The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan
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An explanation of the intractable enmity of two South Asian peoples and nations.

It comes down to a matter of gods, of course, and cows, as well. “Hinduism is polytheistic and centered around idol worship,” writes London-based journalist Hiro (A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle East, 2013, etc.). “Islam is monotheistic and forbids graven images.” And then there’s the pork-shunning Muslim habit of eating beef, killing cows being a capital offense in some ancient kingdoms of India, avenged in less deadly and more modern climes by “desecrating a mosque by a stealth depositing of a pig’s head or carcass at its entrance.” Against these secular demonstrations are arrayed the powerful forces of two states with nuclear capability that have come very close to using it—and that now are playing out some of their rivalries, born long before the partition of India into India and Pakistan in 1947, in Afghanistan, another place whose leaders are skilled in playing both sides against the middle. Helpfully, Hiro notes that India is the second place where the British government imposed partition as a solution to civil strife, the first being Ireland, also divided by a deadly blend of politics and religion. As the author documents, this sideshow in the great game has had ugly results, such as the involvement of the Pakistani secret police in the attack on a Mumbai hotel in 2008 and India’s funding of Taliban attacks inside Pakistan, which “could be rationalized as Delhi’s quid pro quo to Islamabad’s involvement in stoking the separatist movement in Indian Kashmir.” On and on it goes, and though Hiro argues effectively that it is unlikely for the political tensions to disappear, ordinary Indians and Pakistanis enjoy many of the same things and may be reconcilable to each other on at least a cultural level.

Though dense and occasionally arid, a highly useful reference for those seeking to understand the geopolitics of a region often in the news for outbreaks of violence.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-56858-734-9
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Nation Books/Perseus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2015


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