Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2009

Indian Involvement in Afghanistan: Stepping Stone or Stumbling Block to Regional Hegemony?

Melanie Hanif

April 2009

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Due to its geo-strategic location between the Central Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern security complexes, Afghanistan is often defined as an insulator state, and sometimes also as a connector. This in-between position has led to constant instability: ever since the creation of the Durrani Empire, the country has suffered from internal power struggles as well as outside interference. External attempts to control Afghanistan have nonetheless proven extremely difficult. This also holds true for the current conflict management efforts of the US-led coalition. But what could the alternatives be? This paper seeks to explore the prospect of regional security cooperation as a path towards stability for Afghanistan. Although the academic debate has thus far not considered Afghanistan as a primarily South Asian country, I will focus on the South Asian subsystem for three reasons: Firstly, current security matters in Afghanistan are highly connected to the situation in Pakistan. Secondly, with its accession to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Afghanistan has shown an interest in establishing stronger ties with South Asia. Thirdly, India as a rising regional power is the only country in the region that might possess the capabilities, the willingness, and the legitimacy for a long-term engagement in Afghan security.