About the author (2017)
Avinash Paliwal is a Lecturer in Diplomacy and Public Policy at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Specialising in the strategic affairs of South Asia and Afghanistan, he holds a doctorate in international relations from King's College London, and an economics degree from the University of Delhi. Prior to joining academia he worked as a journalist and foreign affairs analyst in New Delhi.
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.
Irrespective of which group dominated Indian policy, India rarely appears to have got its way in Afghanistan.
There was a time when New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman accused Pakistan for playing a double game in Afghanistan. Donald Trump also accused Pakistan in 2018 of lying and deceiving the United States in Afghanistan while receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid.
No doubt Pakistan made some mistakes in Afghanistan but new evidence that has exploded recently proves that it was not Pakistan but some other clever forces that were playing a great double game not only with Pakistan and Afghanistan but also with the US.
This great double game was actually started in 2019 but due to Covid-19 it slowed down in 2020. This dangerous double game restarted in 2021 when 11 Shia Hazaras were slaughtered in the Mach area of Balochistan on January 3. Isis accepted responsibility for that massacre. The sole objective of the massacre was to create sectarian tensions in Pakistan, but Isis failed.
This terror outfit is working as the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (IS-KP) in Afghanistan. IS-KP organized the same kind of attacks in Afghanistan in which Shia Hazaras were targeted. They attacked Kabul University and also targeted a hospital in Kabul last year.
The IS-KP attack on a Sikh Gurdwara in Kabul on March 25, 2020 exposed the involvement of some Indian nationals inside Afghanistan. Initially, Afghan intelligence claimed that IS-KP and the Haqqani Network jointly organized the attack on the Sikh Gurdwara but the media cell of IS-KP later released the video message of one Indian national Abu Khalid Al Hindi who was part of that attack. Later, Indian media revealed that this man was Muhammad Anis from Kerala. Three more Indian nationals participated in an attack on the Jalalabad jail in August 2020.
It is no more a secret that Indian intelligence tried to create Isis in Occupied Jammu & Kashmir to use it against pro-freedom forces but these efforts failed. Now, Indian Intelligence is cleverly using Isis against the Naxalites in India’s north-east, and also sending disgruntled Muslim youth to Afghanistan via the Middle East to fight against the Taliban.
So, why is the Modi-led Indian government playing this double game in Afghanistan? A recent book by British-Indian author Avinash Paliwal provides the answer. The title of the book is ‘My Enemy’s Enemy’ and one picture on the title is enough to understand the great double game: Narendra Modi is shaking hands with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Avinash Paliwal teaches Defence Studies in King’s College London. He interviewed many important Indian and Afghan officials before writing his book.
Paliwal has clearly written that India is playing a proxy war against Pakistan in Afghanistan. He has also written about Kulbhushan Jadhav: “Whether Jadhav is indeed a spy who undertook subversive activities in Pakistan is yet to be established but the incident raised many questions about the R&AW’s operations in Pakistan, and threatened to compromise India’s moral high ground vis-a-vis Pakistan”(p284).
The book tells us that India is trying to exploit some mistakes of the Pakistani state in Balochistan. Paliwal says that India is playing the “Baloch and Pashtun cards” in Pakistan, and that Indian intelligence tried to cultivate the Afghan Taliban but failed. On page 282 of his book, he drops the bombshell that “Indian Intelligence officials, for instance, admitted in off-the-record conversations that both [the] TTP and Baloch elements seek covert military and financial support from India and have reached out to Indian officers posted in Afghanistan”.
After reading this book it is very easy to understand the great double game of India in Afghanistan. Ashraf Ghani is Modi’s main ally in Kabul. Both of them don’t want a peace deal between the Afghan Taliban and the US. They think that peace in Afghanistan will be considered as a victory of Pakistan. When the Afghan Taliban and the US were close to a deal in the middle of 2019, Modi suspended Article 370 in Occupied Kashmir on August 5, 2019 and created a crisis which diverted the attention of Pakistan from the peace process. As a result, Trump suspended peace talks with the Afghan Taliban in September, 2019.
Modi seems to think that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan may encourage Kashmiri freedom fighters. Very few people know that most of the IS-KP fighters were previously associated with the TTP. In fact, the first IS-KP commander Saeed Khan Orakzai was a Pakistani who was killed by the US. The TTP-India connection is enough to understand the IS-KP-India connection.
Despite all hurdles, the Afghan Taliban and the US signed a peace deal in Qatar on February 29, 2020. Some people in Western and Indian media have been claiming that there is escalation in violence in Afghanistan after that peace deal. Many people doubt the intentions of both the Pakistani state and the Afghan Taliban but the situation on ground is entirely different. It is wrong to presume that there is no consensus on a peace deal within the ranks of the Afghan Taliban. The document of the Doha agreement was sent to the Rehbur Shura of the Taliban. The Shura consulted with all field commanders and Taliban chief Mullah Haibatullah asked a committee to review the agreement in light of Islamic law. After approval, the Afghan delegation in Qatar signed the agreement.
The Taliban even announced a ceasefire on Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha in 2020 but Ashraf Ghani created problems in the implementation of the peace agreement by making baseless allegations on the Taliban leadership. The Taliban halted their attacks against Western troops but are still fighting with government troops due to complications created by Ghani. Everybody in Kabul knows who provided safe havens to IS-KP in the Shakardara area situated in the north of the capital. Initially, some Afghan leaders like Hamid Karzai accused the US for secretly supporting IS-KP but the US killed many IS-KP leaders and tried to contradict these claims. The Afghan National Army and intelligence agencies are still helping IS-KP in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces because they think that their real enemy are the Taliban – and the enemy’s enemy is their friend.
The Taliban tried to make the peace agreement work. It was difficult for people like Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Anas Haqqani to participate in the peace talks because they spent a lot of time in jail and lost many of their own in US drone attacks; Anas Haqqani lost four brothers and one aunt. Anas Haqqani also invited Australian national Timothy Weeks (former prisoner of the Taliban, released during prisoner exchange) to witness the Doha agreement. Weeks was received by Haqqani himself at the Doha airport.
The Taliban were ready to sit with women members of a peace delegation sent from Kabul. Against the expectations of many Western experts, the Taliban started an intra-Afghan dialogue but Ghani and his Indian allies are trying to create an impression that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will be a big disaster and the Taliban will turn Afghanistan into hell. This approach is propaganda from the enemy’s enemy. Modi wants Indian forces to replace US troops and on the other side Iran is also suggesting the use of Shia fighters in Afghanistan to defeat IS-KP.
The great double game is the biggest threat to the peace process in Afghanistan. This may also become a big challenge for new US President Joe Biden. One must not forget that the Afghan peace process was started by the Obama administration. Direct US-Taliban engagement was started in Qatar in 2015 and the same year IS-KP emerged in Afghanistan.
Biden must continue this peace process but he also needs to understand the great double game against this process by some so-called friends. These friends of the US consider Pakistan an enemy and are trying to use another enemy of Pakistan sitting in the presidential palace of Kabul. Avinash Paliwal’s book contains enough evidence about India’s proxy war in Afghanistan against Pakistan.
The recent WhatsApp chats of Indian anchor Arnab Goswami also proved that Modi is playing a double game not only with the international community but also with his own people. He thinks that the success of the Afghan peace process will be seen as the success of Pakistan so many enemies are jointly conspiring against the peace process.