The common thread interlinking these books is their preoccupation with the Indo-Pak relationship.
Red Jihad, The Anza Deception and The War Ministry weave complicated thrillers around the geopolitical games in the Indian sub-continent. The common thread interlinking these books is their preoccupation with the Indo-Pak relationship. The stories are set in the near future, just enough distance to speculate about what may happen and yet not too far ahead since diplomatic relations between these nations are unpredictable. So Red Jihad and The Anza Deception are set in 2014 and 2015 respectively and The War Ministry does not have any year assigned to it.
Red Jihad is about a Pakistani jihadi leader trying to befriend Naxals in India’s Red Corridor to steal an inter-ballistic missile and the complications that occur.
The Anza Deception is about Kargil war hero Major Anwar Islam, now a RAW officer, stumbling upon a Pakistani and Chinese plot to destabilise relations in the region and the complications that arise.
The War Ministry is about the plotting and planning that take place in the Indian Prime Minister’s Office in the name of governance and diplomacy. The last book is third in the Raisina series but works as a standalone story too. It has the first Muslim PM of India, Azim Khan, appointed soon after a war with Pakistan conducted when he was Defence Minister. The prime minister’s job is fraught not only with the daily tensions of managing the country, its neighbours but also of being a successful politician. His political stability depends a great deal on his relationship with his political partners, particularly his deputy PM and erstwhile best friend Karan Nehru.
Literature is a repository as well as a commentary of socio-political and economic events. Fiction allows a perspective and the freedom to explore the “what if” angle to any story. The relationship between Pakistan and India has always been unpredictable and will probably continue to be so. Organisations like Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) were formed for people-to-people communication to be established. One of the co-founders was my maternal grandfather, Nirmal Kumar Mukarji who, as a bureaucrat in Punjab in the 1940s, got a first-hand experience of the horrific violence that humans were capable of. The fragile relationship between the two neighbouring countries was being managed by the powers-that-be, but my grandfather felt that a third-track diplomacy was a way of addressing the escalating tension in the region. So a range of thrillers set in South Asia being published in contemporary Indian literature in English is significant. It is a statement on the readers’ maturity and their receptivity to such stories and how these have become a repository of information on socio-political (at times even sensitive) events unfurling in the region. But also that the citizen democracy considered to be a path-breaking new idea 20 years ago, is now being practised albeit through the art of storytelling.
Of the three books, the two debut writers — Sami Ahmad Khan and P.R. Ganapathy — are promising but the tediousness of detail distracts from the story. Krishna Pratap Singh has much to say in his zippy and fast-paced novel since he has packed it with detail — many characters are easily recognisable as prominent politicians of today — but he does not lose sight of the story, its pace and effect. It is a satisfying read.