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Perils of a National Security State

Sushant Sareen

By Maloy Krishna Dhar
Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 402, Rs. 795.00

By Amir Mir
Lotus Collection, an imprint of Roli Books, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 310, Rs. 395.00

By Imdad Hussain Sahito
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2006, pp. 195, Rs. 350.00


Many of Pakistan’s current problems can be traced back to the circumstances under which the country came into existence. The fear of being gobbled up by a ‘Hindu’ India not reconciled to the Partition, prompted a flimsy, fictitious and faulty ideological framework in which Islam became the defining identity, and India, the eternal enemy. In order to confront a much larger India, Pakistan needed not just a powerful patron – America – but also needed to forge instruments that could tie India down through asymmetric means.   Pakistan’s adroit exploitation of the faultlines in the Indian polity – in the North-east, in Punjab, in Jammu and Kashmir and increasingly among disenchanted and disaffected Indian Muslim youth – has been part of this asymmetric strategy, which Indians refer to as proxy war. But both this low-cost strategy as well as the paranoia that gave rise to a national security state in which politics took a backseat and the military-bureaucratic establishment called the shots, has extracted a heavy price from Pakistan – something that comes out clearly from the three books under review.   In his book Fulcrum of Evil: ISI-CIA-Al Qaeda Nexus, former spymaster, Maloy Krishna Dhar details ISI activities all over India. Despite the demonization of the ISI, which the author calls a ‘fulcrum of evil’, there is a lot more to the book than mere Pakistani-bashing. The author gives details of ISI activities across India, that go far beyond the insinuations that most of us read in the daily papers. Indeed, the author is at his best when he discusses and details the various covert operations being carried out by the ISI inside India.   His interpretation, however, of the policies, motives, mindsets of the Pakistanis are one-dimensional and therefore problematic. Dhar tends to ignore that Pakistan’s paranoia over India is partly a function of Indian attitude towards Pakistan shortly after Partition. The general attitude in India was that the Partition arrangement would collapse sooner rather than later. This coupled with some of the steps taken by the Indian government – holding back the division of assets, breaking off trading relations because Pakistan refused to devalue their Rupee in line with the Indian devaluation, stopping of river waters etc., all conditioned the Pakistani establishment, and even public, attitude towards India. In the circumstances, it was natural for Pakistan to try and balance Indian superiority through alliances and use of asymmetric strategies.   More importantly, the ISI’...

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