Book Review: Non-fiction/Jihad on two fronts by Dilip Hiro, Harper Collins/2011, 443 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
The Cambridge economist Joan Robinson’s remarkable quote on India “whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true” is worth of amplification in the context of south Asia as well which exudes the wider political/historical shadow of India’s influence in the past and substantially of present. This book closely justifies this timeless observation, equally after putting it into strategic domain. Like many recent accounts of the south Asia’s strategic scenario, Dilip Hiro’s book is overwhelmed with the mythical faith over the much chronicled details of twin disturbing fronts, Pakistan and Afghanistan and their umpteenth adverse marks on India. Thus, extraneous primary details leave here the reasons of bliss for occasional enthusiast on India’s strategic standing in the neighbourhood, but mostly deject the readers with eagle eyes on strategic dynamics.
There is something very retro and repetitive about his over emphasised themes that over the years have shattered the chances of peace in India. Certainly he didn’t need a different angle for reaching to the derivation, blossoming and crest status of Jihad, but in narration, he must have tried to differ from the newspapers honchos who are on daily basis feeding not only the instant curiosity but also the sound inquisitors. Incessant meticulous research of Praveen Swami, C.Rajamohan and few others gives easy access to firsthand expert observation on the entire construct, function and proliferation of Jihad powerhouses in India’s historically maligned North West frontiers and in its greater spread. So, the stories of General Zia, India-Israel relations, Cold war nostalgia or dangerously rising wave of fundamentalism inside India’s territory not simply could be the proud possession for concerned readers without adding something noticeable or subtracting even the tints of irrationalities and misconceived observations!
In plain terms, it’s essential for every south Asia expert to realise the absence of steady pleasures and narrowness of crystalline vision while getting fixed with the crucial issues of this region. Expressions are better if they are weak in pedagogy and attached with the subjects, which indeed assist author to concentrate on geopolitical sagas rather keep falling in the waves of unrealistic reprisals. Exposure to raw actuality rather the paper bounded wisdom gives better leeway to align with an absorbing and purposeful work. Here, this gain is nowhere in the sight, that would make many remorseful after spending hours reading hundreds of pages. Fresh way of looking at people, landscape and architecture of terror are more vital today than a conceited effort based only on surpassable details and its over stretching to the level of desperation. A plank to confide on interlude for regenerating appropriate intellectual impulses is very much desirable at this time, when strategic policy debates are increasingly being threatened with the saturation from “awkward running commentary “where no end appears visible in parallel sight.
Not estrangement or preoccupied perspective could be the driving force in reckoning the existing happenings that severely affecting India’s strategic normalcy…an engaging, if not an insider’s frame of mind is an unspecified prerequisite in this regard. An engaging visit to troubled regions like, Kashmir bring face-to-face with the brutality of Jihad and reach of dangerous nasty plots. Equally, it enables in knowing India’s response against the Pakistan sponsored terror network in its territory. The basic point arises here, whether India should continue the traumatic status quo in Kashmir or come with the conclusive steps without acknowledging the roles of wicked third party/Pakistan? Dilip Hiro falls short in taking into account, the basic bone of contentions. With his long journalistic experiences, he would have appealing, had he could elaborate India’s rising position in the world, which is simply unmatchable with its counterpart, Pakistan or the forces engaged in proxy and direct war-game of Jihad.
The wider look allows sorting out few misgivings regarding the view that “Jihad is politically motivated fundamentalism rather merely a fundamentalist assertion”. The political aim of fundamentalism could be understood with its potential tantamount on the normal humanity, where history resides in the minds for few strict purposes and ofcourse not for inserting any unrealistic antagonism among the living communities. There is dearth of constructive works on this particular malady, above journalistic production that could streamline the missing links. This book too appears on backfoot in this regard but still could enlighten many who are perceptively short with the historical background of violence in Indian sub-continent and its perpetual growth over the decades. Experts will miss their chronic searches of any constructive model of solution within the book, though elementary readers would be benefitted by Dilip Hiro’s labour of love for details. Moreover, Junkable Jihads have short lives and few takers beyond the rogue state’s compulsions and bewildering bookaohlic debates, which are lucid from the recent developments and this scenario, would be strengthened more in the days to come!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 26, 2011, Monday, New Delhi