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Theorizing an Anarchic Confrontation

D. Suba Chandran

Edited by T.V.Paul
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 273, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

The common formula of most Indian masala movies, irrespective of whether produced in Mumbai or any other regional center is simple: a romantic encounter, an emotional scene, a duet, a fight sequence, a family song – these events are presented in different permutations and combinations in the first half of the movie followed by an intermission. After some coke, tea and popcorn in the lounge, the same events are repeated in the second half. Indo-Pak relations in the last one decade have followed an almost similar pattern – breakdown of relations, a sudden positive development, public euphoria, foreign secretary-level talks, meeting at the highest levels, CBMs, opening of borders and minds and a terrorist attack. These ‘historical’ events are followed by an intermission and then history repeats again. At least thrice since the nuclear tests in 1998.   How to theorize a conflict and cooperation (or lack of it) that defies logic? How to explain nuclear tests, Lahore summit, Kargil War, Agra summit, Parliament attack, Islamabad summit, intra-Kashmir bus service and the Mumbai blasts? If an enduring rivalry is characterized as a “persistent, fundamental, and long term incompatibility of goals between two states”, how would one theorize the attempts to cooperate? How to theorize the relations between the state that carefully and painfully builds relations over a period, at times even at the risk of internal political opposition only to see it crumble in weeks, if not days? How to theorize the popular euphoria and hysteria, which gets as easily carried away with a cricket match as with a terrorist attack?   T.V. Paul’s edited book attempts to answer the above questions. A challenging task indeed, as Paul F. Diehl, Gary Goertz and Daniel Saeedi in their well researched essay on theoretical specifications comment that Indo-Pak rivalry is a puzzle for international relations theory makes clear. Perhaps, therein lies the answer; subcontinental politics should not be looked only through the ‘international relations theory” prism, which is yet to shift or take in to account the subaltern.   Paul states that the Indo-Pak conflict is enduring and asymmetric and methodically argues on various factors that make the conflict asymmetric. There is an asymmetry in various fields from population to political institutions, but is the Indo-Pak conflict asymmetric any more following the 1998 nuclear tests? Has the asymmetry been broken in terms of the ability to inflict equal pain? Not even once since Partition were there three ...

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