My Enemy’s Enemy

India in Afghanistan from the Soviet Invasion to the US Withdrawal

August 2017 9781849048347 384pp
Temporarily out of stock


The archetype of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, India’s political and economic presence in Afghanistan is often viewed as a Machiavellian ploy aimed against Pakistan. The first of its kind, this book interrogates that simplistic yet powerful geopolitical narrative and asks what truly drives India’s Afghanistan policy.

Based on an extensive repertoire of hitherto untapped primary sources including official memoranda, diplomatic correspondence, and a series of interviews with key political actors, My Enemy’s Enemy provides a comprehensive analysis of India’s strategy debates and foreign policymaking processes vis-à-vis Afghanistan, from the last decade of the Cold War to the 1990s Afghan civil war and the more recent US-led war on terror. It demonstrates that Indian presence in Afghanistan has been guided primarily by an enduring vision for the region that requires a stable balance of power across the Durand Line.


‘Paliwal offers an insightful analysis of India’s role in Afghanistan. Contextualizing the historical significance of Afghanistan as a “fulcrum of global power” and a battleground of “conflict, competition, as well as aspiration” through excellent archival material and fieldwork, he explores how India, as a “rising power” rooted in its own domestic, political, social, regional, and ideological complexities, has defined and debated its approach toward Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion to the ongoing US withdrawal.’ — Choice

A very impressive achievement: an exquisitely detailed account of the twists and turns of this important relationship. The material gathered from interviews in Afghanistan and India (and beyond) is eye-opening . . . and the book as a whole is an excellent demonstration of how contemporary history can be written in the absence of official records.’ — Australian Institute of International Affairs

‘It is to Paliwal’s credit that he does not shy away from tackling contentious issues that have vexed relations between India and Pakistan as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. . . . The book’s scope, its careful research based upon declassified documents, extensive use of interviews with former and serving officials and reportage and its organization combine to make it a substantial contribution on India’s foreign policy toward an important neighboring state.’ — Parameters, US Army War College Quarterly

‘Highly readable . . . an excellent historical resource for anyone interested in India – Afghanistan relations.’ —  European Review of International Studies

‘India’s deepening commitment to Afghanistan—a country with which it shares history but not borders—has puzzled many international observers. Paliwal performs yeoman service by demonstrating that New Delhi’s effort to engage Afghanistan in recent times has been driven less by geopolitical ambition and more by a desire to avert serious harm to Indian interests.’ — Ashley J Tellis, Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, author of Understanding Strategic Cultures in the Asia Pacific

My Enemy’s Enemy breaks new ground: it is the first serious, scholarly account of India’s policy towards Afghanistan. Paliwal analyses the push-and-pull of policymaking in New Delhi against the backdrop of wider strategic shifts. This book is indispensable to anyone wanting to make sense of India’s engagement with Afghanistan.’ — Srinath Raghavan, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, author of India’s War: The Making of Modern South Asia, 1939-1945

‘This book fills a gap in the literature on India’s foreign policy. Based on primary sources, including interviews with some of those who have shaped Afghan policy over the decades, it shows that this policy was not only determined by Pakistani strategies. It is a major contribution to our understanding of the geopolitics of South Asia.’ — Christophe Jaffrelot, Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King’s India Institute, author of The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience 

‘There has long been a view in Delhi that an independent, united and economically strong Afghanistan is in the best interests of India. This fascinating book offers a detailed analysis of how since the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, India has worked to this end.’ — Francis Robinson, Professor of the History of South Asia, Royal Holloway, University of London

‘This is the first study analysing India’s role in Afghanistan in depth, and is a major new contribution to both the study of Afghan foreign policy alongside India’s. Dr. Paliwal has carried out extensive research on this topic, and provides a balanced analysis, shedding light on many hitherto obscure issues.’ — Antonio Giustozzi, Visiting Professor, Kings College London, co-author of Missionaries of Modernity: Advisory Missions and the Struggle for Hegemony in Afghanistan and Beyond


Avinash Paliwal PhD is Reader in International Relations at SOAS University of London, specialising in South Asian strategic affairs. A former journalist and foreign affairs analyst, he is the author of India's Near East: A New History and My Enemy's Enemy: India in Afghanistan from the Soviet Invasion to the US Withdrawal, both published by Hurst.

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