Piece on “Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan” at The Wire

Over at The Wire, an Indian news portal that I enjoy following, I’ve published a piece relating some of the themes in Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan to present-day Indian concerns. Check it out here.

While Humanitarian Invasion is substantially devoted to Cold War developmental politics and transnational humanitarian aid, earlier chapters of the book explore how Afghanistan’s governing elites sought to distance the country from the moneychangers and trading houses in lowland India (then the British Raj). Later, of course, Partition separated India from Afghanistan through the formation of Pakistan. And during the 1980s, New Delhi was one of the few countries to recognize the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (as the country was called from 1978 until the late 1980s).

All of these episodes make for a complicated legacy that Indian policymakers must deal with as India seeks to exercise influence in Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia. (India has recently completed major development projects in Afghanistan, marking one of the few cases where India has acted as an aid donor rather than an aid recipient.) As I show in the piece, a grasp of some of the history of relations between the two countries might help to set expectations for a relationship into which Indians and Afghans invest great hopes.