Looking at Pakistan with clarity

Pakistan is arguably the country that India obsesses about the most, but also the country it knows about the least. In times of peace, books and articles about the two countries’ shared history, common food and music are often written. In times without peace, the default position, there are numerous books on India and Pakistan’s history of war, and terrorism by Pakistani groups in India. But if India needs to engage Pakistan and vice versa, we need more books that look at pragmatic positions of engagement.

l Out this month is an excellent primer from George Perkovich and Toby Dalton called Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism. Perkovich, whose expertise is non-proliferation and nuclear strategy, has contributed to a book remarkably devoid of judgment, and sourced from conversations with the most important people in the establishment in both countries. l Also on the subject comes a book from former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., now in practical exile in Washington, Husain Haqqani. India v/s Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends? is more of a monograph that runs through India and Pakistan’s past in trying and failing to find solutions to their problems bequeathed by Partition. Filled with interesting archival anecdotes, Haqqani’s ringside view as Ambassador, adviser to at least three Pakistani Prime Ministers, and confidant to many more in Pakistan’s power elite add authenticity to his well-documented account. The truth is, neither Haqqani nor Perkovich-Dalton are particularly hopeful of a rosy future in bilateral ties, but they have produced important works, particularly at a time when the Modi and Sharif governments seem to be out of options and are speaking to their own bellicose domestic constituencies rather than to each other.

l If you have time and inclination left over from the Gordian knot of the India-Pakistan prism to look at sides of Pakistan not normally in the news, I would recommend three books by eminent Pakistani women. Politician and journalist Farahnaz Ispahani’s Purifying the Land of the Pure: Pakistan’s Religious Minorities is a startling account of how Pakistan’s leadership twisted the politics of its founders to drive out all the non-Sunnis from their land. Rafia Zakaria’s The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan is a riveting account of several extraordinary women of Karachi’s elite who were nonetheless crushed by Pakistani traditions. Syeda Abida Hussain captures in Power Failure: The Political Odyssey of a Pakistani Woman a side of Pakistan’s power politics seldom told.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 6:14:44 AM |

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