Reviews

'My Enemy’s Enemy-India in Afghanistan from the Soviet Invasion to the US Withdrawal' review: Wheels within wheels

My Enemy’s Enemy: India in Afghanistan from the Soviet Invasion to the US Withdrawal Avinash Paliwal HarperCollins ₹699  

Theorists of international studies have failed for decades to understand the continued conflict in Afghanistan from the point of view of Indian policy makers. However, the author of My Enemy’s Enemy, Avinash Paliwal, applied the Advocacy Coalition Framework to explain the dynamic and often bewildering relationship between Delhi and Kabul.

Paliwal has tried to be fair to the theoretical model by his field study in Afghanistan and a number of important interviews in India and in other locations.

The central thesis of the book narrated through the competing ties of the ‘partisans’ and the ‘conciliators’ located in India’s policy platforms is that India, far from being a benign donor of cash for educational and cultural development, has in fact been engaging Kabul for countering Pakistan while interacting with all political factions on the ground in Afghanistan. As a result of his research and interviews, Paliwal has come up with some startling revelations from the UPA-era.

However, it needs to be explained that some of the most startling revelations are outcomes of his interviews with intelligence officials who are identified as ‘X’, ‘L’, ‘H’ and ‘I’. The reader will not know who these intelligence officials really were but it is obvious from those who were willing to be named that these intelligence officials were senior enough to be in contact with the UPA’s National Security Advisors M.K. Narayanan, Shiv Shankar Menon and Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambaram.

Though the book attempts to capture more than three decades of India’s internal policy debate on Afghanistan, it is when the author reaches the UPA era in India and that of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan that the competition between the hardliners — the partisans and the ‘peacewallahs’ — becomes most intense.

However, this distinction is not always maintained as sometimes the partisans came under pressure and on other occasions, the conciliators failed to contain the former.

While it is well-known that India has maintained contact with ‘all segments’ of Afghan politics including the Mujahideen going back to the 1980s, the book shows that the real drama however is not in Afghanistan but in the offices of Delhi where the various groups of policy makers often clashed on what approach should be taken to engage Afghan government to the maximum advantage of India.

The book is proof that the Afghan Taliban has long been in conversation with India. Paliwal has written a well-researched tome that is a must-read for those trying to understand the internal warfare among India’s policy makers as they engage with the competing political factions in Afghanistan.

My Enemy’s Enemy: India in Afghanistan from the Soviet Invasion to the US Withdrawal; Avinash Paliwal, HarperCollins, ₹699.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 2:55:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/my-enemys-enemy-india-in-afghanistan-from-the-soviet-invasion-to-the-us-withdrawal-review-wheels-within-wheels/article22703588.ece

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