Publication Type:

Conference papers


Raphael Susewind


International Convention of Asia Scholars, March 31 - April 3, Honolulu (2011)


India intervenes in Afghanistan to fight global terrorism and to project itself as a responsible partner in world politics – so far the official narrative. India also intervenes in Afghanistan to encircle Pakistan and to thwart its arch enemy’s longing for „strategic depth“ in West Asia – the most frequent scholarly interpretation. Both accounts of Indo-Afghan dynamics are important, but neither questions its foundation in state-centric frameworks. This paper therefore adds a third narrative to highlight how India's intervention in Afghanistan perpetuates colonial traditions of policing the subcontinent's various frontiers – traditions which have little to do with nation states. Saskia Sassen forcefully argued that looking at inter-state relations through the lense „inter-state relations“ leads to tautological fallacies. Rather, territory, authority and rights intersect in specific assemblages throughout history, only some of which might take the form of nation states or systems of nation states. This paper reconstructs Indo-Afghan relations in these trans-historical terms and compares them across time as well as with both India’s role in the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict and its attempt to pacify its own North-Eastern territories. Combining a comparative approach with healthy ignorance towards nation states shows how the contemporary intervention in Afghanistan perpetuates British and Indian attempts to stabilize a fragile assemblage of territory, authority and rights on the fringes of the subcontinent. This assemblage is characterized by quite specific forms of governance and a multitude of actors – most of which are either larger than, smaller than, or simply different from nation states.