shared interest in strengthening the Afghan economy by diversifying its external linkages.

While Kabul has expressed a desire to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, its excessive reliance on Pakistani trade routes will render it even more susceptible to pressure from Islamabad.

Iran plays a key role in Afghan connectivity plans towards the West, via Turkey and Russia, and towards the South, to the Indian Ocean.

The success of alternative Eurasian connectivity plans to China’s One Belt One Road, for example the International North-South Transport Corridor, will hinge on the EU’s willingness to lift restrictions on Teheran and, on the other hand, on India’s capacity to invest in infrastructure like Iran’s Chabahar port as a hub to Afghanistan.

For EU-India coordination and cooperation to succeed on all these fronts, Brussels and Delhi must invest in a high-level bilateral dialogue on Afghanistan’s internal dynamics and its regional context, and also consider setting up a trilateral EU-India-Afghanistan consultative mechanism.

As the United States abandons the driving seat and ceases to micromanage Kabul, the EU and India will have to step up and take on a leading role in support of a stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.

Constantino Xavier is a fellow, and Arushi Kumar is a research assistant at Carnegie India, in New Delhi, where they focus on India’s foreign and security policies towards the regional neighbourhood.

Together with C. Raja Mohan, they recently co-authored apolicy brief on the potential for EU-India cooperation in Afghanistan, published by the Global Public Policy Institute

EU-India: reincarnation of a strategic partnership

Although the ultimate panacea of the long-stalled EU-India free trade agreement continues to remain elusive, Wednesday's summit in Brussels managed to relaunch the long-static strategic partnership.

Resetting Europe's India strategy

As strategic partners, EU-India relations ought to be vibrant. Instead, they suffer from chronic mutual under-prioritisation, say Joel Sandhu and Oliver Stuenkel.

Why the EU doesn't get China's Belt and Road

It is not enough for European officials to simply tell the press that they do not understand the Belt and Road – the vision is clear enough, the point is to decide how to engage with it.

Development serving the purpose of migration control

While the EU is sacrificing development aid to serve short-term migration interests, it is important to realise that enhanced border controls will not solve the root causes of forced migration and displacement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  2. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  4. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  5. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  7. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  8. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  9. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  10. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  11. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  4. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  5. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  7. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  9. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  11. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  12. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change