Book Review Folder - 2005/2006/2007

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Book Review Folder - 2005/2006/2007

Postby ramana » 04 Jan 2005 00:59

Happy New Year!!!

From Pioneer on Cohen's book: Kaan mein beedi, mooh mein paan; hanskey lenge Hindustan?

Kaan mein beedi, mooh mein paan; hanskey lenge Hindustan?

Stephen Cohen's book is distinctly sympathetic to Pakistan, a state that deserves little sympathy for its various transgressions, not least its role in promoting Islamic terrorism Kanchan Gupta


Nation states, old and new, are anchored in the idea of national identity, which is the sum total of civilisational, cultural and social identities specific to the people who constitute the nation. Both past and present play equally important roles in defining nationhood; national political identities may have asserted themselves in the closing century of the last millennium, but the ideas behind the construction and legitimacy of these identities have traversed through millennia.

For instance, the idea of Bharatvarsha is ancient, while the political identity of India as a nation state is modern, less than a century old. At the same time, the idea of national identity also raises questions that are greatly discomfiting for some. Is the United States of America a nation of near extinct indigenous tribes or is it a nation of immigrants and settlers whose forging of a federation was a mere accident of history? Is Australia an aboriginal nation whose identity has been supplanted by that of immigrants?

There is neither a single nor a simplistic explanation for the complex construction of the political identity of many a modern nation state. Nor is it easy to locate the idea behind the political identity of these nation states within a specific time frame of history. Pakistan is a prime example.

Stephen Cohen, a long time and respected scholar of subcontinental military and political developments, in The Idea of Pakistan, has provided a grand sweep of history and post-1947 developments in his attempt to locate the idea of Pakistan. But he skirts many a question, focussing, instead, on certitudes that are deeply tinged by the American perspective that is not necessarily the only perspective. To his credit, he concedes as much.

When was the idea of Pakistan born? Was it in 1930 when Mohammed Iqbal, addressing the annual session of the Muslim League in Allahabad, floated the idea of a separate Muslim state within the state of India? Or was it in 1933 when a group of Muslim students in England, led by Chaudhary Rahmat Ali, published the pamphlet 'Now or Never', demanding a separate Muslim state? Or was it much later in 1940 when the Muslim League adopted its 'Pakistan Resolution' at Lahore? Or, was it the culmination of Muslim separatism over a period of time, gaining speed with the collapse and demise of Muslim rule in India?

Whatever the date or time of its birth, the idea of Pakistan required the intellectual definition of a man known for his preference of all that Islam contrabands. Mohammed Ali Jinnah's two-nation theory - "Hindus and the Muslims belong to two different religions, philosophies, social customs and literature... indeed, they belong to two different civilisations that are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions" - and its practical demonstration through "direct action" on August 16, 1946, paved the way to the creation of his moth-eaten homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent.

The idea of Pakistan and Jinnah's theoretical justification were, of course, deeply flawed. The creation of Pakistan was accompanied by large-scale migration of Hindus and Muslims, perhaps the biggest displacement of people in history, and witnessed the slaughter of tens of thousands. But neither did it lead to all Muslims in the subcontinent shifting to their promised homeland, nor did it hold together Pakistan.

The idea of Pakistan may have succeeded in the narrow realm of separatist politics, but it has abysmally failed in the larger political sphere. Jinnah's death and Liaqat Ali's assassination put to rest the Quaid-i-Azam's dream of a democratic, modern republic. For the better part of its existence, Pakistan has been ruled by the Army and not elected governments. Even while scheming to expand its frontiers, it has lost the eastern flank of its original territory. Ethnic, linguistic and tribal identities have dogged the idea of Pakistan ever since 1947, competing for dominance over the imposed national identity. The MQM, which represents the political interests of Muslims who migrated to Pakistan from India, today feels partition was a mistake.

General Ayub Khan tried to redefine the idea of Pakistan as he understood it with his booze-soaked head. General Yahya Khan tried to impose the idea of West Pakistan on East Pakistan with rapacious ferocity. General Zia ul Haq, after sending democratically elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the gallows, tried to impose his idea of Pakistan as a fundamentalist Islamic state. General Pervez Musharraf, who fancies himself as Attaturk reborn, is now occupied with constructing a modern and moderate Islamic Pakistan. In between, we have had Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharief trying their own ideas of Pakistan.

The idea of Pakistan is essentially hinged to its continuous attempt to keep alive its raison d'etre: positing itself as the anti-thesis to Hindustan. Hence, even if the unsettled business of Partition were to be settled, the Pakistani state would have to discover new reasons to remain in a constant state of conflict with the Indian state. Pakistan's demonisation of India, and not the other way round, is the sole constant in the continuing casting and recasting of the idea of Pakistan and the search for a Pakistani identity.

In the run up to Partition and its bloody consequence, roving bands of Muslim League workers would march around, shouting, "Ladke liya Pakistan, Hanske lengey Hindustan!" A popular riposte of that time went: "Kaan mein beedi, mooh mein paan, Hanske lengey Hindustan?" Perhaps the true idea of Pakistan lies embedded in both the triumphalist slogan of Muslim separatism and the sneering response of Indian nationalism. Jinnah's Muslim League may have been reduced to a footnote of history, but that idea survives.

Cohen's book is distinctly sympathetic to Pakistan, a state that deserves little sympathy for its various transgressions, not least its role in promoting Islamic terrorism and its surreptitious, black market peddling of nuclear technology. He scoffs at Jaswant Singh's definition of Pakistan as 'Taliban East', but that is not entirely unexpected. After all, America needs Pakistan, never mind how misplaced that need may be, and to justify this need, Americans must fashion an idea of Pakistan that is free of blemishes and black spots.

Ironically, most Pakistanis, a constituency much larger than followers of Masood Azhar, would disagree with Cohen's thesis. Not necessarily because his book lacks academic rigour - none of his books do - but because he has tried to seek an idea of Pakistan while Pakistanis themselves are not sure if there is any one idea that just about keeps their country from exploding.

The Islamists would, of course, reject Cohen's thesis because their idea of Pakistan is not to be found in subcontinental history, but in the sands of Arabia.
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Postby A_Murali » 12 Jan 2005 07:40

All –

As I am currently writing a book on the subject, I was just wondering if anyone could post any controversial book reviews about world spy agencies that were especially revealed by an INSIDER. Here's a review about the Canadian secret service from the book "Covert Entry- Spies, Lies and Crimes Inside Canada's Secret Service" by Andrew Mitrovica. ... i_n6066038

P/S: I have also read the book "By way of Deception" By Victor Ostrovsky.

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Postby RajGuru » 12 Jan 2005 08:19

Murali,Did you read 'spy catcher' by Peter Wright(former Asst.Director of MI5)
I have the book.
Peter Wright follows his father's footsteps into the realm of electronic technology during the late 1930's. He's finally offered a position in the newly established scientific department within the British MI-5. Peter is obsessed with catching spies inside MI-5. After Philby and Burgess defect, he knows there are more traitors in their midst. A Mr. Blunt finally confesses to espionage, but it took many years to catch him. Using electronic methods, Peter Wright follows the electronic signatures, and through vetting techniques; he uncovers the location of spies by their code names, and MI-5 employees during specific periods. He interrogates defectors who supply him with details of spies (using their code names) and their activities, crossing this information with MI-5 files, etc.; he pursues his prey by following the scent. He thinks his boss, Mr. Hollis, is a spy. And he pursues every shred of evidence that leads in that direction. A story of a houseful of spies recruited by MI-5 (and MI-6) before World War II. It takes all of Peter Wrights career to weed them out, or retire them to greener pasture. He was an obsessed and determined man, who stuck by his principles to the very end: no matter what the cost to himself personally.

Also, did you read
Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations that Helped Win the Cold War
Antonio and Jonna Mendez with Bruce Henderson

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Postby svinayak » 21 Jan 2005 03:55

A Century Of War : Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order
by F. William Engdahl

Engdahl, whose personal background includes engineering and law (Princeton), working in Texas oil industry, and international economics (University of Stockholm), does a penetrating and eloquent job of sorting out the complex web that connects the controlling interests of international politics with the goals and objectives of global oil and financial interests, these having merged in the last century into the powerful and dominant hegemony of an Anglo-American consortium.

There are so many revelations that are so well documented that one has to slow down and completely reorientate his or her conception of and attitude toward recent history. His tone is neither particularly vindictive nor is it conspiratorial. It looks at people and events and provides plausible motives and methods that are not part of the conventional awareness. For example, (fact) the British navy decided in the late 19th century to change their primary fuel source from coal to oil, thereby (objective) needing to secure access to oil reserves, basically in perpetuity. (result) British agreements for oil resources with the Sheikh of Kuwait date from 1899. (fact) Oil then comes to supplant coal as the primary energy source for all of the industrializing world, and a decade later Germany threatens to become the leading industrialized nation in Europe and (objective) needs a secure source of oil, so they begin construction on the Berlin to Baghdad railway intending to capitalize on agreements to import Iraqi oil. (question) How does Britain meet this emerging geopolitical threat. (objective) Block Germany's access to Middle East oil. (result) Curiously WWI begins with an out-of-the-way assassination in Croatia that just happens to occur near the route of that railway. War ensues and not only is the B-to-B railway cut off, but Germany loses all colonial power in the Middle East.

Shortly after WWI the leaders of the seven major western oil companies meet and agree to not compete with each other but to cooperate, and in 1928 drew up the Red Line agreement that gave virtually control of virtually all Middle East oil to the Anglo-American cartel. Even France's portion was minimalized to Turkish reserves. The Anglo-American consortium came to be known as the Seven Sisters and over the course of the ensuing decades become more and more infused with global banking and financial interestes, i.e., Rockefeller, J.P.Morgan, the Warburgs, the Rotheschilds, Brown Harriman, etc., coming to dominate the world economy by controlling the primary energy source. It is "all about oil" and has been since the turn of the century.

Engdahl's references are extensive and substantiate his disturbing interpretation of history, like the intentional suppression of the German Mark after WWI and the intentional manipulation of the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970s as a premise to artificially inflate global energy costs (a Bilderberg target objective), thereby making BritPetr North Sea oil exploration efforts solvent and bankrupting the debt burdened Third World.

Engdahl's revelatory insights go up through Gulf War I and one can only speculate as to his thoughts on the current Bush administration's economic/tax policies, the Iraq intervention, and their relationship to consolidating control of the global economy into the hands of a few staggeringly wealthy individuals and corporations. This book should be IN PRINT and TODAY!

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Postby JCage » 27 Jan 2005 06:33


I am reading Gurcharan Das's India Unbound (Knopf Press) after reading some rave reviews by the firangs about how one can "understand India"

Apart from the litany of complaints, at points Das seems to be a pukka sahib writing in nostalgia for years lost , some parts imho are his views transplanted onto the entire nation. The Brits imho come in for some flagrant a$$ kissing, which since I have read many differing accounts - including prof historians- I know to be utter nonsense.

Anyone else have the same feeling having read this book?

What does the forum think of his book? Is it accurate even insofar its primary research is concerned?

I am wondering whether its worth finishing.

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Postby svinayak » 27 Jan 2005 09:22

Dont worry , You are not wrong. In my business school we had Das paper as a case study. He is studied since he is a perfect example of a brown sahib in the business area.

His insight into MNCs working in the developed countries is used as an example of how they can penetrate the soceity seemlessly in such a way that the soceity will own the company as their own. - e.g. HLL

What he captures is the revolution going on but cannot desccribe it. It is actualy large scale decolonizing of the Indian mind which is occuring.

His life experience in the book gives us am example of how the earlier pukka sahibs bred the next generations after the independence.

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Postby Atish » 27 Jan 2005 12:02

Perhaps I am dense people. I confess I missed such things in Das's book. Can somebody point out some issues that point out a Brown Sahib attitude. I thought it was a simple case against red tapism.


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Postby Abhijeet » 28 Jan 2005 03:00

I've read India Unbound, and found it very interesting and informative. I didn't think it was indicative of a brown sahib mentality at all, unless criticizing India's socialist policies from independence onward automatically put you into that camp (in which case, I wish we'd had more brown sahibs in influential places before 1991).

In any case, regardless of his personal proclivities, he speaks as a person who's actually worked in the trenches (as CEO of P&G India), and that makes his viewpoint worth listening to. There are multiple examples of his personal experiences with the Indian authorities in the 60s and 70s, and I found them very valuable as a first hand view of what business life was what back then (and hopefully will never be in India again). The description of his meeting with a deeply disillusioned JRD Tata alone makes the book worth reading.

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Postby JCage » 28 Jan 2005 06:33

I dont know, but many of his comments are diametrically oposite to what I have heard others say- those from his "times" and both who served under the British or were in the "socialist era". Few of them were as charitable upon several themes which he touches upon, pax brittanica et al- a recurrent theme of his being that it was the brits who united a divided, squabbling nation and apart from a few famines here and there, which he touches upon briefly- everything was A-ok. I pretty much disagree with that as I have heard and read much to the contrary. Heck, my relatives were keenly aware of and at times part of the Brit power apparatus, and they had first hand experience of the benevolent Raj and the shenanigans that went on behind.

I understand his frustration with many of Nehrus policies and his opposition to the same etc- all that is perfectly understandable, but then again- thats the benefit of hindsight. The rant/ critique/ summary of socialist tendencies is informative- but pretty much ignores the geopolitics of the time.

And then there are the rather silly generalizations- that bit about teamwork, to extend his theory and say that Indians are not team players etc (with a weak disclaimer about it not being a perfect theory) and the Porus analogy had me gagging. I mean was he serious or what? I have seen both sorts in India and elsewhere. In fact, I discussed the issue with an "older gentleman" with extensive experience in both the public and pvt sector and he found the comment ridiculous as well. Das seems to have mixed up the defects of hierarchical organizational structures with the personal attributes of an entire multiethnic society!

Yes, before someone chips in- i do know the caste comment- separate campfires, lack of integration etc has been made before about other Indian armies, the most famous and probably apocryphal one attributed to Abdali at Panipat (Maratha vs Abdali), but the bit about the cavalry not chipping in and that proving their elitism vis a vis the infantry, and that being an Indian trait is utter bollocks! I can cite a bunch of other instances about European knights and how they were the elite and acted as such vis a vis the footies! Armies were an example of their times and that seems to have escaped Das who's picked up some text and used it for an inaccurate analogy. Second, he has not cited the entire text which he uses for a ref but the portion he has cited is positively misleading in the context of its use.

Alexander tricked Porus with constant deployment and movement, lulling him to complacency and then sending a team across. For a modern day parallel, one might want to look up the way the Allies tricked the Germans about DDay and the loss in time in contesting the bridgehead, the battle being fought and lost on the beaches as one noted German General put it.
And in the case of the Porus- Alexander matchup, it was much the same, albeit a riverbank instead of a beach. After establishing a bridgehead, Alexander reinforced his landing party before sufficient force could be mustered to challenge the same. This was a clear example of a well executed and implemented strategem of war, and to attribute the defeat of Porus to some "lack of teamwork" is nonsense unless cited and supported properly, and extending it to modern day Indian society is even sillier. And then the Alexander episode ends with "Ok dokie they were tired and went home". A minor point missed there- that Alexander's troops were positively aghast at the thought of taking on the Nanda's with their huge army- the relevance being that Porus was regarded as being a forerunner of things to come (one of Alexanders most valued captains chose to represent the troops ; had the temerity to challenge his leaders decision/ desire to go further and Alexander knew that was that). Furthemore, the fact that Alexander hit back at his troops by deliberately taking a conflict prone route back, attacking and sacking several Indian principalities along the way, one of which almost cost him his life. If anything, several of those battles proved that Indian Armies of the time were as capable of putting up organized and extremely effective resistance, despite being outnumbered and under siege. This has been cited in several accounts and if the books are still available at the Lib, I can dig up the refs on some weekend. And if the Brits united India- what was Chandragupta Maurya? A Chinese? In fact, it has also been noted that Chanakya "sold" the idea of a united republic citing that an alliance of federations would be unable to resist another invasion. Now after Porus fell and a few other principalities were sacked, kingdoms banded together and fought as one. Lack of teamwork?

Now this is the sort of thing which leads me to consider whether Das's other comments are, similarly, either incomplete or selectively weighed.

Then there is the entire bit about the caste system and Indians not wanting to get their hands dirty etc- well that might be true of some high and mighty blokes- but in my personal experience, many people I have known, those older to Das or his age approx- are hands on folk.They havent had too many issues tinkering with stuff or getting their hands dirty when it came to physical or manual labour.

Furthermore, I see many people of my gen and even my seniors being keenly interested in hands on work- eg messing around with cars, bikes etc. These are but a few instances of what I feel are needless generalizations made by Das, namely attempting to pass off a subjective comment as an objective one.

Furthermore, India has a huge labour surplus and labour is cheap and plentiful which leads people to rely upon "x/y's repair shop" than being a DIY. If costs were to rise, attitudes would change too and greater emphasis would be placed upon tinkering at home etc.

IOW, I disagree with many of his generalizations. It would have been better if he had said : " I feel". But when he says "This is India, I know it to be so"...I am seriously obliged to go WTF.

The book is not that bad, but then I had high expectations, given the hype.

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Postby Atish » 28 Jan 2005 06:48

The problem is the expecations. Das is at home as long as he is talking business and economics. You are right all those vast generalizatiosn were there, I just ignored them.

The only thing is that the point about the socialism bit and hindsight being 20/20. Its not just 20/20, lotsa sensible ppl gave a horrible and sadly accurate of things to come due to the economic policy, and the economy and polity followed it to the letter.

It is possible that in teh first 10 years or so honest mistakes weremade, after that it was vested interests and even bloodymindedness. You may like to refer to "we the people" nani palkhivala, Milton Friedman India essays from 1961 and the works of Jagdish Bhagwati, esp his recent interview in Indian Express. To name a few sources I can remember off the cuff.

Oha nd one more thing, you bring up an important point that crops up repeatedly. Since cleaning up your dishes is a painful chore and if cheap labor is plentiful, teh "elite" will not do it.

To the naive, this is part of the elite's mental makeup Indeed a cultural trait prrof of the backward casteism and non egalitarianism.
, to the intelligent its just a rational economic choices being made.

Informative stuff on Alexander. Is there a single authoritative reliable account on Alexander youy can suggest.

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Postby Abhijeet » 28 Jan 2005 06:59

What I got most out of the book was the perspective of a businessman who had been there on the poor business climate in India after independence. That seemed valuable to me, and there were many details in there that I didn't know about. As I mentioned before, I found his first hand experiences fascinating.

I don't believe his comments on socialism etc are necessarily only the benefit of hindsight - in fact, I believe it's in the book (not sure since it's been a while since I read it) that a government report in the mid-60s recommended moving away from the top-down economy to a more market driven one, and that it was Indira Gandhi who decided to actually go in the other direction, nationalizing the banks for example. So it was clear at least as long ago as the 1965 timeframe that the Indian economic model of the time wasn't working.

IMO in a book it's assumed that the author's comments are his own, and they need not all be prefaced with "I feel". I didn't feel that Das tries to portray himself as some kind of know-it-all - he simply has more world experience than many of us (certainly I) do, and is consequently worth learning from.

Your comments about the weak historical generalizations may be true. I was less interested in his interpretation of history than the other parts I've talked about above, so that factored that much less in my estimation of the book. I'd still recommend it highly to anyone who wants to learn about India's economy post-Independence.

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Postby Sri Kumar » 30 Jan 2005 00:06

I recently read the book by G. Das. My overall impression was that it was definitely a worthwhile read. It was written by a businessman, about India's business climate over the last several decades. As a concommitant, he comments on Indians and the society. When writing on such topics, generalizations are bound to be made, some of which are likely to be incorrect (atleast partly). Personally, I found it useful/interesting for a ring-side view of the business scene and the impact of GOI's socialist policies on it. The chapter on PVN and how the liberalization came about, was very interesting. As for his comments/thoughts on Indians, I did not give them too much weightage, since, almost by definition, such a topic is subjective (common to most, if not, all authors).

JCage: Is there any reference/book that describes the reasons for mutiny by Alexander's soldiers after the Porus battle? 'They were tired and wanted to go home' does sounds a little simplistic.

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Postby svinayak » 31 Jan 2005 09:32

Important book with lots of details of Zias life and mental makeup.
Details of everything which was missing from a mainstream book
about afghanistan, ISI and TSP oligarchy.
THe author agrees with the Cato think tank

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of The CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet
by Steve Coll

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
by Steve Coll "IT WAS A SMALL RIOT in a year of upheavals, a passing thunderclap disgorged by racing skies..." (more)

Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 offers revealing details of the CIA's involvement in the evolution of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the years before the September 11 attacks. From the beginning, Coll shows how the CIA's on-again, off-again engagement with Afghanistan after the end of the Soviet war left officials at Langley with inadequate resources and intelligence to appreciate the emerging power of the Taliban. He also demonstrates how Afghanistan became a deadly playing field for international politics where Soviet, Pakistani, and U.S. agents armed and trained a succession of warring factions. At the same time, the book, though opinionated, is not solely a critique of the agency. Coll balances accounts of CIA failures with the success stories, like the capture of Mir Amal Kasi. Coll, managing editor for the Washington Post, covered Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992. He demonstrates unprecedented access to records of White House meetings and to formerly classified material, and his command of Saudi, Pakistani, and Afghani politics is impressive. He also provides a seeming insider's perspective on personalities like George Tenet, William Casey, and anti-terrorism czar, Richard Clarke ("who seemed to wield enormous power precisely because hardly anyone knew who he was or what exactly he did for a living"). Coll manages to weave his research into a narrative that sometimes has the feel of a Tom Clancy novel yet never crosses into excess. While comprehensive, Coll's book may be hard going for those looking for a direct account of the events leading to the 9-11 attacks. The CIA's 1998 engagement with bin Laden as a target for capture begins a full two-thirds of the way into Ghost Wars, only after a lengthy march through developments during the Carter, Reagan, and early Clinton Presidencies. But this is not a critique of Coll's efforts; just a warning that some stamina is required to keep up. Ghost Wars is a complex study of intelligence operations and an invaluable resource for those seeking a nuanced understanding of how a small band of extremists rose to inflict incalculable damage on American soil. --Patrick O'Kelley

Product Description:
From the managing editor of the Washington Post, a news-breaking account of the CIA's involvement in the covert wars in Afghanistan that fueled Islamic militancy and gave rise to bin Laden's al Qaeda.

For nearly the past quarter century, while most Americans were unaware, Afghanistan has been the playing field for intense covert operations by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies-invisible wars which sowed the seeds of the September 11 attacks and which provide its context. From the Soviet invasion in 1979 through the summer of 2001, the CIA, KGB, Pakistan's ISI, and Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Department all operated directly and secretly in Afghanistan. They primed Afghan factions with cash and weapons, secretly trained guerrilla forces, funded propaganda, and manipulated politics. In the midst of these struggles bin Laden conceived and then built his global organization.

Comprehensively and for the first time, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll tells the secret history of the CIA's role in Afghanistan, from its covert program against Soviet troops from 1979 to 1989, to the rise of the Taliban and the emergence of bin Laden, to the secret efforts by CIA officers and their agents to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan after 1998. Based on extensive firsthand accounts, Ghost Warsok is the inside story that goes well beyond anything previously published on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. It chronicles the roles of midlevel CIA officers, their Afghan allies, and top spy masters such as Bill Casey, Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al Faisal, and George Tenet. And it describes heated debates within the American government and the often poisonous, mistrustful relations between the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies.

Ghost Wars answers the questions so many have asked since the horrors of September 11: To what extent did America's best intelligence analysts grasp the rising threat of Islamist radicalism? Who tried to stop bin Laden and why did they fail?

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Postby Rangudu » 31 Jan 2005 09:50

I second that. Ghost Wars is one of the best books I read in 2004.

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Postby JE Menon » 31 Jan 2005 10:53

Absolutely. Marvellous book. Thoroughly researched. Written with detachment and style.

Meanwhile "Alive & Well in Pakistan - A Human Journey..." - DO NOT BUY IT. Absolute crap. Nothing new. Guy has some width but no depth. Was in Pak for less than a year total I think, went native, but still retains ignorance - didn't figure out what Basant was all about :roll: - so you can understand the nature of the company. Claims to idolise Naipaul, but the writing is well...amateurish to say the least. Met a lot of RAPE and was suitably impressed. Think he fell in love with his guest-house caretaker's wife... poor fellow.

OK, not entirely worthless. Has some observations that will resonate. But does not get below the skin of Pakisatan, though he tries...
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Postby Umrao » 31 Jan 2005 19:50

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Postby Tim » 31 Jan 2005 20:59

If you liked Ghost Wars, read it in parallel with the 9/11 commission report. It's amazing what Coll was able to say a year before the official report came out.


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Postby ramana » 31 Jan 2005 22:44

Another review of Cohen's book in Pioneer, 31 Jan., 2005...

Broken promises, missed opportunities

Some of the statements made by the author of The Idea of Pakistan on Hindu-Muslim issues do not appear to be accurate

Prafull goradia Kr Phanda


It took Professor Stephen Cohen 44 years to complete the book, The Idea of Pakistan. Whether it was worth the effort is for the discerning readers of Pakistan to judge. The book, according to the author, is a double biography. One, about the idea of Pakistan and the two, the State of Pakistan. The topics covered include: The idea and the State of Pakistan; Pakistan as an Islamic state; regionalism and separatism and Pakistan's future etc. In so far as the idea of Pakistan is concerned, the author's findings on the subject do not yield any fresh evidence as to the genesis of Pakistan. There are already dozens of books available on the subject by well-known authorities in Pakistan and India.

Professor Cohen states: "The first person to systematically set forth the argument for what eventually became Pakistan was the jurist, author, and educator Sir Syed Ahmad Khan." Dr Aziz Ahmad in his well-known book, Studies in Islamic Culture (Oxford University Press, England, first published in 1964), wrote: "He (Sayyad Ahmad Khan) was the first modern Muslim to suggest that Hindus and Muslims constituted two separate nations in India.

Amir Ali, who founded the Central Muhammadan Association in Calcutta, expressed similar views. Dr SM Ikram too has observed that, "It is true that the ground for Muslim separatism was prepared when Islam entered the subcontinent." (Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan, first published in 1950). Given these select observations, Professor Cohen's book does not add anything new by way of knowledge about the origin of the idea of Pakistan.

The question raised by experts at that time was that while minorities under international law are entitled to safeguards, how could a Muslim minority ask for a separate State. To overcome this objection, Muslim League leaders declared that Muslims were a separate nation and had nothing in common with the Hindus of India. Sir Muhammad Iqbal in his address at the annual session of the All India Muslim League held at Allahabad in 1930 provided the philosophical basis to the demand for a separate nation for the Indian Ummah. Earlier, the Muslim League had entirely devoted its energies in extracting concessions for the Muslim minority from the British rulers and the Congress party.

Some of the statements made by Professor Cohen in the book with regard to Hindu-Muslim issues do not appear to be correct. For example: "As in present-day India, families commonly designated one son for conversion to facilitate dealings with a Muslim ruler. Forced conversions, which occurred in parts of India as recently as the 1920s, should also be mentioned, although these have been exaggerated by both Hindu and Muslim historians. In sum, Islam survived in India for a variety of reasons: inter-marriage, conversion, the attractiveness of Islam, egalitarianism, and social and political advantages in a context of Muslim rulers". In actual fact, however, conversion to Islam in India was primarily on account of threat to life and property. In this context Sir Thomas W Arnold wrote, "For India has often been picked out as a typical instance of a country in which Islam owes its existence and continuance in existence to the settlement of foreign, conquering Muhammadan races, who have transmitted their faith to their descendants, and only succeeded in spreading it beyond their own circle by means of persecution and forced conversions.

Thus the missionary spirit of Islam is supposed to show itself in its true light in the brutal massacres of Brahmans by Mahmud of Ghazni, in the persecutions of Aurangzeb, the forcible circumcisions effected by Hayder Ali, Tipu Sultan and the like." (The Preaching of Islam, London, 1913).

Another statement by Professor Cohen reads: "Even Jinnah did not foresee Pakistan as a homeland for all of India's Muslims." This statement is not supported by the results of the elections held in 1945-46. Muslims of India had overwhelmingly supported the demand for Pakistan. In this context Professor M Majeeb, Vice Chancellor, Jamia Milia, wrote: "The party which demanded the creation of Pakistan, a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims was the Muslim League.

In the elections held early in 1946, which proved decisive it secured 425 out of 492 seats reserved for Muslims in the Central and the different Provincial Legislatures. It could be said, therefore, that Indian Muslims were overwhelmingly in favour of Pakistan. It insisted that the right to a separate homeland for the Muslims to be called Pakistan should be conceded first." (Islamic Influence on Indian Society, Meenakshi Prakashan, Delhi, 1972). The well-known daily Dawn right through 1946 reported that Jinnah and seven of his League colleagues insisted that all Muslims should go over to Pakistan and in exchange all non-Muslims should cross over to Hindustan.

Again, Cohen states that according to Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah: "Pakistan would be a democratic, liberal and just state. It would live peacefully with its minority Hindu population....How was this vision realized during the subsequent fifty-plus years of Pakistan the state?" The author has not provided any information about the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs by Pakistan during 1947-48 nor any estimate of how many Hindus are still living in Pakistan. What is their status? Do they have any rights? Muslims in India, however, have more rights and privileges than the Hindu majority.

As regards the State of Pakistan, the author has talked about the twists and turns that have occurred in the Pakistani polity. The army rule is likely to stay in the medium term and the chances of a full-fledged democratic form of Government emerging in Pakistan appear to be slim. With the passage of time, conservative Muslims have expanded their control over many areas of social life. The Government of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq provided a great impetus to this trend.

Of particular interest to India is the following statement by Cohen: "For some (Pakistanis), Kashmir is also the key to unravelling India. If India gave up Kashmir, then Indian Muslims would also come to Pakistan - or would at least achieve a separate status within a restructured confederation. Whereas Indians regard the creation of Bangladesh as the death-knell of the two-nation theory, many Pakistanis now believe that the existence of two Islamic states in South Asia is compatible with the original Pakistan movement - a few hardliners even look forward to the day India might be broken up, adding to the list of independent South Asian Muslim states." Going by the Congress party's rule of 50 years, this possibility cannot be ruled out.

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Postby viveks » 31 Jan 2005 22:52


Can any one point me to means of buying this particular book:
Open secrets - India's intelligence unveiled. ... 005849.cms

I am in LA and I think its gonna be hard to get to obtain it.

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Postby svinayak » 31 Jan 2005 22:58

Of particular interest to India is the following statement by Cohen: "For some (Pakistanis), Kashmir is also the key to unravelling India. If India gave up Kashmir, then Indian Muslims would also come to Pakistan - or would at least achieve a separate status within a restructured confederation. Whereas Indians regard the creation of Bangladesh as the death-knell of the two-nation theory, many Pakistanis now believe that the existence of two Islamic states in South Asia is compatible with the original Pakistan movement - a few hardliners even look forward to the day India might be broken up, adding to the list of independent South Asian Muslim states." Going by the Congress party's rule of 50 years, this possibility cannot be ruled out.

Who said that Unevens book is good

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Postby Rangudu » 31 Jan 2005 23:34


I did. If you want to understand the American mind vis a vis India, it is one of the best books.

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Postby laxmibai » 01 Feb 2005 05:29

Rangudu wrote:Acharya,

If you want to understand the American mind vis a vis India, it is one of the best books.

in the context of

Of particular interest to India is the following statement by Cohen: "For some (Pakistanis), Kashmir is also the key to unravelling India. If India gave up Kashmir, then Indian Muslims would also come to Pakistan - or would at least achieve a separate status within a restructured confederation. Whereas Indians regard the creation of Bangladesh as the death-knell of the two-nation theory, many Pakistanis now believe that the existence of two Islamic states in South Asia is compatible with the original Pakistan movement - a few hardliners even look forward to the day India might be broken up, adding to the list of independent South Asian Muslim states." Going by the Congress party's rule of 50 years, this possibility cannot be ruled out.

Curious whether the US is in favor of jihad being waged against India and Indian Muslims creating more Muslim states or is the US opposed to jihad against India?

I have been reading books on pre-independence British-Congress-League politics, and the studied US ambiguity on jihad against India looks very similar to studied British ambiguity about the Pakistan aspirations of the Muslim League as a counterweight to the power of the Congress.

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Postby Rangudu » 07 Feb 2005 05:53 ... ge=printer

With Friends Like These

Reviewed by Owen Bennett Jones

Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page BW10


By Stephen Philip Cohen. Brookings. 382 pp. $32.95

For almost a year now, Pakistan's air force has been bombing targets on its own soil. In the remote tribal area of South Waziristan, schools have been destroyed, villages obliterated and civilians killed. The Waziris' misfortune has been to have some foreign militants hiding in their area, which has consequently become a front line in the U.S. war on terror.

But what kind of country needs to bomb its own turf? Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is under intense U.S. pressure to kill or capture the jihadists in Waziristan, and his acquiescence reveals the extent of Washington's post-Sept. 11 control over him. The general is acutely aware that Pakistan's record, at least on paper, would make it a candidate member of the "axis of evil." Back in 1999, a National Security Council memo warned that Islamabad was "behaving as a rogue state in two areas," backing terrorism from the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and "provoking war with India." It now seems beyond doubt that the country's leading nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, sold weapons of mass destruction technology to Iran and North Korea, and I find it almost impossible to believe that Pakistan's army was left entirely in the dark.

Furthermore, for the last 15 years, the Pakistani state has encouraged the growth of Muslim militant groups, which were supposed to fight in Kashmir but have become increasingly international in their ambitions. Some have links with al Qaeda and what's left of the Taliban; others have been found fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Finally, Pakistan itself has a homegrown Islamist movement that would love to have control of the government and its nuclear arsenal.

Yet, as Stephen Philip Cohen points out in his fine new book, The Idea of Pakistan, the fear that Pakistan could become a center of Islamist revolution "is widely held in India and, increasingly, America, but it is not accurate. While most Pakistani Muslims are devout, they are not radical." Moreover, their country's admittedly turbulent politics have focused on struggles over ethnicity, language and the economy just as much as religion. Pakistan, Cohen argues, is more stable than you might think.

Fittingly, then, much of this book is a rock-solid, dependable history of Pakistan. Nonspecialist readers, though, will probably be most interested in the last three chapters, which discuss what might happen in Pakistan in the near future and how the United States might influence the outcome. Cohen, a South Asia expert at the Brookings Institution, sees only a remote chance that one of America's closest allies might turn into an enemy. The most plausible scenario, he suggests, is that "in five years Pakistan will be pretty much what it is today."

Nevertheless, Pakistan is sitting on a cluster of political, demographic and social time bombs. Beyond the growing appeal of radical Islam, the most glaring threats are the booming population (Pakistan is projected to be the world's fifth most populous country by 2015) and the atrocious education system. For years now, Pakistani liberals and Western observers have warned that the madrassas (religious seminaries) are little more than jihadist production lines. It is reckoned that 1 million Pakistani children now attend madrassas where the syllabus consists solely of the Koran, jihad and martyrdom.

Cohen has an excellent section on the reason so many parents opt for madrassas: the desperate state of the government schools. On recent trips to Pakistan, I visited two village schools without warning. Both times, the children were sitting in serried ranks, ready and keen to learn. But no teachers were present.

The anecdotal evidence that the secular school system isn't working is backed up by statistics. The International Crisis Group recently found that education spending as a share of national output has fallen over the past five years, leaving Pakistan as one of just 12 countries that spend less than 2 percent of their GDP on education. Worse, as Cohen argues, a direct assault on the madrassas would probably backfire; the only solution is to reduce their appeal by providing a decent alternative. Musharraf's failure to make good on his education pledges is perhaps his gravest sin. After all, what is the point of a military government if it can't implement policies that have widespread support and require only a modicum of political will?

For his part, Cohen wonders what is the point of a military government, period. He suggests that Washington use its influence to press for the gradual restoration of the troubled democracy that Musharraf's 1999 coup interrupted. "Those in the West who argue against democracy for Pakistan end up placing their bets on the army and a group of Islamic parties," he notes. "Yet the former cannot effectively govern Pakistan, [and] the latter may see democracy as a shortcut to absolute power."

That may be true, but suggesting that Musharraf can be persuaded to democratize is wishful thinking. Although the general retains considerable popular support, he is clearly weaker than he was immediately after his coup, and will get weaker still. Musharraf has no political exit strategy that doesn't include the real possibility of his being jailed for the illegal overthrow of a democratically elected government. Whatever the United States or other Western powers may want, he will probably face growing opposition and, in response, become increasingly autocratic. As a military leader who has come within an ace of death in two assassination attempts, Musharraf is hardly likely to relax his grip on power.

Ultimately, however, the United States will back Musharraf, and not only because it needs him in the war on terror. Pakistan, after all, is an unstable nuclear power, and Washington has a clear interest in sustaining a government it can trust. In 1998, when Pakistan tested its nuclear bomb, it was hit with international sanctions. In 2004, when its top nuclear scientist confessed to transferring nuclear secrets to North Korea, one of the craziest regimes on Earth, Pakistan received international aid. Musharraf has a stronger hand than he realizes. •

Owen Bennett Jones is a reporter for the BBC's World Service and the author of "Pakistan: Eye of the Storm."

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Postby SSridhar » 07 Feb 2005 08:14

I am just reading Cohen's book on TSP. While it seems that most of his assessment about that country is accurate, he has managed to slip in a lot of innuendoes about India. Almost every page is replete with them.

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Postby Umrao » 07 Feb 2005 17:36

Owen Bennit jones is a outright SOB who is fitting sishya of uneven cohen.

Everybody who listens to his reports from TSP on BBC would have no problem in identifying him as such.

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Postby JCage » 07 Feb 2005 18:09

Atish, Abhijeet and SriKumar,

My apologies- work keeps me from replying in a cogent manner and I definitely dont want to make a half baked post .

I agree to a degree about personal opinion- but then the entire book depicts a view of India which is highly subjective, there's very little in the way of being objective.

The business aspect is the only interesting part imho.

Re: Alexander- there are many refs. The ones online are pretty limited, mores the pity- but one has to read them all to get an idea. Right now, there are two camps- the entrenched western one, which deals with the brilliance of Alexander and his victory over Porus. And an increasingly vocal Indian one which points out loopholes in the earlier story, lack of corroborative evidence and other issues which in their view depict that Alexander may not have defeated Porus, but it was more of a stalemate thanks to the brutal carnage on both sides. Some have extrapolated that view further and concluded that it was Alexander who lost and hence went on the retreat, taking his ire out on the loose Indian federations of the time, who happened to be on his path. However, many sources do agree on the basic events- namely Alexanders initial strategem for taking the bank, getting to the Indian side before Porus could commit his forces etc and his hasty retreat thereafter, with some fierce battles against the Indian federations and then the usual trademark brutality common to all conquerors, with respect to those who refused to surrender.
IMHO, it will be possible to determine the actual truth on the contentious part-( i.e. who won) only once India takes an active interest in its past and funds the ASI and other societies vigorously. Till then, the most we can glean will be from established sources- which may or may not be correct, and which are for the most part admittedly incomplete. After all Dwarka submergence issue was widely considered to be imaginative myth making till an Indian archaeologist found evidence of 5 prior submerged cities, the present Dwarka being the 6th one.

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Postby jrjrao » 13 Feb 2005 02:50

Shri. Jaswant Singh pens a review of Uneven Cohen's latest book on PakiSatan.

Long and excellent.

Pakistan, By Definition
For Pakistan, in the "words of a young Pakistani woman", quoted by Cohen: "Pakistani officials, like Pakistani beggars, become alert when they see Americans approaching." This is a wounding comment. That is why the country is now so riven by multiple faultlines. Also, inevitably perhaps, the 'idea of Pakistan', through passage of time, has got altered beyond recognition. A stable identity, polity, economy and society remain to be established. Sadly, other than the army, most organs of state have either become increasingly dysfunctional or have been rendered superfluous. Civic administration, consequently, is a major casualty. isi still haunts and dominates. Pakistan seeks national identity, a separateness. It wants to achieve this through a policy of perpetual hostility against India, also by always adopting deliberately confrontationist policy platforms and postures, by endlessly seeking standoffs against India. This has self-evident consequences. Are four spells of military rule between 1958 and 1999 a part of those? That is too heavy a price to pay, but sadly, there is another greater loss from this frequent recourse to military rule: the organs of state atrophy, but more tellingly the purity of this noble calling of arms is sullied, the 'arms' themselves get corroded. For Pakistan, this 'renting the country out' for short-term—and largely superficial—gains is very damaging. Was not the Taliban experiment just that? Since independence, Pakistan has repeatedly done so, always seeking "borrowed power" to match India's.As one sympathetic observer recently remarked: "For how long will Pakistan keep selling its soul? How many times can it do so?"

I conclude by borrowing a phrase from Bernard Lewis: "What went wrong?" On my shelves rest many works authored by several distinguished citizens of Pakistan: A Journey to Disillusionment, Pakistan's Drift into Extremism—and such others. These titles speak for themselves. Why these titles? Why such disillusionment? What indeed did go wrong? Cohen's book provides several answers but without necessarily posing that question. Pakistan, a sentinel of Islam, a home for the Muslims of South Asia—that in any event was the original 'idea'—has now chosen to ally itself with forces that are demonstrably antagonistic to Islam. What price will Pakistan pay? As there is some conceptual asymmetry here, will this have consequences? Also, as many have commented, there is in Pakistan a "lock-in" of religion, nationalism and sovereignty. This is an incendiary mixture. Pakistan is responding to the challenge of our times through borrowed power; a policy of renting out; terrorism as an instrument of state policy; nuclear bomb; military rule; and subordination to US interests. In South Asia, it engages in a policy of aggressive Islamic political theology against democratic, secular governance. Where will all this lead to?

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Postby svinayak » 19 Feb 2005 02:31

Brainwashed : How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth
by Ben Shapiro

When parents send their children off to college, mom and dad hope they'll return more cultivated, knowledgeable, and astute--able to see issues from all points of view. But, according to Ben Shapiro, there's only one view allowed on most college campuses: a rabid brand of liberalism that must be swallowed hook, line, and sinker. In this explosive book, Ben Shapiro, a college student himself, reveals how America's university system is one of the largest brainwashing machines on the planet. Examining this nationwide problem from firsthand experience, Shapiro shows how the leftists who dominate the universities--from the administration to the student government, from the professors to the student media--use their power to mold impressionable minds. Fresh and bitterly funny, this book proves that the universities, far from being a place for open discussion, are really dungeons of the mind that indoctrinate students to become socialists, atheists, race-baiters, and narcissists.

Well I was a Liberal for 30 years. What I remember is the pure contempt for ordinary people (common scum) I and my Leftie friends had, and the conviction that we were Right and Moral.

However, whenever I wanted a good argument/discussion, I found Liberals had little to offer. I now find myself abused, insulted and shouted down when confronting Liberals.

This book is right on. Thus the colleciton of bitter, nasty insults thrown at it by negative reviewers.

In my experience, you know when you've won an argument with a Liberal when they insult you or call you a racist.

In Britain the rot has trully set in, the BBC is Liberal to its core.

I respect Liberal views, and enjoy good debate, but Liberals seem to become enraged and agressive when confronted with opposing ideas, thus the termination of my membership of that very strange club.
This book is a stunner. Written by an insider, a University student with first hand experience at UCLA, the book is extremely detailed, well researched and documented. The facts themselves are not in dispute, as they are simply too well supported.

Whether it is espousing their own personal belief system based on moral relativism while categorically denying any other beliefs to be shared, or advocating the deliberate death of infant babies who are claimed to have less right to life than pigs, cows or dogs (Professor at Princeton, Page 2), or by supporting a "performance art" piece that involved oral sex and defecating in front of young students (Professor at the San Francisco Art Institute, Page 58), the fact that these Universities fund this with your tax dollars, while intolerantly and deliberately censoring any attempts at presenting a balanced view is beyond intolerant.

It gets much worse. So, how many of you are strong supporters of pedophilia? Your tax dollars and tenured professors in Universities near you are in fact speaking out in support of such behavior. A Professor at San Francisco State University states: "The category `child' is a rhetorical device for inflaming what is really an irrational set of values about pedophilia". (Page, 63) A Temple University Professor agrees: "Negative effects on child-victims of pedophilia are neither pervasive nor typically intense". A Professor at Johns Hopkins University takes it even further by stating: "Those who oppose pedophilia are motivated by self-imposed moralistic ignorance" (Page, 64). The book lists all the names and departments of the professors making these comments. These people should be behind bars, not teaching our youth.

The issue of the far left view of "tolerance" is one sided at best. In an amazing story, one man is denied employment because he is a Christian. A football coach for years at Nebraska, very highly regarded, applied for the head coach position at Stanford University. He describes the discrimination against him; "If I had been discriminated against for being black they never would have told me that, they had no problem telling me it was because of my Christian beliefs" (Page 91).

When it comes to supporting terrorism and inciting "hate-speech", the list of supporters among University faculty is too long to list. On September 11, 2001 a Professor of the University of New Mexico stepped up to the microphone to speak to his class about the horrific events that had just occurred: "Anyone who bombs the Pentagon has my vote" (Page 101). The well documented examples of this type of reaction fill dozens of pages. Santa Rosa Junior College defended one of its Professors, who warranted FBI attention by urging his students to write about assassination of the President by stating: "He has the right to say what he wants in the classroom." Apparently even if it violates federal law in doing so and encourages students to do the same? The University of South Florida openly sponsors known terrorists (Page 143).

The examples of anti-Semitism, and University sponsored groups who promote violence go on and on. At UCLA, the campus student group was led by a supporter of terrorism, who granted $12,322 to the Muslim Student Associated while the Jewish Student Union received $0.00. (Page 163). The University of California sponsors a group called MEChA who state openly: "federal immigration officials are pigs and should be killed, every one of them" (Page 171).

What I have just described is but a glimpse. The index of supporting documents, footnotes and sources is over 18 pages long. The book itself is a quick read, well written and organized. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about what is being promoted to our youth. Far beyond the media-friendly liberal propaganda and sound bites sanitized to be palatable to the masses, the true foundation for this worldview is opened up with shocking clarity.


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Postby Manu » 19 Feb 2005 08:24

Just FYI. this loony (who is presetly in Harvard Law Shool) is a right winger who appeared on such modest shows as the O'Reily Factor. No way is UCLA a leftist school*, perhaps not right-wing enough for the high standards of O'Reily and Shawn Hannity.

* The reason he has written this book is that he was fired from the College paper for trying to prove that some muslim students on UCLA campus were terrorists.

Also, he doesn't hate that universities indoctrinate youth, he's just angry because they don't indoctrinate them with his views. He should have gone to Bob Jones "University."

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Postby ramana » 01 Mar 2005 04:16

From Pioneer, 27 feb., 2005
Step into my parlour, said the spider, and the fools trooped in

Strangely, while Open Secrets has been steadily climbing the sales chart, it has not evinced even a whimper from either the Intelligence Bureau or the Government. On the whole, it is an interesting book if you skip MK Dhar's preachy pontification on ethics and morals and quick read through his world view but for which it would have been an eminently readable memoir of sorts --- Kanchan Gupta

OPEN SECRETS: India's intelligence, unveiled; By Maloy Krishna Dhar; Manas Publications, Rs 795

A good spy, conventional wisdom has it, is one who can not only gather secrets in the most unconventional yet unobtrusive manner, but also keep the secrets from prying eyes. Espionage organisations are not surprisingly obsessed with secrecy - as much to protect the identities of their operatives as to safeguard the information they gather.

Of course, this obsession can be taken to ridiculously absurd limits. One of the popular features of The New Statesman used to be a comic strip lampooning the CIA. The strip's sign-in was a red-cornered file stamped "Destroy before you read".

The first time a major intelligence agency faced the dreadful prospect of seeing its secrets and tactics used for collecting them out in print was in 1987 when Peter Wright, an MI5 operative, penned his memoirs and put them up for publication. Spycatcher made news even before it hit the bookshops with the Conservative Government banning its publication. Wright eventually had it published out of Australia and made his pile.

It is another matter that the hoopla over Spycatcher proved to be a big fuss over nothing because Wright's account was an anodised version of what had already appeared in newspapers and magazines about MI5 operations. Yet, when Stella Rimington, the first woman to boss over the MI5, announced she was publishing her memoirs, all hell broke lose again.

The argument that publication of books by those with insider knowledge can severely damage national interest and compromise those still working for espionage agencies, not to mention damage the functioning of the agencies, is not without logic. But in this day and age of kiss and tell, that logic is often brushed aside under the convenient cover of "the people have the right to know". Such moral compunction, awfully lacking when spies are in service, inevitably surfaces when retirement and irrelevance stare them in the face.

In any other country, Open Secrets: India's Intelligence Unveiled by Maloy Krishna Dhar, who retired as Joint Director of Intelligence Bureau, would have created a furore and unleashed an intense public debate. But while the book has been steadily climbing the sales chart in India, it has not evinced even a whimper from either the Intelligence Bureau or the Government: to use a cliché, their silence has been deafening.

Nor have the politicians and political parties who have been exposed by Dhar cared to respond. Perhaps because it is embarrassing to deny that they were severely compromised by their association with the Government's dirty tricks department. Some of them thought they were using Dhar and the IB to their advantage, when in reality they were being led down the garden path for more than a slap and tickle.

But Open Secrets is not only about politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats - not to forget journalists - being compromised by IB operative pursuing nefarious objectives. It is also about how India's premier internal intelligence agency which is supposed to provide input vital for effective protection of national interests, has been converted into an instrument of political manipulation by successive governments.

If Mrs Indira Gandhi had no qualms about using the IB to demolish political foes, those who followed her in office also vigorously practised the amoral misuse of institutions like the IB for partisan political purposes. The only exception, perhaps, was during the years when Shyamal Dutta was IB Director. He tried to reshape IB into a modern intelligence apparatus, and both Prime Minister AB Vajpayee and Home Minister LK Advani respected his integrity.

But let's not digress and get back to Open Secrets. In his operational days, Dhar was an enterprising spy, innovative and daring in his exploits. During his days in the north-east, he chose to trust his own intuition rather than be swayed by the region's shifting politics of quicksand alliances and brittle loyalties.

In Sikkim, he was sufficiently detached from the shenanigans of the Chogyal, Hope Cook, Kaji and the players in New Delhi to be able to later comment with convincing candour on the validity of the referendum that became the basis of this erstwhile kingdom's annexation by India. So much happened during those action-packed days in Gangtok, yet so little is known of it. Dhar could consider writing an entire book on what another observer had then described (to later regret) the "smash and grab of Sikkim".

The juicy bits are about Dhar's operations in Delhi. He tells all about how he worked on the sly for Mrs Gandhi during the Janata days and was her amateur psephologist, guiding her, if he is to be believed, to a convincing victory in the 1980 election. Dhar also recounts his rummaging through files as head of the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau to sanitise records by weeding out dirt on Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi collected by Morarji Desai's Government.

He darkly hints at Sanjay Gandhi's determination to use every trick in the book, including gathering incriminating evidence about his mother, to strengthen his stranglehold over her and the Congress. Later, after Sanjay Gandhi died in an air crash, he was given the "detestable task" of monitoring the activities of Maneka Gandhi and her friends. It was Dhar and another IB officer who broke into the offices of Surya, Maneka Gandhi's magazine, and stole the original manuscript of "She", the unpublished chapter of MO Mathai's controversial autobiography.

Dhar also did counter-intelligence work: He ferried guns to the Golden Temple to arm Jasbir Singh Rode and his boys who had offered to fight terrorists. Later, such dangerous and ill-conceived tactics were to blow up in the face of the Government and Dhar had to eat humble pie. He details how Rashtrapati Bhavan telephones were bugged during the famous spat between Zail Singh and Rajiv Gandhi. VP Singh exited his office in South Block without realising that every word he uttered had been duly taped and transferred.

He also claims to have done a Watergate on the RSS and the BJP, secretly recording discussions at close-door meetings. One such meeting, in February 1992, "proved beyond doubt that they had drawn up the blueprint for the Hindutva assault in the coming months and choreographed the dance of destruction (sic) at Ayodhya in December 1992."

Indeed, since Dhar has mentioned some important BJP and RSS personalities by name, and his account shows the extremely close proximity that they had come to share with him, it is tempting to recall how one general secretary would often go around encouraging others stationed at BJP headquarters to "speak to Maloy Dhar". It was almost as if he were a sub-agent of the IB, unmindful of possible consequences of his irresponsible behaviour. Hopefully, BJP leaders and RSS sangh chalaks have not given Open Secrets a miss: it will tell them more than they know how their "disciplined" organisations were infiltrated and subverted from within.

Open Secrets is an interesting book if you skip Dhar's preachy pontification on ethics and morals and quick read through his world view but for which it would have been an eminently readable memoir of sorts.

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Postby svinayak » 05 Mar 2005 04:37

China's New Order : Society, Politics, and Economy in Transition
by Hui Wang, Theodore Huters (Editor)

Wang Hui, one of China's preeminent intellectuals, makes an impassioned critique of China's much heralded post-Mao economic reforms, which he condemns for causing economic inequalities, social polarization, and political corruption. The essays in China's New Order convey the sense of moral concern and historic perspective of Wang Hui's literati ancestors, at the same time that they reveal the variety and complexity of China's present-day intellectual and political debates.

Product Description:

As the world is drawn together with increasing force, our long-standing isolation from--and baffling ignorance of--China is ever more perilous. This book offers a powerful analysis of China and the transformations it has undertaken since 1989.

Wang Hui is unique in China's intellectual world for his ability to synthesize an insider's knowledge of economics, politics, civilization, and Western critical theory. A participant in the Tiananmen Square movement, he is also the editor of the most important intellectual journal in contemporary China. He has a grasp and vision that go beyond contemporary debates to allow him to connect the events of 1989 with a long view of Chinese history. Wang Hui argues that the features of contemporary China are elements of the new global order as a whole in which considerations of economic growth and development have trumped every other concern, particularly those of democracy and social justice. At its heart this book represents an impassioned plea for economic and social justice and an indictment of the corruption caused by the explosion of "market extremism."

As Wang Hui observes, terms like "free" and "unregulated" are largely ideological constructs masking the intervention of highly manipulative, coercive governmental actions on behalf of economic policies that favor a particular scheme of capitalist acquisition--something that must be distinguished from truly free markets. He sees new openings toward social, political, and economic democracy in China as the only agencies by which the unstable conditions thus engendered can be remedied.

Most Western perspectives on China fall into two (equally wrong)camps: the celebrations of the emergence of a new economic superpower reminiscent of William Gibson on 1980s Japan or the typical right-wing paranoia of China as the new enemy. Western discourse on China's politicshas been narrowly defined by ingrained images of 1989, some dissident bloggers, and Falun Gong. Discourse on economy has equally been restricted, becoming mostly a numbers game for the foreign investor, with Chicken Littles such as Gordon Chang warning of collapse. Rarely do we consider the real interests of regular Chinese. It's anyone's guess as to what the aspirations were of the man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen, but most assume he was fighting for "reform" against the monolithic power of the party-state. To Americans, that reform can only mean one thing. But rather than assume this man risked his life for the freedom to eat Big Macs, why not hear from one of the actual participants and find out what "reform" means in China?

Wang Hui teaches at Tsinghua Univ. and is editor of the monthly journal "Dushu". He has become the unofficial leader of an intellectual circle his critics labeled the "New Left" (perjorative in associating Wang with Maoism). In this collection of his landmark essays on contemporary China, Wang exposes the domination of neoliberal and Fukuyama end of history ideologies and assumptions upon China's internal discourse. According to Wang, post-Mao China has seen many problems, but these aren't exclusively the problems of a state hindering the forward march of market reforms. Rather, they are the product of these so-called reforms. The neoliberals in China are not working against, but working within the party structure, becoming a new exploitative class and capitalizing on privatization through avenues legal and illegal. Human rights abuses in China are not only the oppression of dissidents, but the regular people just trying to survive in the jungle of market fundamentalism. While some have taken notice to labor issues, few have done it justice. Social discontent seems unlikely to spark revolution anytime soon, but the plight of workers and peasants deserves more attention. Wang looks at these problems emerging as a result of Dengism. Wang Hui is one of those few who have examined this story forgotten in the new economic superpower-new enemy debates in America. Wang argues that this discontent is struggling to articulate some sort of agenda and it made such an attempt in 1989, with the results of the crackdown being a renewed determination by the Dengists not simply to permit, but force capitalism on China with the use of state violence. On this, China's neoliberals are silent.

Wang Hui offers a radical third view on China from the perspective of an insider. In writing, he indicts both a party that has failed to live up to its own ideals of social justice and equality and the so-called critics of the party who benefit from its domestic gunboat capitalism. Wang reminds us that the students, as well as other less visible social groups, didn't just sing the Beatles in '89 (with some in the world hoping they'd take the lyrics of "Revolution" to heart and embrace the post-revolution McWorld), they also sang the Internationale. Those interested in such interpretations of contemporary China may also enjoy Streetlife China by Michael Dutton.

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Postby svinayak » 05 Mar 2005 04:39

China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy (Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies)

Peter Hays Gries is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Codirector of the Sino-American Security Dialogue, and coeditor of State and Society in 21st-Century China: Crisis, Contention, and Legitimation (forthcoming).

Product Description:
Three American missiles hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and what Americans view as an appalling and tragic mistake, many Chinese see as a "barbaric" and intentional "criminal act," the latest in a long series of Western aggressions against China. In this book, Peter Hays Gries explores the roles of perception and sentiment in the growth of popular nationalism in China. At a time when the direction of China's foreign and domestic policies have profound ramifications worldwide, Gries offers a rare, in-depth look at the nature of China's new nationalism, particularly as it involves Sino-American and Sino-Japanese relations--two bilateral relations that carry extraordinary implications for peace and stability in the twenty-first century.

Through recent Chinese books and magazines, movies, television shows, posters, and cartoons, Gries traces the emergence of this new nationalism. Anti-Western sentiment, once created and encouraged by China's ruling PRC, has been taken up independently by a new generation of Chinese. Deeply rooted in narratives about past "humiliations" at the hands of the West and impassioned notions of Chinese identity, popular nationalism is now undermining the Communist Party's monopoly on political discourse, threatening the regime's stability. As readable as it is closely researched and reasoned, this timely book analyzes the impact that popular nationalism will have on twenty-first century China and the world

The book gives a good review of how China perceives the western power. The book goes further to show the relationships between Japan and the United States and how the economies pushed out China of world trade and future growth.

The book gives lots of detail and facts but is a slow read, and is written with a harsh slant against the United States, blaming the US for numerous problems in China.

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Postby svinayak » 06 Mar 2005 10:34

The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama'At-I Islami of Pakistan (Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies, Vol 19)
by Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr

Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of San Diego.

Product Description:
In this groundbreaking study, Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr examines the origins, historical development, and political strategies of one of the oldest and most influential Islamic revival movements, the Jama'at-i Islami of Pakistan. He focuses on the inherent tension between the movement's idealized vision of the nation as a holy community based in Islamic law and its political agenda of socioeconomic change for Pakistani society. Nasr's work goes beyond the exploration of a single party to examine the diverse sociopolitical roots of contemporary Islamic revivalism, challenging many of the standard interpretations about political expressions of Islam.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Reviewer: Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
With the exception of the much-studied Muslim Brethren of Egypt, few fundamentalist Islamic groups have been subjected to book-length investigations in English. And if any one deserves such attention, it's the Jama`at-i Islami (Islamic Party) of Pakistan, founded in 1941 by Sayyid Abul A`la Mawdudi (1903-79). Nasr, professor of political science at the University of San Diego, does his important subject justice in an excellent history of the founder and of his movement.

Throughout its existence, the Jama`at-i Islami has suffered from a tension between an intention to create a holy community of the righteous and the (frustrated) desire to attain power through the political process. Mawdudi himself bounced from one unattainable goal to another: in the mid-1930s he rejected the Pakistan movement, arguing that Muslims should seek to rule the whole of India. By 1940 he accepted the inevitability of a Pakistan and began a decades-long effort to dominate that state.

All that's missing from Nasr's fine study is a consideration of Mawdudi's profound influence on the fundamentalist movement outside Pakistan, and specifically on Ayatollah Khomeini; in other words, how exactly was the Jama`at-i Islami "the vanguard of the Islamic Revolution"? That's such an important and large subject, it's surely worthy of another volume by the same author.

Middle East Quarterly, December 1994

The Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power (Religion and Global Politics)
by Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr "Over the course of the past two decades Islamism has exercised a growing influence on politics in Muslim countries from Morocco to Malaysia..." (more)
Last edited by svinayak on 06 Mar 2005 10:45, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby SK Mody » 06 Mar 2005 10:39

Has anyone read this:-
Al Jazeera

According to a description on an American public radio channel (NPR), the original employees of Al Jazeera (about 125 of them) were from the crew of a failed BBC attempt to set up an Arabic subsidiary in Quatar.

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Postby svinayak » 08 Apr 2005 05:02

Chatter : Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping
by PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE "YOU CANNOT HELP but note the juxtaposition..." (more)

The secret global information network that has come together under the umbrella name "Echelon" is detailed here by Yale Law student Keefe. While Great Britain led the way in the mid-'70s, Keefe marks the U.S., Kenya, Pakistan, Singapore and many others as current participants, taking satellite pictures from 10 miles up, sending submarines to hover silently and aiming portable laser devices to pick up conversations inside rooms. All the technologies are impressive, but the burgeoning mountain of data they produce, Keefe argues, does not always prove useful. Likewise, he illustrates how compact electronics can give the opposition a large ability to deceive the Echelon network, and/or to modify their behavior when they detect that they are under surveillance. Ultimately, Keefe makes a case that electronics have not solved the ancient dilemma of deciphering the enemy's intentions (what he is actually planning) from his capabilities (all the things he could choose to do). To prove his point, Keefe cites the mass of rumor and innuendo that failed to give specific warning of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole as well as Colin Powell's U.N. proclamation that Iraq possessed nerve gas. And, Keefe says, ordinary citizens pay a substantial cost in presumed privacy, as well as in potential for abuses of confidential data. Intelligent and polemical, Keefe's study is sure to spark some political chatter of its own. Agent, Tina Bennett at Janklow & Nesbitt. (On sale Feb. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post's Book World/
Deep in a North Yorkshire moor, in a part of England where sheep and cows outnumber residents and crumbling stone walls snake through endless green pastures like stitches on a quilt, a secretive moon base comes suddenly into view. Low, moss-covered walls give way to tall, barb-crowned fences; weathered farmhouses are replaced by dozens of massive white spheres, pock-marked like giant golf balls shimmering in the sun; farmers on tractors disappear, and heavily armed guards in armor-plated vehicles take their place. Welcome to Menwith Hill, the largest eavesdropping base on Earth and America's ear on the world.

What goes in and out of those domes -- used to hide satellite dishes shaped like giant ice cream scoops -- is the subject of Patrick Radden Keefe's first book. At least, that was his hope. Unfortunately, he could find few who would cooperate with him, and the U.S. National Security Agency, which operates the base, refused to respond to his many queries. As the author of two books on the agency, I have found that silence is a reception common to most who dare knock on its door. After all, NSA's initials have long been said to stand for No Such Agency or Never Say Anything.

Nevertheless, Keefe, a third-year law student at Yale, does a wonderful job of exploring the surrounding territory: the role of SIGINT, or signals intelligence (NSA's $5 word for eavesdropping), in the post-Cold War world; the mysterious Echelon system that links the many listening posts belonging to America's English-speaking allies; the agency's obsession with secrecy; the age-old question of human versus technical intelligence collection; and even the people who have written about the agency, including me, who he generously refers to as "the uncontested civilian authority on the agency" and "the foremost chronicler of the NSA."

Keefe also notes, "When Bamford was writing his first book, The Puzzle Palace, in the early 1980s, the agency did everything it could to thwart his efforts along the way, denying him access and even threatening legal action. When he published a follow-up book, Body of Secrets, in 2001, it featured an extensive interview with [NSA Director Lt. Gen. Michael V.] Hayden, and the book party was thrown at Hayden's invitation, at Fort Meade. . . . Bamford, meanwhile, has gone from being the scourge of the NSA to the agency's hagiographer."

But the difference between my two books on NSA was not in my approach to the agency. In the three years I worked on Body of Secrets, I made no deals with the agency, gave them no access to my manuscript, and it ended up winning a top investigative award, just like The Puzzle Palace. Instead, it was the NSA that had changed. As Keefe himself acknowledges, "Hayden presided over a period of openness like none the agency had ever seen."

Keefe's style alternates from breezy to academic. "I am not an investigative journalist, by training or inclination," he writes. He compares his quest to find the secrets of signals intelligence to the obsession of Marlow, Joseph Conrad's narrator in Heart of Darkness, to fill in the unknown "blank spaces on the earth." "In the twenty-first century, we are no longer afforded such alluring cartographic mysteries," Keefe writes, "but I found, as I started probing the world of signals intelligence, that it occupies a similarly uncharted shadow land in our contemporary consciousness."

Among the largest "blank spaces" he tried to fill in was the highly classified Echelon worldwide eavesdropping network. Another was the super-secret UKUSA agreement, which originally created the network and is signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. "The Anglophone network is said to hear absolutely everything," he writes, "yet its existence remains a secret -- unknown in some cases even to the legislative bodies of the countries that run it." At times his quixotic search seemed more like a hunt for the Loch Ness monster or the Abominable Snowman. In a local pub near the massive Menwith Hill listening post, he ran into someone who once worked in the base cafeteria. "From what I hear," the man told him, raising an eyebrow, "it's an alien-testing zone."

More seriously, Keefe raises a number of important issues that need to be addressed as America's spy world simultaneously expands in size and shrinks in visibility, like ripples from a stone tossed in a pond. First and foremost is the role of human intelligence in a time of terrorist threats from abroad and fear-mongering at home.

The most overused cliche in the spy business is that we have too much technical intelligence and not enough human intelligence. In fact, human intelligence has always been largely useless, or even less than useless. From 1985 until at least 1992, most of the dozen or so spies the CIA managed to recruit in Moscow had been compromised by turncoats Aldrich Ames of the CIA and Robert Hanssen of the FBI. Thus, rather than intelligence, it was more likely disinformation the Soviet agents may have, unwittingly, been passing on -- before the Soviets executed them. In the war on terrorism, human intelligence has thus far played an equally dismal role. Under CIA Director George Tenet, neither al Qaeda nor Iraq -- two of America's most important targets -- was ever truly penetrated. The same likely goes for Iran and North Korea.

In contrast, throughout the Cold War technical intelligence provided a constant keyhole through which to watch -- and listen to -- America's most important targets. Signals intelligence told national security policy makers every time a plane lifted into the air from the Soviet Union; the frequencies with which to jam Russian missiles; what pilots were saying to their ground controllers, ship captains to their ports, generals to their missileers and Politburo members to the Kremlin. At the same time, imagery satellites provided a up-close view of Soviet missile silos, shipbuilding, troop movement and other critical items. Following the Cold War, imagery provided the key tip-off that Iraq was about to attack Kuwait in August 1990. And during the war on terrorism, the most useful indications of possible attacks have come from SIGINT intercepts, known colloquially as "chatter." Such signals also led to the capture of key bin Laden deputy Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others.

But, as Keefe makes clear, SIGINT is a two-edged sword. Although it offers a unique opportunity to detect and deter acts of terrorism, it can also be a dangerous weapon against the privacy of innocent Americans if used against them as a result of weakened legal protections. Inter arma silent leges goes an old Latin expression: "During wartime, laws are silent."

Much to his credit, it is an issue about which Michael V. Hayden warned Congress. "What I really need you to do," he told members of the intelligence committees, "is to talk to your constituents and find out where the American people want the line between security and liberty to be."

In the end, Keefe argues that the vital debate over where to draw that line should not be left just to intelligence officials and Congress. The public, he insists, must educate itself as best it can and weigh in on the decision: "The one conviction I came away with is that if we ignore this issue, put off by the level of secrecy or the technical complexity involved, we do so at our own peril." His concern is reflected in another old Latin phrase, Quis custodiet ipsos custodies: Who is watching the watchers?

Reviewed by James Bamford
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

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Postby rsingh » 08 Apr 2005 21:18

Just finished "The writing on the wall-India checkmates America 2017". Good read. I wonder if this is way our top brass think of China. Very strange.
Please help me to choose few good books on India (published lately), the books which are "must for BRites.

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Postby ramana » 14 Apr 2005 01:19

Book review of Mani Dixit last book, Pioneer op-ed.

Mani's last will and testament

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is not known to betray much emotion at least in his public appearances. Yet, last week, we were witness to a rare outburst of feeling that appeared to come straight from within his soul. "He was my friend and I needed him daily! I still do!," lamented Dr Singh clutching at a glass of water to compose himself in front of a select audience at the Prime Minister's 7, Race Course Road residence.

The Prime Minister was releasing the 11th and final book written by the late National Security Advisor, JN (Mani) Dixit, who died in harness after a massive heart attack a few months back. Rarely has a book release function been such a moving event. Dr Singh's tremulous tributes, the bereaved widow Annu Dixit's touching vote of thanks and most of all the hush that prevailed among the audience as former colleagues and friends of the departed diplomat and author silently remembered him underlined the poignancy of the occasion.

Dixit was famed primarily for his extraordinary diplomatic prowess evident in his many crucial postings abroad, his stint as perhaps the most powerful foreign secretary India has had and finally the brief but influential innings as National Security Advisor. But he was also an amazingly fluent and prolific writer. For nearly a decade after retiring from service in the mid nineties, Dixit penned an array of books besides editing quite a few, and, of course, the newspaper columns he wrote on almost a weekly basis.

This is extremely fortunate for a nation that was not quite prepared for his untimely demise. Dixit's writings remain an invaluable legacy that provides insights to the convulsions of history as well as guidelines to contemporary global challenges. Much like his own personality, the books are a potent combination of intellectual depth and anecdotal flair that make each of them such a good read.

Yet, his final book, Indian Foreign Service - History and Challenge, is qualitatively different from the late diplomat's colourful accounts of issues, events and personalities particularly relating to India's neighbourhood that characterise his earlier publications. Unlike his other books where he had the advantage of telling the story of dramatic events often witnessed by him as a ringside spectator, Dixit, in his last venture as author, has had mostly to contend with dusty files gathered from the Ministry of External Affairs archives. A lesser writer would have merely chronicled the history of the Indian Foreign Service. In welcome contrast, Dixit uses the opportunity to relate the fascinating saga of India emerging as an independent power.

The author spends a fair amount of time on the difficult and tentative beginnings of the Indian Foreign Service after Independence and the larger-than-life role played by the country's first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in its formative years. He is refreshingly objective about Panditji's role - praising him for his larger vision of India in the world and the role of the foreign service in implementing but pointing out the highly personalised approach of the first prime minister as he chose often arbitrarily men and women from different walks of life to fill the first ranks of the then virtually non-existent service. The author is also candid about Nehru ignoring the warnings from the ranks of the Foreign Service about Chinese intentions and the dubious agendas of world powers before the 1962 military debacle although he notes that none of the officers who disagreed with the prime minister suffered in any manner.

Dixit then goes on to describe the institutionalising of the service after the death of Nehru and the setting up of the Pillai Committee whose mandate was to "review the structure and organisation of the Indian Foreign Service, with particular reference to recruitment, training and service conditions..." It was largely because of these structural changes in the service under the stewardship of Indira Gandhi in her first stint as Prime Minister that led to the country's finest diplomatic hour with the liberation of Bangladesh. The author, who had a ringside view from the Bangladesh desk, elaborates on the smooth coordination between different wings of the government - defence, foreign affairs, home and rehabilitation - that enabled India to pull off a complex and high risk enterprise where even a single false move could have had disastrous consequences.

Despite his praise of Indira Gandhi, Dixit is frank in his assessment of the leader pointing out how she contributed to the politicisation of the foreign service and the difficulties faced by Indian diplomats while defending the Emergency abroad. He is similarly objective about her son and successor, Rajiv Gandhi, with whom he enjoyed a personal equation forged when he was High Commissioner in Colombo during the height of the Sri Lankan crisis. He applauds Rajiv's bold initiatives and non-hierarchical approach to the Foreign Service but is openly critical of the public humiliation of a foreign secretary AP Venkateswaran, who was sacked at a press conference that, according to the author, caused deep trauma within the service.

Dixit is typically modest about his own role as foreign secretary during the Narasimha Rao years in the crucial aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the end of the Cold War. But he does underline the significance of the foreign policy decisions taken at the important historical juncture that laid the foundations of the country's present foreign policy particularly in relation to the United States and the increasing dominance of economic diplomacy. The author also provides insights into how the Foreign Service coped in the Vajpayee years with momentous events like the Pokhran nuclear tests, 9/11 and the attacks launched by the United States on Afghanistan and Iraq.

The biggest virtue of the book is that at no stage does the author forget it is about the Indian foreign service and not Indian foreign policy on which there are many books. He therefore goes into meticulous detail on the administrative structure of the Indian Foreign Service including the IFS-B and the role of women officers and wives in the service. In fact, it is significant that he devotes an entire chapter on women in the Indian Foreign Service and their remarkable progress since the days when Pandit Nehru was advised by the British not to allow them into the service.

The book, peppered by trademark Dixit anecdotes and irreverent humour, despite the weighty and dull subject is an important milestone in the nation's progress on the international stage. In many ways it is the author's last will and testament as described at the book release function by former foreign secretary Lalit Man Singh, who egged the former on to take on the enterprise. It is almost by premonition, this incredibly gifted diplomat returned just before his death to his own roots in the Indian Foreign Service as if to pay his final debt.

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Postby member_7110 » 15 Apr 2005 02:12

In reference to some earlier messages about books on Pakistan, the review below is insighful:

BOOK REVIEW - Boston Globe
An inside look at the changes in Pakistan
By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff | November 17, 2004

Pakistan’s Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America’s War on Terror, By Hassan Abbas, M. E. Sharpe, 267 pp., paperback, $25.95

Although it is a political history, parts of Hassan Abbas's new book, "Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism," reads like someone whispering family secrets. Instead of the crazy old aunt or the secret adoption, Abbas speaks intimately about the dizzying array of generals deposing presidents and presidents plotting against prime ministers that have whirled through the country's 57-year existence.

He tells us, for instance, that the "brilliant but temperamental Major General Akbar Khan" shared all his secrets with his wife and that it was she who "spilled the beans" about the coup he was planning.

He tells us who was a Scotch drinker (a dirty secret for any Muslim politician) and who is a murderer. He tells us who stood outside the door of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in full military dress, proclaiming that he wanted to guard the prime minister.

But this 267-page history is also part psychological profile of the larger-than-life personalities of the Pakistani army and their convenient love affair with extremist religious elements who gave birth to the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

Perhaps the biggest secret Abbas reveals is how this array of politicians, one after the other, betrayed the secular vision of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, to seek legitimacy and popularity through religious parties.

Abbas, a former Pakistani police officer and one-time adviser to the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, sheds light on mysteries that the vast majority of American readers have never wondered about: Why did Pakistan's army launch an attack on Kargil Heights, a rocky crag in Indian-held Kashmir, just as peace talks between the two nuclear powers were making progress?

Why did Pakistan shuffle around the army command at a crucial point in a war with India? Was the United States behind the coup against Bhutto? Why did the unruly militant group Muttahidah Quami Movement, or MQM, split apart in December 1991 ("They gave ideological reasons as the cause of the split," Abbas writes, "but the ISI," the Pakistani intelligence agency also known as the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, "was behind the split.")

Such insider stories have elevated this book to the bestseller list in India, where newspapers have carried some of its juiciest tales, but it's harder to find in Cambridge, where Abbas is a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School and a doctoral candidate at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Yet the book is one in a series of recent works about Pakistan, America's most complex ally in the war on terror. Abbas's writing joins Stephen Philip Cohen's "The Idea of Pakistan" in the quest to unravel the mystery of how the mujahideen of the Cold War days -- supported by the Americans to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan -- so quickly turned their fury against Uncle Sam.

But Abbas's book is unique in that he is speaking as a Pakistani to his own people. In its most important form, the book is a truth-telling, undressing heroes, myths, and psychologies that school textbooks in Pakistan lionize.

Of Musharraf, Pakistan's current president and military leader, Abbas says the fatal car crash that killed Lieutenant General Ghulam Ahmed Khan changed Musharraf forever. Khan was one of the few subordinates who truly told it like it was, and "with his demise, Musharraf increasingly lost touch with reality and became a willing prisoner in a web of flattery," he writes.

It is also a truth-telling to the United States, which has supported the worst dictators -- and dropped support for democratic leaders -- with a superpower's caprice.

Those readers who had hoped for a policeman's view of Al Qaeda and the inside scoop on militant jihadi groups in Pakistan have to wait until the very last chapters, which spend a great deal of time on the terrorist groups that have taken the biggest toll on Pakistani people: sectarian groups of Sunnis that target Shi'as, and vice versa.

For an American audience, the most interesting parts of the book come at the end, when Abbas reconstructs -- partly from already published accounts -- the behind-the-scenes dealings after Sept. 11, when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell pushed Pakistan to do a 180-degree reversal on its support for the Taliban.

Abbas shows how, hours after its tumultuous birth as a nation separate from the largely Hindu India, Pakistan faced an identity crisis that has plagued it to this day. He shows how the two great tug-of-wars -- between being Muslim or secular, being a democracy or a dictatorship -- intertwined.

This, one senses, is the point of all the drama and history that Abbas regales his readers with, across the decades and fiascoes of Pakistan's often back-stabbing, and occasionally virtuous, political and military leaders.

Democracy is the only thing that will bring balance to the extremist equation, he tells his readers, who he clearly hopes include policy makers in the US government.

The last chapter reads like a doctor writing a prescription. If Pakistan is to be saved from intolerant mullahs, it must make peace with India on Kashmir and reduce the role of the military in politics, despite the strong US support for Musharraf, a key ally in the war on terror.

"The people of Pakistan yearn for true democracy," Abbas writes. "For this dream to become a reality, Pakistan's military establishment has to take a back seat."

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Postby Mann » 17 Apr 2005 09:28

Acharya wrote:Important book with lots of details of Zias life and mental makeup.
Details of everything which was missing from a mainstream book
about afghanistan, ISI and TSP oligarchy.
THe author agrees with the Cato think tank

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of The CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet
by Steve Coll

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
by Steve Coll "IT WAS A SMALL RIOT in a year of upheavals, a passing thunderclap disgorged by racing skies..." (more)

Just word of advise don't read in to this book too much. The book basically portraits Americans and CIA operations as god's work saving people of misery. A one sided view to put it mildly.

I find this book good in following terms:
- A detail note of American Ambessy burned down in Ishaaaaaaaammmmbaaaadd
- How :P IA (zia) behaved during early days of Afghan war
- Some insight of european presence in Kabul in late 70s (such as Hungary)
- Typical TSP bashing by Yank :D :twisted: :P (how pakees lied to make quick buck) remember almost a billion $$$$ spand every yers in early 80s in Afg.
- Other small details on how spy trade worked around TSP-Afghan border

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Postby AJay » 18 Apr 2005 19:21

Mann wrote:[
[b]Ghost Wars: by Steve Coll

Just word of advise don't read in to this book too much. The book basically portraits Americans and CIA operations as god's work saving people of misery. A one sided view to put it mildly.

Add KSA's clandestine ops and involvement and support to Pakis...

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