Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mubarak to Morsi,little has changed

There was some hope that, with a new regime coming to power in Cairo, bilateral ties between India and Egypt would improve. But a recent visit of the Egyptian presidential delegation has proved that the glorious Nehru-Nasser era is over.

In 1975, when Hosni Mubarak was appointed as the Vice President of Egypt, no one expected that he would be an epoch-maker. But the assassination of President Anwar Sadat catapulted him to the helm in Egypt, and a new chapter of history was in the making.

Mr Mubarak served as President for the next 30 years years, until the status quo-defying ‘Arab Spring’ forced him out of office. In February 2011, he was stripped of all his power, but that does not in any way take away from the fact that Mr Mubarak will remain Egypt’s longest-serving ruler since Muhammad Ali Pasha.

In recent years, the changes imposed upon emerging economies through greater global economic integration have resulted in the development of a new consciousness among its citizens. Structural and social contradictions propelled tensions between the people’s rising aspirations and the Government’s failure to provide good governance.

The Arab Spring was essentially instigated by popular dissatisfaction with the Government while the lack of equity in income distribution may have been the other reason. Anyhow, when Egypt’s dictatorial regime fell, there was hope for a better future. That is the better part of the story.

As the movement for regime change in Egypt was essentially driven by a middle-class desperate for growth and development, it should have come as no surprise that Mr Mubarak’s successor Mohamed Morsi is an accomplished professional focussed on reviving the economy. It is in this context that Egypt’s relations with India must been seen.

After decades of being low-key, India-Egypt diplomatic and trade relations have now witnessed some degrees of improvement. However, it would be incorrect to term these recent developments as a ‘breakthrough’, as the recent visit of an Egyptian trade delegation led by President Morsi himself proves.

First, Mr Morsi’s India visit came as a follow-up to his Pakistan trip. Second, the Memorandum of Understan- dings signed during a joint meeting of the Indian Industrial Chambers were largely insignificant. Finally, nothing conclusive came out in India’s favour in the realm of diplomatic engagements even.

Against this backdrop, one can safely say that Egypt’s new regime doesn’t have a foreign policy that would distinguish itself from the one followed by its predecessor. There used to be a time when alongside Mahatma Gandhi, the Egyptian revolutionary leader Saad Zaghloul also shared the common goal of overthrowing colonial rule in their respective countries.
In later years, Egypt and India solidified their relationship through the Non-Aligned Movement essentially built on the co-operation between Nehru and Nasser.

In fact, through the crucial decades of the 1950s and the 1960s, Nehru offered Egypt India’s unrelenting support. It is no secret that during the Israel-Arab war, India was among the few nations which encouraged President Anwar Sadat to visit Jerusalam and sign a peace treaty with Israel. It is this treaty between the largest Arab country in the world and Israel that till dates holds the key to peace in West Asia.

But the fundamentals of the India-Egypt relation have changed with time. Moreover, by the time Mr Mubarak came to power, Egypt had already lost much of its liberal character. Of course, Mr Mubarak did his best to keep the Islamists on a tight leash, but after his ouster, the Muslim Brotherhood has come all out and captured political space in Egypt. Today, along with its Salafi allies, the Brothers rule from Cairo.

In India too, the situation did not remain stagnant. Nehru viewed the Cold War as yet another round of Western imperialism, wherein the rest of the world was expected to pick any one superpower and stick to it. But, Nehru’s non-alignment logic failed when he chose to join the Commonwealth of Nations.

In fact, the basic purpose of the Non-Aligned Movement was compromised at this time by none other than Nehru himself. Consequently, as the era of moralism in international relations passed, and realism knocked on many fronts, NAM quickly lost its way and along with it India and Egypt drifted apart as well.

As mentioned earlier, the relationship between India and Egypt has not changed drastically even though it has been many months now that Mr Morsi’s new regime has taken over in Cairo. Of course, this could quite possibly be because of the many dire challenges that the President faces at home. Indeed, Egypt is yet to recover from the impact of the Arab Spring and it remains to be seen if revolutionaries can deliver on their promises.

Mr Morsi especially will have to work hard to respond to the aspirations of his people. At a different time in history, India may have actively participated in Egypt’s development processes but given that there has been no visible warming up in bilateral ties, New Delhi will most probably just watch the developments from a distance.
-Atul K Thakur
Email: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in The Pioneer,on April08,2013)

A Stalled Nation of Faltering Hopes

Indecisiveness damages the ‘terms and procedures’ of a system. It could be with any system, irrespective of the functioning nature, it follows. Indian democracy seems ‘stable’ only when the economic fundamentals lend it a good backup, and vice versa, with the bizarre prefix ‘nascent’ leveled on it by the policy experts and confused alike.

But the fact remains that the Indian democracy is neither nascent, nor is it proficient-it has a rather strange capability to hold a matured polity in action. On many occasions, the high-caliber leaderships have proved it. But when escaping the patches of positive procedures, we see an unyielding gloom pervasive and entering rare heights in negative territory.

UPA-II enjoys ‘shock & awe’ and has stuck to the steadfast policy of ‘no action’ on the issues of high moral values. Its foreign policy, leading the country to the verge of disaster–its neighbouring nations hardly respecting it and the world outside of subcontinent taking it for granted. With rogue governing pattern, India has lost its earlier earned formidable position among the emerging economies.

The dwindling investment on its land confirms that unwelcome trend. Indian economy is certainly moving in the wrong trajectory, with unsound handling of policies and no clear direction for reform or welfaristic programmes. The blurred scenario is posing dampening prospects ahead, that is keeping the morale of entrepreneurs (either home grown or from outside) at an alarming low. On internal security matters, India is pursuing its fantasy to put dissenting voices on the line of detractors.

Adding the worst, its judicial system treats the convicts, on the basis of background, rather than with the circumstantial evidences attached to a case. Amidst all these, there has emerged a new phenomenon where India’s serving or retired lawyers/activists are running a parallel system from the prime time TV shows and trash opinion/edit pages of awfully commissioned newspapers.

Combining these factors, we come to know, how India is walking and for whom? Consequently, the hope entrusting terms–equality, justice and others appear falsifying their intrinsic values. At this juncture, it would be wrong to endorse that this nation has any hope left for the big ideas or for their enactment on ground. In short to medium terms, this odd trend would be remaining streamlined.

To live up to the expectations of the marginalized is out of agenda, if not ignoring the sentimental fashion statements of authoritarian giants–such gimmicks are to shadow the unethical favours offered to cohorts of cronies, who are turning dollar billionaires in a time-span of a business quarter or year. This way, the spirit of economic reforms is being placed.

The frantic time allows giving gallantry awards to proven criminals, who sits at high rank in official forces or to the horror, at the Parliament. Amidst all these weird bonhomie, the underlying exploited class/tribes and downtrodden from the other sections are the natural victims. They are not ‘well-connected’ and they will not easily understand the technical, yet very silly plannings of Central Delhi’s Czars.

It makes less energetic to see, those who are in authority speaking like escapists or fake radicals. It’s true that we must respect our institutions but is it possible without overlooking the bad game in progress from officials?

The set of rules are well-stocked in India, but they are not essentially meant for improving the governing structure of respective organizations. It’s an open secret that ‘double speaking’ is the real virtue of regulators-these days, we can see RBI and SEBI confronting with the law defying financial entities, but they are creating scene, not the actual impact.

SEBI is among the most confused institutions that India has–it doesn’t feel bad in treating the ‘frauds’ decently and allowing Capital Market to run like the ‘hub of crooks’. The RBI, with a better reputation is doing not good by not believing that our banking structure is romancing the unrealistic complacency and it’s only matter of time, before things go beyond the limits of control.

K.C.Chakravarty, otherwise an angry old man, recently outrightly denied that India’s leading private sector banks are involved in unethical businesses–this raises questions upon the intent and understanding of top-ranked bankers/economists at Mint Street?
And with all these, it appears starker when we see that our incompetent bureaucrats never seem to retire.

This is a recent trend, shaped and developed by the offing of new economic planning started in 1991. This is based on ‘sophisticated corruption’ and not ‘subaltern corruption’-the distinction, recently given life by Ashis Nandy, in a different context from the stage of Jaipur Literary Festival, known for its confused colonial hangover.

So, New Delhi is keeping high promises for such ‘collaborators’-now, it doesn’t surprise us when we see India’s former diplomats handling ‘PR Companies’ or its financial wizards from north block looking on the growth of stock exchange etc. This is Americanization (without adopting its free virtue) of work culture, which is dangerous and will make India, a ‘clown’.
-Atul K Thakur
Email: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in News Yaps on April09,2013)

What’s stopping financial inclusion?

India must stop chasing the bandwagon of hyped western model of over-sized baking
It’s not believable that worldwide financial crisis is over, as the recovery so far has failed to bring back the sentiment in financial sector of days back to 2008. Though in downturn, the profound importance of finance for the global economy could be easily realised – this effect is visible even when 2.5billion people worldwide still have no access to formal banking services.

This ‘missing segment’ poses question mark over the claim of financial inclusion, which is breathlessly pervasive from all the corners. In India, the situation is much worse, as almost its half of population is unbanked and that blocking their convergence with the global economic model of consumption. The usual cycle (that thrives on limitless consumerism) of consumption is compromised here, and that is an obvious reality.

Atleast in India, the idea of financial inclusion has not travelled beyond the infancy, as the technical understanding of this issue and infrastructure available here does not appear in functional equilibrium, so the deviation is unrelenting. It’s beyond common reckoning that globalisation is not a zero-sum game, so not essentially emerging economies can benefit from the opening of markets for developed world.

Rather if the world’s 2.5 billion unbanked could be included in the fold of financial inclusion, every industry will experience innovation and growth. The empirical evidences suggest that the homegrown policies are more effective than borrowed tailor made ideas from different set of system. A common solution is hard to find for the financial inclusiveness, as factors that are common across countries hardly provide a smooth way forward.

The asymmetric use of technology is the most dampening bottleneck of free and fair operation of institutional financial services in emerging countries. It’s true populations worldwide is embracing technology, especially cell phones but still people throughout the developing world terribly lack the basic identification, formal employment and a permanent address. Such impediments stop a bulk of people to avail the benefits of institutional financial services.

In Indian case, the lapses in perception and action towards the financial inclusion drive generate confusion and deviation from base issues. The government and regulators still lacks to configurate and channelise it as a viable model for business. This overlooks the bright outcome of opening the financial system to the world’s poorest people, which could open their economic and social potential-to the benefit of all.

Presently, financial inclusion campaign in India is erroneously being handled by the banks or other corporate entity like a part of lackluster CSR schemes. This is a serious violation of fundamental conception attached with this plan-recently Raghuram Rajan, who chaired the Committee on Financial Inclusion in past has himself admitted the prevailing unrealistic state of affairs in India’s policy circle, in which the big claims of financial inclusiveness more often surfaced.

It’s not true that efforts have not made in the past as well to promote financial inclusion-in some senses, they were better organised to address the targeted issues then the current policy feeds being issued from RBI. The RBI’s pre-determined policy stances have inhibited the healthy growth of financial institutions and services, which affected the natural course of financial inclusion in the country.

The RBI is maintaining silence over the future growth of India’s financial sector, which has been safe more for its undersized ambition than the claimed ‘prudence’. This is totally ironic watching the curtain down on the future of India’s more than 55 percent unbanked citizens and overall the growth of financial sector at large.

The path India’s banking has travelled so far hardly allows one to part the views between progressivism and ultra-materialism, here the things have to be seen in the right context. Public sector banking was more a hedging intervention, so it would be unfair considering the nationalisation of banks as the complete socialistic manifestation. PSBs/RRBs played their role immensely well and would do more good under the perfect competition around the every nook and corner.

With more than 17,000 branches across the India’s rural heartlands and the small towns, RRBs can be seen as the engine of rural growth in India.

India’s financial policy regime must believe in the certain goodness, which its institutions offer-and for making things better, they must stop chasing the bandwagon of hyped western model of over-sized baking or doubtful idealism of microfinance businesses.
-Atul K Thakur
Email: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in Millennium Post,on 19April,2013)

Walking with Lions

Book Review: Non-fiction/ Walking with Lions: Tales from a Diplomatic Past by K Natwar Singh, Harper Collins, 211; Rs299 (Paperback)

K. Natwar Singh has been an articulate diplomat as an Indian Foreign Service official or in general. He was born royal, but grew up with a taste for democratic politics. In a memorable career, spanning over six decades, he has been indeed “walking with lions.” This book, which is a compilation of his 48 essays written for an Indian newspaper, forwards the chances of overture with few secret and mostly impressive known facts about him.

In the author’s unwavering belief in constructing high sense through small sentences, this book opens many sensational episodes from the non-Congress ruling years. On Congress and its leaders (especially with Nehru-Gandhis), his take is more neutral and appears to follow an invisible, but esteemed protocol. A protocol chosen, rather than forced from somewhere. On Morarji Desai’s regime, one can be enlightened by reading this book, which does not overlook follies or hyped wisdom.

Indian diplomacy in post-independence days could not delink from the shadows of its immediate colonial past. Even today, we see our diplomats behaving in an alien way, either at home or in the territory of their assigned mission. But India sailed on those, who exceptionally cued from such ideological draining.

Natwar Singh was among the ablest of them; he served in the mission of Western Europe and Zambia with equal vigor. That was and is a rare scene. He is of those few who have seen the trend of Indian politics since the days of Nehru.

Instead, he had to leave the Ministry of External Affairs much earlier and only to foolishly satisfy a lobby, active to tamper with India’s trade and policies at large. He was an obstacle before those interest groups, so sidelining him came as the easiest option. His successors have proved their disastrous capacity of non-interference, so things are walking a calm path - unfortunately, no distraction is foreseeable.

For long, I have been following Natwar Singh’s writing and his public life and also have the privilege to edit an upcoming anthology, for which he has contributed a very remarkable essay on India’s Foreign Policy (more as an independent writer, than a Congress member). I know him in many ways, though mostly for his scholarism that is above suspicion in all the cases. He has a fondness for letters and he justifies it, when he turns orator or writer.

The essays of this book, have been written on a weekly basis and they seem trying to reach a consensus of memory. This is by a person who has lived many roles in his life and career, and who also epitomizes the beauty of intellect in distinguished public life. His grip over the diverse domains of knowledge spellbind, but it adds on the wider spectrum of knowledge, so nothing gets complicated.

This book is a good read, and offers the reader to come across the hidden or stated events from the past. A diplomat/senior politician’s diary of this standard and in such frankness is an uncommon phenomenon in India, and still I doubt I’ll see a similar stock of opinion coming frequently from the veteran’s league.

They are or would be kept writing for the Gymkhana Club or other ghost club’s members, who unfortunately are the tribes of the past, still destined for a “colonial-hangover” rather than the “much changed destiny.” With this book, see the world (even though momentously) through Natwar Singh’s eyes - you will never feel lost.
-Atul K Thakur
Email: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in India America Today on March30,2013)

In an Antique City

Book Review: Non-fiction/ Calcutta: Two Years in the City by Amit Chaudhuri, Hamish Hamilton (Penguin Books India), 320; Rs599 (Hardback)

In all humbleness, Amit Chaudhuri admits, he knows Calcutta not like a native but through his personal interaction, happened infrequently with this city. A major writer of his time, Amit Chaudhuri is known for writing most natural prose in English-the reason was, his first book- A Strange and Sublime Address (collection of a novella and a number of short stories), won the Betty Trask Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and also was short listed for the Guardian Fiction Prize.

With his first book, he descriptively presented the richness of Bengali culture and with his latest-Calcutta: Two Years in the City, he explores Calcutta, but this time not like an absentee Bengali but as a city resident. In personal accounts, shaped through deep sensibility he brings forward the impact of changes on Calcutta. If the author tempts to capture the loss of old symbols, he also tries to dwell on the replacement, which makes Calcutta functional in certain way.

The book opens the beautiful stock of imagination and facts, combing together. Amit Chaudhuri presents his meticulous take on this great city, which is chasing the course for eroding that tag. His interest in Calcutta is closely attached with the city’s diverse range of specialties, even if many of them have passed. Those old icons/edifices are under heavy strain from the strong wave of commercial globalization and as Amit says, it’s mimicking ones’ stature earned through long academic and intellectual exercises.

His apprehension is straight and makes high sense, when he compares Calcutta’s embedded urban jungles with the other Indian metro-cities-how these all are coming up planned and cornering anything traditional for targeting resources. This will remain unchallenged-as we read the interviews and other conversations of this book, we realise it. From petty businessmen, domestic helps to aged gentle couple, all are facing the severity of change.

By buying the ‘old French window’ from a scrapper and finding a place for it inside the home, Amit Chaudhuri secures a gateway to the world. A new world, which may be not too broad but it ensures the basic exchanges of ideas not under limit of any system or impression from outside. Unlike with that window, Amit Chaudhuri secures a new world for the readers through his latest book.
Earlier too, he has been writing on Calcutta but with his memoir, he is turning to the city with unexpected fondness and concern.

As scholar, he has lived a life away from partitioning compulsions, which enabled him for open confession that Jibanananda Das, not Tagore was his favourite poet. For the Bengalis, he also landed precious suggestion to curtail with the surviving mass madness for over-celebrated personalities or conventions. This is for making the cultural atmosphere clean and impartial.
With a remarkable memoir on Calcutta, Amit Chaudhuri has given timely impetus for the lively debates, which this city needs in urgency.

He spoke on all types of components, supposed to make Calcutta complete, much more than an old fading city-from Bhadralok to the ill tempered ‘music record seller’ of Park Street. Also in details, Amit Chaudhuri opens his anecdotal reservoir of East Bengal-this allows looking on Calcutta, as recipient of the migrants affected from communal clashes started at the time of India’s independence in 1947.

Like his previous works, the new one will also be in the memories of readers. This insightful book is a vital source for knowing the changing Calcutta and Bengal-as both are imminent. So genuine enthusiasts on India must read and keep with Amit Chaudhuri’s Calcutta: Two Years in the City.
-Atul K Thakur
Email: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in Rising Kashmir on April01,2013)

The rash upturn!

Book Review: Fiction/ How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid, Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 228; Rs499 (Hardback)

How the books, in general are meant for? They are for ‘self-help’, reveals the narrator of Mohsin Hamid’s How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, on a less cryptic note. Though he doesn’t assert its universal supremacy, but cites it’s fallible and can be deviated as well.

The later conclusion, Mohsin’s third novel gives that narrator is ‘other’ and reader is ‘self’-the book progresses under this existential arrangement, and through taking meticulous care of locale.

The locale is, rising Asia (a greater misnomer), where chances are invariable for the aspirants of filthy richness-the sole requisite is to follow the model (which is not hindered by the shabbiness of surroundings, and knows thriving on suspicious commerce, violence and destiny) of that rash upturn.

As the impressions of Asia story is heavily influenced with the new economic swing (often as it taken) in the South Asian countries, so it seems apt, if this novel is set away from a different Asia (beyond its southern part, which is in prime focus here).

Unlike Hamid’s acclaimed previous novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist that was characteristically woven tough around the named countries-US& Pakistan, his latest fiction has no such specific geographic bound. Though both his novels exude the specialties of plain-narration, but it’s contextualization that makes them varied in interest and appearance.

Nevertheless, the vital facts remain at core in Hamid’s novels, irrespective of his narrator’s predestined position, in first or second person.

The story starts and furthers this way-a poor young boy moves from the rural hinterland to a slum dwelling in the city (migrated for survival, not for adventurism initially), gets incomplete education, trysts with militancy, and eventually sets up a bottled water business.

Mohsin does big services by terming this horrific trade as ‘the ultimate symbol of the modern South Asian city’, which forbids ones’ natural right over a commodity, like water. But architects of the new game in rising Asia sees this as mainstreaming of underused resources, alas!

Anyway, the unusual protagonist of this novel leaves his past behind, but his love for the girl he met as teenager remains vigorously persisting. As the prime mover in the self-help guide set-up, his rise (which believed true in various myopic quarters) becomes the sarcastic feed, portraying the awkwardness of belief that is attached today with the notion of success in the rapidly rising part of this world.

The ugliness of Asia’s weird statistical progression or terrible idleness of Western world forwards the case of mishandled growth management over the long course of history. The life makes or breaks with no definite set of rule here-all are lucky, who survives and rest are wretched. This is a new formulation, albeit it is extremely disastrous and has sharp impact.

The complexities stop even that ‘luck’ to be faithful, rather filthy rich or aspirants are supposed to play with the system. They are expected to commit misdeeds outside, but have to be seen orderly with the household responsibilities.

The author seems well acquainted with the prevailing economic insecurity among the common folks, who sees no other way around than trying out a hand with filthy way of richness. The title forwards the acuteness of desperate competency- ‘Move to the City’, ‘Get an Education’, also ‘Avoid Idealists’, ‘Befriend a Bureaucrat’ etc.

The chapters have nomenclatures, which fall close to the ‘articles of an imagined wisdom book’ but in deep senses, share the horror from mainstreaming of the misconceived trade or collective ethics. That is nothing short than a systemic failure, in making few individuals filthy rich and rests all, paupers (in relative deprivation).

The brilliantly witted and amazingly focussed, Mohsin’s Hamid’s How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a straight-forward anti-thesis of the new world order, now being known for following its intrinsically inequitable mandate. The strength of this book lies in its reliance over simple narratives.

It’s simpler than most of the non-fiction works have written on furious scales in recent time. With this novel, a self imposed inertia in fiction writing would end and the genre of fiction would be revitalized for better reasons.

As an exemplary chronicler of inner impulses and insecure self, Mohsin Hamid in big deal knows the exciting or dull time around, How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia confirms it beautifully.

In reading this book, you can learn coping with the ironies, which not always arrives tangible or perfectly timed…read this book, and know the structural collapse of rationalism!
-Atul K Thakur
Email: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in The Kashmir Walla on April 15,2013)

The network

Book Review: Non-fiction/ Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus by Wahid Brown and Don Rassler, Hachette, 320p; Rs650 (Hardback)

The Haqqani network’s area of operation, the fountainhead of Jihad-Durand Line accidentally adjoins the international border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This part of the world is largely unexplored for the intellectual communities, living on its periphery or located distant. So, Wahid Brown and Don Rassler open new chances to look on a terrain, known for all the bad reasons.

At the beginning, authors examine the origination of Haqqani network from Southeastern Afghanistan and the role played by the Haqqaniya seminary in northwestern Pakistan in its mushrooming. The Haqqanis are rooted in both these countries and ensured a never ending conflict between them. Pakistan has been maintaining a closer relationship with the Haqqanis, once the direct American support for the Haqqani network ended in the early 1990’s.

Though as the book confirms, Pakistan never felt shy in tying up with Haqqanis. Its military support for the Haqqanis began in the 1970’s when Pakistan looked to Afghan Islamists for countering Moscow-leaning Afghan government-this way Pakistan started the proxy war with Afghanistan, which continues to this date.

The book gives detail in great deal about the base of Haqqanis-Zhawara in the province of Khost-also establishes CIA/ISI’s direct support to this deadly terror network in their opportunistic quest. In anti-Soviet days, the nexus among them was running high-further the support from Arab for anti-Soviet Mujahidin: ‘Abdullah’ Azam and Osama bin Laden made the ‘global Jihadism’ imminent.

The Haqqanis continue to support a group of regional and transnational militants from their hub in North Waziristan. The Haqqani network has survived for more than four decades, and this through a carefully balancing act, which ensured its prominence in nexus of violence. Also, these militants have kept them away from the command of Talibanis.

The Haqqanis have lived the tussle of contradiction with Taliban and other local/global forces playing the dirtiest game in Af-Pak regions. Since the US entered in Afghanistan to revenge 9/11, Al-Qa’ida and a segment of the Pakistani Taliban (in particular the Tehrik-a-Taliban Pakistan) are at war with the Pakistani state-still, Pakistan has to support the US in its war against Taliban and the TTP, as it’s caught in alarming spiral.

On the height of wildness, the Haqqanis appearing as a platform for the delivery of violence that serves their various interests, and also strengthen the Haqqani network’s strategic position in North Waziristan and Loya Paktia. One of the major plank of the nasty game is to limit the influence of India in India-Pakistan is quite determined for it, and so paying big price with embracing the unregulated stock of terror.

The Haqqanis are the natural ally in this covert war against India-the US is enabling a meantime engagement, but the real goal of these terror networks is much dangerous, than it appears in casual looking on their mode of action. The book provides otherwise a sensible analysis of the ground realities from world’s most difficult terrain, except missing the end results of Cold War and the stake of India in the trouble surfaced post1990.

The book could have better enquired about the impact of Afghanistan’s vandalism by British/Soviets/Americans/Pakistanis/Talibanis and Haqqanis on Kashmir-the root cause of Kashmir conflict, has bigger and diverse dimensions. Ofcourse, the role of Cold War was most atrocious among them-although, the realisation is still dim on this particular aspect and probably that prolonging the unease in valley. The book is a good read, as it opens the world of terror, with no superficial hype!
-Atul K Thakur
Email: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in Rising Kashmir on April20,2013)


Book Review: Non-fiction/ Jihad or Itjihad by S. Irfan Habib, Harper Collins, 192p; Rs299 (Paperback)
With Jihad or Itjihad,S.Irfan Habib, a historian of scientific standing rejects the stereotypical misrepresentation of Islam, which unfortunately is in vogue these days. He identifies the strength and weakness of Islam, through facts and rational arguments-further, with delineating strongly over Itjihad, he forwards a fresh view to look upon Islam.

On a straight note, the book attempts to make sound observations on the Islam’s contribution in making the world informed and enlighted with modern attributes and sadly how those prominences lost. It makes a valid forthright observation-“While Europe was still stuck in the Dark Ages, scientists in the Islamic world were translating Aristotle, and making huge strides in astronomy, mathematics and philosophy.

Two thousand years later, the idea of 'scientific progress' seems to be locked in a hopeless war with Islam. When and how did Islam lose its enthusiasm for the workings of the natural world?”

The author traces the points of how the normal Islam came to question modern science - beginning with the visionaries of the nineteenth century and continuing with the modern day ideologues. He cites the lives and works of famous men like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, for rejecting the myth that Islam and its followers are ‘anti-modern’. His emphasis is on the correcting the perception, rather confusing the readers with abstract analysis.

Habib also uses his scholarship of history and Islam to question the ambiguous idea of 'Islamic science' as a category distinct from 'modern', 'Eurocentric' science. In an engaging and simpler style, Jihad or Itijihad challenges stereotypes, as well as propaganda. That allows making it in perspective the relationship between Islam and science today, certainly whose ground is challenging!
Book Review: Non-fiction/ Saints and Sinners by Ali Mahmood, Harper Collins, 388p; Rs599 (Hardback)
Ali Mahmood’s Saints and Sinners presents a macro views on the nation’s fortune. His finding though appears not first hand, when he enters the fray of knowing economic miracles or slump from the similar prism. Also he misses the historical truths and strength of leverages, today few new emerging nations easily offering the world.

The basic argument, this book offers: “Some countries prosper while others are left far behind. There are countries which have tried to progress at the cost of great human suffering and those which have reduced or even removed poverty. There are democracies and dictatorships, rogue nations and law-abiding ones. “

Ali Mahmood is a small time politician from Pakistan, with greater interest in global business and knowledge. He has been delving over the reasons of why some nations remain poor and why others grow filthy rich. So, Saints and Sinners comes up with some bizarre conclusions.

As such, looking at the emerging nations of Asia and Africa, he realizes that while peace, stability and good governance through the ‘rule of law’ are essential to growth and prosperity, democracy is not necessarily the best way to achieve ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. For, military leaders, from Mao to Lee Kuan Yew, have provided stability, scientific and technical excellence, economic growth and prosperity to their nations.

While endorsing the leaderships, he refuses to get informed about the consequences of arbitrary rule. This book seems written to let allow growth overriding all other components that make a system even tentatively inclusive. There is nothing like ‘Devil or Deep Sea’ to choose for the author of this book, but still he opts the way, which would be less acceptable to the informed minds. As page turner, the book holds better hope!

-Atul K Thakur
Email: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in Rising Kashmir on April 16,2013)