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Afghan Futures

I.P. Khosla

By Sujeet Sarkar
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2012, pp.269, Rs.395.00


Among the many metaphors for Afghanistan, cross roads in the most commonly used. Now it can additionally be described as the junction point of intellectual and academic endeavour: on war and terrorism; on religion and fundamentalism; on conflict zones and instability; on institution building and State construction. The outpouring of literature by UN agencies and their experts, other international organizations, whether of government or non-government, the media and individuals has been about as diverse as its inability to make a noticeable or enduring impact on the ground. One of the best known Afghanistan bibliographies, now into its seventh edition,* has some two hundred and fifty pages and well over two thousand entries in terms of books and articles. And that is mainly a coverage in the English language and largely since 1970; there is a large mass of reference material in other languages and from other time periods. So much has been written that it is hard to believe there could be anything new; even harder to believe is that it could make any kind of lasting difference. Yet we are all agreed that the reversion of Afghanistan to the days of Taliban rule, certainly the Taliban as it then was at the end of the last century, would be an international tragedy and much more than a tragedy for the Afghans themselves. There must be some way out, something we can all join together to do to give peace and development a chance. And it is with that in mind, apart from the inherent interest such books might have, that we eagerly scan the pages of any new book. Sujeet Sarkar, who worked in Afghanistan for six years starting May 2005, sets out here to give us an in-depth inquiry into the major international concerns about the country’s future. He worked with an international agency as a governance advisor with access to different echelons of society, powerful people and the layman, rural and urban, the North as well as the South. With his wide experience and training in the management of governance and civil society he can also make recommendations about almost every aspect of the Afghan situation: how to overcome the hurdles in the peace process; what to do about the poppy economy; how the international media should portray the picture; State building; and ways to push development forward, among others. The book is divided into three sections: the ...

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