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A Synoptic View

K. Subrahmanyam

By P.R. Chari, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema and Stephen P. Cohen
Brookings Institution Press, Washington, 2007, pp. 252, price not stated.


The very title of this book recalls to one’s mind the four articles of the eminent Pakistani journalist, the late Altaf Gauhar published during September-October 1999 in the Pakistani paper Nation under the heading ‘Four Wars, one assumption.’ They were written in the wake of the Kargil war and covered the Kashmir war of 1947-48, the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 and the Kargil war. It is not intended to compare the contents of those newspaper articles with the analyses in the book under review. Attention is drawn to those articles only to make the point that the history of Indo-Pak relations over the last sixty years has been one of a series of fluctuating crises which had peaked to become four wars and a number of confrontations from time to time. While at the time Altaf Gauhar penned his articles there could be no expectation for optimism, the present authors have very rightly focused on the emergence of the peace process, initiated in 2004 during Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting.   There is a logic in the authors having adopted a synoptic view about the four crises beginning with the 1987 one. These four crises all had the nuclear factor as the background though the authors themselves are not sure about the 1987 crisis having a significant nuclear dimension. In fact it not only had a crucial nuclear dimension and perhaps a view could be taken with all the material now available that the core of the crisis was to tell the world that Pakistan had developed the nuclear weapon. More about it later.   The four crises dealt with in this work cannot be fully understood unless one reads Stephen Cohen’s admirable book, Idea of Pakistan, which deals with the identity crisis of Pakistan over the last six decades. This is necessary since the book under review contains a major factual error on p. 30 where it is asserted that the British denied independence to princely states. The correct position is that the British, backed by the constitutional lawyer, Mohammed Ali Jinnah maintained that with the lapse of paramountcy, the princely rulers regained their autonomy to decide whether to accede to either dominion or stay independent. The Kashmir ruler chose not to accede to either dominion till Kashmir was invaded by tribal raiders under the command of the Pakistani General Akbar Khan on the justification that under the ‘two nation theory’ Kashmir with majority ...

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