With the US seeking to limit its international role amidst domestic political resistance, India and Europe are facing increased pressure to take on greater international responsibilities. Delhi and Brussels are both pursuing a more ambitious role in international security affairs, and the imperative for strategic cooperation between them is growing. After 15 years of limited cooperation, India and the EU have the opportunity to join forces on promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Despite extraordinary international attention paid to Afghanistan since the turn of the millennium, prospects for the current regime’s failure have increased. A Taliban victory in Afghanistan would impose severe costs on India and Europe in terms of refugee inflows and terrorist threats. To prevent this, cooperation between India and the EU should be directed towards improving Kabul’s odds of defeating the Taliban offensive and enhancing its leverage in the negotiations on regional reconciliation. This will require greater trilateral coordination between Kabul, Brussels and New Delhi, in conjunction with a dual track approach that demands short-term emphasis on political and military consultations on the changing ground conditions, along with with a long-term focus on continued economic assistance to strengthen a moderate and stable Afghan regime.
- Security consultations: Expand the working-level, low-frequency contacts on counterterrorism between EU and Indian domestic security institutions with a substantive and even more regular track between external security actors. This should include the sharing of intelligence and exchange of assessments between Indian and European security agencies in Brussels and Delhi as well as on the ground on the dynamic situation in Afghanistan. The EU and India should also not shy away from a frank dialogue on how best to leverage incentives and disincentives to ensure Pakistani cooperation to pressure the Taliban, facilitate reconciliation and strengthen the legitimate Afghan government.
- Military coordination: Create high-level exchanges between EU and Indian military establishments on the evolving situation in Afghanistan and coordinating their training and assistance missions. This requires joint EU-India training for Afghan military and police forces.
- Political cooperation: Increase political and diplomatic cooperation between the European Union and the Indian Foreign Ministry to heighten pressure on Pakistan to close the sanctuaries for the Taliban. Based on the US-India-Afghanistan trilateral, create a similar EU-India-Afghanistan trilateral consultative mechanism. Increase EU-India dialogue on the regional context shaping Afghanistan, including the Middle East and Iran, Central Asia, and the strategic implications of China’s One Belt, One Road projects.
- Development cooperation: Develop joint EU-India capacity-building projects for the Afghan civil services and public administration.