Mapping Minds Warriors after War

If books are a pointer- Kashmir continues to be a hotspot. It is as good   a cause of concern as Afghanistan. The two in fact are seen by many South Asia experts and scholars as dovetailed to each other.  In the recent past more books have been written about Kashmir problem than on Palestine issue or any other dispute with international dimensions.

It is a moot point; if it is the “issue of right to self-determination of the people of the state as contained in the UN resolution”, the armed ‘resistance or insurgency’, massive protests from 2008 to 2010, human rights, emergence of dispute as nuclear flashpoint or bigger security challenges   for South-Asia that has    caught the attention of researchers and scholars in American and European Universities. More than anything else it has been the Nuclearization of the region that makes many scholars sees Kashmir as most dangerous issue in the region.

A Turkish scholar Laura Schuurmans, a year back in her book, Kashmir: Paradise on Earth or a Nuclear Flashpoint, focusing on the looming dangers of the Nuclearization in the region wrote: “Nuclearization of South Asia has been most dangerous development in its history since wars have been fought over Kashmir between India-Pakistan and China. With the Kashmir issue at its core is not only in the interest of three nuclear powers who lay claim on Kashmir to settle the dispute through peaceful means, it is also in the interest of overall world security.”

Laura is not the only scholar who has emphasized the need for settlement of the Kashmir dispute through peaceful means but there are many others in the world that see dangers for global peace in confrontation between India-Pakistan and China. On Wednesday another book almost focusing on the same issue was released in a local hotel at Srinagar. The book was released by one of the co-authors working with the Observer Foundation, New Delhi.

 The book titled Warriors after War edited by Prof. Richard Bonney,   (UK), Tridivesh Singh Maini (India) and Tahir Malik (Pakistan), is yet another important book that provides insight into the causes for the perpetuation of Kashmir dispute and scope of peace in South Asia from an altogether different perspective.  

 The book is distinctive addition to the literature on Kashmir problem. It is an attempt at understanding perceptions of the top brass   of the two countries about the dispute that has caused three wars. The editors of the book for the first time during past sixty four years- which have been more of confrontation and less of friendship have interviewed twenty six retired top military personnel – thirteen from each India and Pakistan. The Indian military personnel interviewed include, Lieutenant-General Gagandeep Bakshi, Major-General Dipankar Banerjee, Lieutenant-General Kamaleshwar Dawar, Brigadier S. S. Chowdhary, Brigadier Satish Kumar Issar, Lieutenant-General J. F. R. Jacob, General A. S. Kalkat, Major-General Harwant Krishnan, Major-General Ashok K. Mehta, General V. P. Malik, Lieutenant-General Satish Nambiar,  Lieutenant-General Vijay Oberoi and Lieutenant-General S. K. Sinha and Pakistan army officers include Major-General Shafique Ahmed Awan, General Mirza Aslam Beg, Air Marshal Zafar Ahmad Chaudhry, Major-General Syed Wajahat Husain, Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, Lieutenant-Colonel Saeed Iqbal, Lieutenant-Colonel Tahir Kardar, Major Arif Hameed Mehr, Colonel Khan Sahib Dad Khan, Brigadier Shaukat Qadir, Lieutenant-General Talat Masood and Rear Admiral Khalid Wasay.

The book has an exhaustive introduction and an insightful conclusion by Prof. Richard Bonney, Professor of Modern History at the University of Leicester from 1984 to 2006. He is the author of Jihad: from Qur’an to Bin Laden (Palgrave Macmillan: 2004; pb. 2006; also e-book) and False Prophets: the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ and the Global War on Terror (Peter Lang: 2008). The interviews with former military officers who for their positions and posting were in one or other way connected with Kashmir provide an insight into the military mind in the two countries which for obvious reasons is different from the civilian minds. While there are people with hawkish ideas on both the sides but what the book enables one to understand is that largely the military on both the side believe that  choosing war to resolve the outstanding disputes is ‘no longer a sensible or realistic option. However, they greatly differ in their analysis of ‘  opportunities and pathways towards a sustainable peace in South Asia. The military officers have very divergent views on the resolution of the Kashmir yet the book provides an insight into the minds of these officers about this problem that has been on table of negotiations with varied intensities since 1952. 

The   thirty page exhaustive and scholarly introductions by Prof. Richard Bonney give an objective analysis of Kashmir dispute and its bearing on India-Pakistan relations.  Bonney in his introduction has raised many a points and some of which can be contested with facts that the author perhaps has not been able to lay hands on.  Mr. Bonney for instance has bought official version of New Delhi on Shimla agreement. He has also shared the official view that the diversity views of Kashmir were working as an obstacle in the way of finding a solution. He writes if Kashmiris were to be invited to a joint negotiating table, they would have to reach an internal consensus. But at the same on the basis of survey conducted by British thinks, quoting Robert Bradnock, he writes ‘the poll shows that there is more room than many had anticipated in Kashmiri opinion itself for negotiation. The bigger question is whether the governments of India and Pakistan have the confidence, the power and the goodwill to meet the urgent aspirations of the Kashmiris for a peaceful and permanent settlement.’ The book ends with an incisive conclusion by Prof. Bonney. Besides, the interview the appendix is very important and they will be of immense help to researchers and scholars.
(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)