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Reflecting the Twists and Turns of History

C. Raja Mohan

Edited by Anil Nauriya , Ravi M. Bakaya, Razia Ismail Abbasi and Sumit Chakravartty
Konark Publishers, 2004, pp. 355, Rs. 400.00

Edited by Vice Admiral K.K. Nayyar
Rupa & Co., New Delhi in Association with Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, 2003, pp. 415, price not stated.


The declaration by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf on April 18th that the peace process is now “irreversible” has surprised the observers of Indo-Pak relations in the subcontinent and beyond. Given the bitter history of Indo-Pak relations as well as recent military confrontation, informed scepticism and relentless pessimism have long dominated the public discourse on the future of the subcontinent. Yet, India and Pakistan have clearly have launched themselves onto a new course that not only involves expanded cooperation as well as a serious and purposeful attempt at resolving the Kashmir question that has hobbled their bilateral relations for so many decades. As India and Pakistan struggled in recent years to come up with a credible framework of bilateral engagement, few have expected such an early and decisive diplomatic focus on the question of Jammu and Kashmir. Confounding the entrenched cynics on both sides, Manmohan and Musharraf have agreed to softening the dividing line in J&K, move towards shared responsibilities in the state to prevent violence, and chart a final settlement that goes beyond the stated positions of the two nations.   Is this for real or yet another false dawn in Indo-Pak relations? For those who want to err on the side of caution and cannot bring themselves to trust Pakistan to adopt a positive approach to India, the edited volume by K.K. Nayyar provides a solid reassurance. It brings together a number of informed assessments of the familiar markers in Pakistan—its faltering economy, nuclear weapons, sponsorship of terrorism, armed forces and conventional military strategy. There is the gem of a piece here by Arvind Deo that provides one of the sharpest assessments of Pakistan’s foreign policy over the decades. But if you are an optimist and hope that India and Pakistan might indeed find a future that is very different from their unfortunate past, the selection of writings from the late Nikhil Chakravartty comes as a pleasant surprise.   Why should a set of newspaper articles written between 1965 and 1997 on the many twists and turns of Indo-Pak relations interest anyone today? Few journalists can confidently put together their old essays into a book and claim relevance. The focus on the immediate and urgent leaves little space even for the best of journalists to concentrate on the essential and enduring elements of the flow of current history. But Nikhil Chakravartty was no ordinary journalist. ...

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