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Disengagement Milestones

Raja Menon

Edited by Michael Krepon and Chris Cagne
Vision Books, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 340, Rs. 495.00


The Stimson Center and Vision Books have brought out a well researched paperback on a subject which the Center has pioneered in South Asia – Confidence Building Measures and Risk Reduction. The hopes that motivated the Stimson Center, led by Michael Krepon, on leading India and Pakistan to a “progressive and cumulative set of CBMs between 1991 and 2003, have been belied, owing to ‘geopolitical realities’”. In other words as Krepon has suggested while leading from the front in the first essay ‘Is Cold War Experience Applicable to Southern Asia,’ the key to the success of CBMs in the Cold War arose from an early understanding not to change the status quo in Europe. The South Asian handicap is that changing the status quo lies at the heart of the dispute. Krepon has set out ten key elements that constitute the progressive disengagement milestones that were negotiated between the early seventies and the late eighties, and modestly ascribes their success to ‘hard work, good fortune, divine intervention—or just plain dumb luck’ Most South Asian diplomats used to the casual pre-colonial methods of negotiating and peacemaking are more than likely to underestimate how much hard work the Cold War negotiating specialists put in, often spending between seven and fifteen years concluding a confidence building treaty, compared to the 48 to 72 bonus that passes for peacemaking conferences in South Asia. But in fairness to the South Asian scenario, many of the risk reduction agreements began to succeed in quick succession during the Cold War, when the Soviet leadership began to panic at the early warnings of their crumbling economy.      The book divides itself into discussing three broad issues – reducing nuclear dangers, avoiding the nuclear threshold and lastly the threats to regional stability posed by missile defence. Tacked on to part II is the narrative of the discussion organized by the Stimson Center as a post- mortem to the 1990 crisis. P.R. Chari writes the second essay, an elegant narrative of the security-insecurity, and the stability-instability paradox that confronts the two South Asian neighbours. This paradox, explains Chari, looks different from different capitals. From Islamabad the nuclear arsenals ensure crisis stability in preventing war (conventional war), and thus assured, low intensity war can be happily pursued. From Delhi, the nuclear arsenal is a confounded nuisance, getting in the way of a conventional war ‘drubbing’ that Pakistan adventurism deserves. From Washington the startlingly different South Asian perceptions ...

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