It is an undisputedly history-rich bouquet of books that IANS is offering to its readers this weekend, covering the most debated topic of India-Pakistan rivalry to juxtaposing the neighbour’s state of affairs in global politics. And then there are some gems from history repolished through the eyes of foreigners. Take a look.
1. Book: The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry between India and Pakistan; Author: Dilip Hiro; Publisher: tion Books
The partitioning of British India into independent India and Pakistan in August 1947 occurred in the midst of a commul holocaust, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. More than 750,000 people were butchered, and 12 million fled their homes - primarily in caravans of bullock-carts to seek refuge across the new border: it was the largest exodus in history. Sixty-seven years later, it is as if that August never ended. The author provides a riveting account of the relationship between India and Pakistan, tracing the landmark events that led to the division of the sub-continent and the evolution of the contentious relationship between Hindus and Muslims. To this day, a reasoble resolution to their dispute has proved elusive, and the Line of Control in Kashmir remains one of the most heavily fortified frontier in the world, with 400,000 soldiers arrayed on either side. Since partition, there have been several acute crises between the neighbours, including the secession of East Pakistan to form an independent Bangladesh in 1971, not forgetting the wars of 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999 and the confrontation in 2002 that almost blew up into a conflict. Hiro amply sketches the geopolitical contours of the India-Pakistan conflict by chronicling their respective ties not only with America and the Soviet Union but also with Chi, Israel, and Afghanistan. The author weaves these threads into a lucid rrative, enlivened with colourful biographies of leaders, vivid descriptions of wars, sensatiol assassitions, gross violations of human rights - and cultural signifiers like cricket matches.
2. Book: The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics; Author: Ayesha Jalal; Publisher: Belkp Press
Pakistan, created as a homeland for the sub-continent’s Muslims, has had a tumultuous history that has unfolded in the vortex of dire regiol and intertiol conflicts. Beset by assassitions, coups, ethnic strife and the loss of East Pakistan in 1971, the country has too often found itself contending with religious extremism and military authoritarianism. Now, in a probing biography of her tive land amid the throes of global change, the author provides an insider’s assessment of how this nuclear-armed tion evolved as it did and explains why its dilemmas weigh so heavily on prospects for peace in the region. Attentive to Pakistan’s exterl relations as well as its interl dymics, Jalal shows how the vexed relationship with the United States, border disputes with Afghanistan in the west, and the conflict with India over Kashmir in the east have played into the hands of the generals who purchased security at the cost of strong democratic institutions. Combined with domestic ethnic and regiol rivalries, such pressures have created a siege mentality that encourages military domition and militant extremism. Since 9/11, the country has been widely portrayed as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism. Assessing the threats posed by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as American troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the author contends that the battle for Pakistan’s soul is far from over. Her definitive biography reveals how pluralism and democracy continue to struggle for a place in this Muslim homeland, where they are so essential for its future.
3. Book: The Tears of The Rajas; Author: Ferdind Mount; Publisher: Simon & Schuster
This book is a sweeping history of the British in India, seen through the experiences of a single Scottish family. For a century, the Lows of Clatto survived mutiny, siege, debt and disease - everywhere from the heat of Madras to the Afghan snows. They lived through the most appalling atrocities and retaliated with some of their own. Each of their lives, remarkable in itself, contributes to the story of the whole fragile and imperilled, often shockingly oppressive and devious but now and then heroic and poignt enterprise. On the surface, John and Augusta Low and their relations may seem imperturbable, but in their letters and diaries, they often reveal their loneliness and desperation and their doubts about what they are doing in India. The Lows are the family of the author’s grandmother and a recurring theme of the book is his own discovery of them and of those parts of the history of the British in India which posterity has preferred to forget. The book brings to life not only the most dramatic incidents of their careers - the massacre at Vellore, the conquest of Java, the deposition of the boy-king of Oudh, the disasters in Afghanistan, the relief of Lucknow and Chitral - but also their persol ordeals - the bankruptcies in Scotland and Calcutta, the plagues and fevers, the deaths of children and deaths during childbirth. It also brings to life the unrepeatable strangeness of their lives - the camps and the palaces they lived in, the balls and the flirtations in the hill stations and the hot slow rides through the dust. (IANS)