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.”
A review of The Battle for Pakistan in the Indian magazine OPEN by Ullekh NP.
Review of The Battle for Pakistan in the newsmagazine India Today by the former Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan.
The Battle for Pakistan is a “must read” for The Indian Express this October.
Excerpt from my new book in Scroll.in
Penguin Random House India announces the acquisition of an authoritative and analytical take on Pakistan’s relationship with its neighbours and the United States. Titled The Battle For Pakistan: The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighborhood, this book is written by Shuja Nawaz, an author and a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center in Washington. It will be published under the Vintage imprint and will release in August 2019. This is Nawaz’s second book on the topic since 2009.
The Battle for Pakistan is about the complex relationship the country has shared with the USA and its neighbours, namely, Afghanistan and India. Based on the author’s deep and first-hand knowledge of the region and the US and his numerous interactions and interviews with leading civil and military actors, coupled with his access to key documentation, this book helps understand the US–Pakistan misalliance since 2008. It identifies the potential dangers for a critical region of the world and offers suggestions for both countries to create better policies that will benefit both of them and South Asia in general.
Shuja Nawaz has played an active role in advising civil and military leaders in his native Pakistan and his adopted homeland of the United States in the past decade or so. He has been on the front line of the battle for Pakistan as well as the fraught US relationship, looking for answers to difficult questions. Commenting on his new book, he says, ‘I am delighted and honoured to join Penguin Random House’s superb list of authors to share my new book with a wide South Asian audience. South Asia has the potential to become a fulcrum for global growth and stability—only if its leadership learns to create a connected neighbourhood. The United States could play a critical role in this process, if it chooses to do so. Not just to counter real and imagined threats from the Asian neighbours of India and Pakistan, but also to benefit from the political and economic advantages of the world’s largest potential market for its goods and services. I refuse to be pessimistic about this. The hardworking youth and broad population of South Asia deserve much better. Learning from our history may help us reshape our future.’
Answering some critical questions—Why can’t Pakistan and the United States trust each other? Will the US abandon Afghanistan yet again, leaving a mess for Pakistan to deal with? Why can’t the US help India, Pakistan and Afghanistan learn to live and grow together?—this book examines these and other centrifugal and centripetal issues in The Battle for Pakistan.
Milee Ashwarya, Publisher, Ebury Publishing and Vintage Publishing, Penguin Random House India says, ‘The Battle For Pakistan: The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighborhood is an authoritative, well-researched and insightful book on Pakistan and its place in the world in the light of the ever changing global power politics. It is a must read for anybody interested in international relations, politics, diplomacy, current affairs and South Asia. I am delighted that Shuja has written this timely and important book, and that we are able to publish it. This will be a very special addition to our list.’
Priya Doraswamy from Lotus Lane Literary comments, ‘It’s not every day that an agent gets to work with an author who’s not only great as a writer and a thinker but is also prescient. Shuja Nawaz’s brilliant narrative The Battle For Pakistan: The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighborhood, is a wakeup call to the world at large, and should be compulsory reading to anyone who’s interested in the future of South Asian geopolitics. I am honored to represent Shuja Nawaz and delighted that Milee Ashwarya and team at Penguin Random House India, will be publishing this fine book for the Subcontinent.’