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The Question of War and Peace


Bhupinder Brar

PROSPECTS FOR PEACE IN SOUTH ASIA
Edited by Rafiq Dossani and Henry S. Rowen
Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2006, pp. 424, Rs. 500.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

The title of the book under review is utterly misleading. It certainly misled me when I agreed to do the review. First of all, this is not a book about South Asia if we go by the widely accepted definition of the subcontinent. South Asia is supposed to have at least seven states: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. The slight disagreement is about the justification of including two other states – Afghanistan and Myanmar. As far as this book is concerned, South Asia is only India and Pakistan. None of the chapters deals directly with any other countries. In nearly three and a half hundred pages of the main text, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal come up only in the last three pages, that too as an ‘Appendix’.   At one level, these exclusions may have something to do with the rather restricted and negative manner in which the term peace is employed in the book, essentially as absence of war between states. Internal conflicts are taken into account only to the extent that they affect the bahaviour of states vis-à-vis one another on questions of war and peace. That seems to be the reason why internal conflicts in Sri Lanka or Nepal are not discussed in any detail even though neither country has seen much peace in recent years.   However, the real reason for these glaring anomalies becomes clear the moment we begin to read the Introduction. This is not actually a book about South Asia as such, but rather about those parts of South Asia which cause the Americans major worries and concern, at the moment. The moment happens to the period between 1998, when India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests, and 2002 when the two states engaged in a ten-month long eyeball to eyeball border deployment until India withdrew its forces. Kargil had happened in between, in 1999. Many among the American policy makers were convinced by the events of this period that India and Pakistan could go to a nuclear war. Would they in fact do so? What were the domestic and subcontinental factors which turned such a possibility into high probability? What could the Americans do to lower the rate of probability? What should they in fact do?   These could and must have been genuine concerns for the only super- power left in the world. Inputs from the American academia and private research institutions would ...


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