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A Contemporary Record

Ali Ahmed

Edited by D. Suba Chandran  and P.R. Chari
Routledge, New Delhi, 2012, pp.297, Rs. 795.00


The book under review is the fifth Annual Report on Armed Conflicts in South Asia brought out by the think tank, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi. The Institute's idea and practice of taking out annual reports is laudable. Over a period of time, these can serve as a reliable contemporary record, besides being useful for students, academics, policy makers and practitioners over the immediate term. The previous editions have been welcomed, no doubt prompting and enabling continuing of the series. It is perhaps in genuflecting to peace studies that the editors have chosen to include the term 'Transformation' in the subtitle. Suba Chandran details why this has been done in his leading chapter in the second part of the book (pp. 137-38) in referring to the concept of some significance for peace studies. He goes on to say that his contribution 'focuses on negative conflict transformation and conflict decay' (p. 138). This goes against the grain of the definition from the Berghof Handbook he reproduces while launching into his chapter: 'actions that seek to alter the various characteristics and manifestations of conflict by addressing its root causes over the long-term, with the aim to transform negative ways of dealing with conflict into positive, constructive ones.' It is therefore with good reason that the editors use the term 'transformation' in the subtitle rather than 'conflict transformation'. What they appear to have in mind are the changes in conflicts for better or worse brought about by conflict dynamics when they use the term 'transformation'. Where a conflict goes downhill, Chandran typifies it as 'conflict decay'. This departure from peace studies theory concept of conflict transformation explains the possibility of transformation as a 'threat', phrased in the subtitle thus: The Promise and Threat of Transformation. Since the editors have chosen to adapt the term transformation to their purpose, an opportunity to examine South Asian conflicts in the 'conflict transformation' framework has been passed up. The volume could have proved innovative, given that most such analyses, including some essays appearing in the book, are from an international relations and strategic studies framework. Conflict transformation, on the other hand, as a field of study in peace studies concerns itself with structural, behavioural and attitudinal changes required to move towards 'just peace'. The potentiality of conflict transformation of conflicts endemic in South Asia could have been broached. This is testimony to the marginal ...

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