Magazine article Arms Control Today

Sumit Ganguly's Conflict Unending

Magazine article Arms Control Today

Sumit Ganguly's Conflict Unending

Article excerpt


Author: Sumit Ganguly

Title: Conflict Uending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Date: 2002

Pages: 190

List Price: $18.50

AFTER LANGUISHING FOR a decade as the stepchild of post-- Cold War American foreign policy, Pakistan became a top U.S. priority last fall as Washington sought to eliminate Pakistan's support for terrorism and secure its help in the war against Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

The renewed attention to South Asia's strategic importance has also brought renewed attention to India's and Pakistan's nuclear weapons, particularly after December 13, when the bombing of the Indian parliament led to a dramatic increase in tensions between Islamabad and New Dehli. Even with the war on terror ongoing, the region Bill Clinton once referred to as "the most dangerous place on Earth" seemed as though it might still be just that.

Months later, thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops remain on high alert along the Line of Control, the de facto international border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Testifying before the Senate in February, CIA Director George Tenet said that the Bush administration is "deeply concerned" that if war broke out between India and Pakistan, it could quickly escalate into a nuclear conflict.

But for all the focused attention-indeed perhaps in part because of it-the sources of the India-Pakistan conflict often remain obscured to the nonexpert by the clouds of pressing crises. Into this vague understanding strides the refreshingly direct Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947, a book that manages to explicate the origins and evolution of South Asian political and military strife in a manner that is both straightforward and nuanced-- accessible to the neophyte but valuable to the expert.

Written by Sumit Ganguly, a professor of Asian studies and government at the University of Texas at Austin, Conflict Unending opens by noting that existing explanations for the intractable conflict between India and Pakistan are wanting. Neither religion nor the legacy of colonialism nor the Cold War machinations of the superpowers can fully account for the inception and endurance of Indo-Pakistani animosity.

Ganguly argues that India and Pakistan's rivalry is undergirded by a fundamental difference in their conceptions of state-building, with Pakistan envisioning itself as the home for South Asia's Muslims and India trying to fashion a state based on civic nationalism. That dichotomy was illuminated and solidified by the first conflict over Kashmir in 1947-1948, in which both India and Pakistan saw not just land but their very identities at stake, and the region remains the focus of the countries' antagonism to this day.

But as Ganguly points out, a difference in founding principles, although perhaps setting the stage for confrontation, does not explain why war broke out when it did four times over the next 50 years. …

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