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Tracking Multitudinous Crises

Shibashis Chatterjee

Edited by D. Suba Chandran
Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, 2007, Rs. 695.00


Despite manifest changes in the living standards of a vast number of people in virtually all the South Asian states, the subcontinent is still mired in a multitude of crises of both conventional and non-conventional kinds. It is a little surprising therefore that the existing state of affairs has invited continuous academic attention from scholars and policy makers in the past and continues to engender a large volume of titles, theoretical, or otherwise. The present volume under discussion is one of the latest additions to the field. The book contains nine essays and a compendium of events tagged to the end to help guide the readers to keep track of developments. Of these, three essays discuss security problems of India, each concentrating on Kashmir, the Maoist insurgency and the Northeast respectively; Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are discussed in four separate articles; while two general papers on the South Asian Security problematic make the introduction and bring up the rear respectively. The geographical scope of the project, even by the formal, institutionalized definition of South Asia, is rather restrictive. For some unspecified reasons, there are no entries for Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan and little sustained discussion of the roles that the People’s Republic of China and Myanmar play in the security of the subcontinent. It is hoped that the coming volumes would overcome this limit.   P.R. Chari in his introductory overview reduces all conflicts in South Asia to any of the three areas: territory, ethnicity and religion. But his own conceptual framework appears awkward for Indo-Nepalese conflict, which he attributes to ‘systemic issues’ and the growth of Maoist insurgency, neither being reducible to the neat triad of territory, ethnicity and faith. Chari’s staple observation hints at the close nexus between internal and external dimensions of security, where external conflicts are deliberately turned into subterranean forms, regular wars are substituted by intermittent strategies of attrition or war by proxy, and the transparent promotion of militancy across borders. Chari drives home the point that South Asian conflicts are generic, and that there is hardly any merit in separating conflicts along the external/internal axis. Chari’s diagnosis also reveals a strong catholicity in all forms of subcontinental conflicts—secular or sectarian. His observations are precise and well documented. But he does not explain the catholicity of the South Asian conflicts, and does not tell us when justice claims ...

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