1. NSA A. Doval in Kabul in 2021 reminds me of former-R&AW chief A.K. Verma’s visit in ‘88. He was sent by R. Gandhi to assess the ‘sustainability’ of the Najibullah regime. Verma returned upbeat: (paraphrasing) “w/ Soviet support, Najib will remain in power for years”.
2. Najib did last *exactly* till Soviet aid poured in, & then was ousted in ‘92. Today, N. Modi must be asking the same ques. from Doval about the Ghani govt. (incl. intra-govt. allies & adversaries alike): ‘how long can they last?’.
3. Unlike ‘88, when few foresaw the Soviet collapse (even though, retrospectively, there were indicators for the same), no one is likely to bank upon ongoing U.S. involvement in, or substantial support for, Kabul in the coming months (D.C. has its own literal battles to fight).
4. In late-80s, India opened secret channels w/ the Mujahideen & found surprising convergence of interest. Now, despite many (half-hearted?) attempts by both sides, neither India nor Taliban are able to find serious common ground. This may change, but it won’t be easy or sudden.
5. So, the one aspect that is becoming clearer: India is prepping for a long —ongoing— fight in support of its allies in Af (w/o boots on the ground). More than most countries, N. Delhi has a critical stake in securing the ‘few gains’ of the last 20-years. But will it succeed?
6. This thread by @asfandyarmir offers a good overview of the hectic activity between N. Delhi & Kabul in these previous months. Let me reiterate, it is easy to discount India is from Afghanistan (& for good reason). But this *might* change in the coming months.
... it is easy to discount India from Afghanistan*
Correction: A K Verma visited Kabul in February 1989, not in 1988. Apologies.

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More from @PaliwalAvi

11 Jan
1. This is India’s way of saying: “we hope that a ceasefire is attained & talks at Doha deliver a sustainable agreement. But we’re not counting on either of that for now, & will side w/ Kabul if the situation worsens”. Short thread.

2. India’s mil. support to Afghanistan has never been huge. But it’s symbolically potent, & provocative for Pakistan. Given how stretched India is militarily, what it offers Kabul won’t change the mil. tide in Af. But it *might* offer a lifeline to India’s allies.
3. Unlike 1990s, when India operated along partisan lines against Pak-Taliban w/ support from Moscow & Tehran, this time it’ll have fewer regional partners. Even if Iran & Russia sympathise w/ N. Delhi, they are unlikely to weigh in w/ adequate resources to counter the Taliban.
Read 5 tweets
21 Dec 20
1. The ISI seems to be truly sharpening (& exercising) its covert assassination programme against dissidents abroad. Of course, no one can point the finger on the org. forensically given the nature of the ops, but the signalling is breathtaking. A quick thread:
2. The ISI is not new to covert assassinations on foreign soil. Much to the contrary. But, *where*, *when*, & *against whom* it carries out such ops is critical. Select Asian (& its a big continent!) countries have been preferred over others.
3. There was reluctance in the past to undertake ops in Western countries. The alleged killings (imp. to remember that these are just allegations) in Sweden & Canada of Baloch dissidents is a shift in modus operandi (even if the capabilities existed, they were not exercised).
Read 12 tweets
2 Dec 20
India’s decision to invite U.K. PM Boris Johnson as chief guest for Republic Day 2021 is incredibly well timed & strategically smart. Four, among other, issues to watch out for:
1. Brexit & FTA: This will be tough sell for London (easy capital flows but restricted labour flows?), but GoI is likely to be welcoming of such agreements, esp. having said no to RCEP. Still a long way to go, but both countries have an economic incentive to get serious.
2. China & IOR: With a strategic shift in London’s position on China since HK situation, & it’s articulation of an Indo-Pacific strategy coupled w/ defence logistics pact w/ India, there are new synergies here.
Read 6 tweets
2 Dec 20
This @SKalyvas interview is brilliant. Apart from delving into the field of pol. violence & it’s development over the years, it unpacks imp. dilemmas that academics face on a routine basis. 1/n

As someone who is deeply wedded to specificities (instead of generalisations), & who puts a premium on high-quality empirics & deep historical inquiry, I’ve struggled w/ the systemic push for theory building & w/ quantitative methods. 2/n
Though I value quant research, for now I’ve decided not to open that box. This could change. But over the last year or so, I’ve pushed myself to diversify my research agenda & climb up the ladder of abstraction w/ support from excellent colleagues. 3/n
Read 6 tweets
14 Oct 20
Some thoughts on the M. Yusuf interview by K. Thapar. It's timing, content esp. re Af & secret wars, style, reactions & implications. I agree with @iamthedrifter that this will strengthen his credentials in Pak estb., even if there's much to disagree from an Indian perspective.
1. Timing: Excellent! In the middle of the intra-Afghan process in Doha, Sino-Indian standoff, continuing violence at LoC, a never-ending pandemic, IK's domestic travails, & Modi's internal/regional eco., & mil. challenges.
In substance, the interview doesn't complicate India's approach towards China & Pak. The battle-lines are v. clear & hardening over time at a global level. But it does raise q. about India's silent outreach to Pindi. Who did it, why, why now, on what conditions/assumptions?
Read 27 tweets
22 Aug 20
Couple of quick thoughts, @pstanpolitics a) China has offered shelter to various NE insurgents for some time, w/o letting them operate kinetically. b) P. Baruah is one, but H Tangkhul, T R Calvin, and some other N-IM cadre still operate from Yunnan 1/n
c) There has been an (expected) uptick in violence in Manipur recently, & acc. to some Indian officials there is indeed a "link to China". But, it is unclear whether this link is to Beijing, or to the illegal arms bazaar wherefrom Chinese-made weapons can easily be bought. 2/n
d) R&AW & MSS have been playing hide-&-seek on Baruah/Calvin/Tangkhul (among others) for long. N. Delhi has been worried about Beijing's potential re-activation of these groups; & the E. Ladakh crisis has *seemingly* given a good reason to Beijing (explains timing?). 3/n
Read 10 tweets

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