Posted on Facebook 11 October 2019
Shuja Nawaz Sir writes an excellent book, unputdownable! Once you pick up the book, there is no way you will go back to reading anything else, till you finish it. I was in the midst of reading another very interesting work, ‘Strategy in the Missile Age’ by Brodie, but since I picked up this book…it was this book all the way!
Will revert back to reading that book tonight! 🙂
My main takeaways;
1. In a way, this book is in a way a continuation of his earlier work, “Crossed Swords”, which for me qualifies as the best book ever been written on the Pakistani army. In this book however, Shuja Sir focuses more on the reaction of the Pakistani state (dominated by the army), to the actions and behaviour of international actors like USA, India, China and Afghanistan. The book also highlights the world view of the Pakistani state, its desires, aspirations, fears, dilemmas and insecurities and the policy reactions/prescriptions of the Pakistani state in response to these. Much of the book however is devoted to the relationship between the USA and Pakistan, since the beginning of the War on Terror and USA invasion of Afghanistan.
2. To an Indian reader like me, what was especially fascinating is the richness of detail that the book provides. Though I follow Pakistani media pretty regularly, I was simply unaware of many of the details surrounding important events like on say the Raymond Davis saga or the Salala incident, which find mention in this book. Further, while analyzing these events the book not only provides the action/reactions/though process of the powers that be in Pakistan but also of the Americans. I guess being an international scholar of repute, being in the Atlantic council and having the confidence of the elites in Pakistan helps with access! Good for students of international politics like us. 🙂
3. While the book has been written from a Pakistani perspective, shows deep empathy for Pakistan, its institutions and its worldview, but it also needs to be said upfront that the author does not lose his objectivity. He understands what ails the Pakistani polity and society, how it has become a national security state, the internal and external challenges faced by Pakistan, as well as the shortcomings in the strategy/tactics of Pakistani army in meeting future challenges. The changing composition of the Pakistani army, as well as the creeping Islamization in it find mention in the book.
4. He also provides solutions, arguing that the Pakistani state should focus on geo-economics rather than geo-politics. However, the cynical Indian in me finds it hard to believe that such changed strategy will be acceptable to the Pakistani state (at least in the short run). A believer in the structuralist and realist theory, I believe that “ideas” that hold hegemony over states thereby conditioning their institutions as well as the narratives of the of the civil society, do not change that easily. However, if indeed the Pakistani state does, some day in the future, accept these prescriptions, we might actually see the emergence of a new prosperous and peaceful South Asia. The author also has words of advice for the Americans as to how they can help in the creation of this ‘new’ state/polity of Pakistan which is at peace with itself and its neighbors.
All in all a fabulous read.”