Review: BG Verghese’s Last Book Is Timely Tip To Indo-Pak Affair

In his book, deceased journalist BG Verghese gives some optimistic solutions to the age old Indo-Pak problems.

Updated
India
4 min read
The cover of the book (right) merged with a partition of India and Pakistan photo. (Photo: TheQuint)
Snapshot

A State in Denial: Pakistan’s Misguided and Dangerous Crusade

  • Publisher: Rupa
  • Category: Non-fiction
  • Pages: 240
  • Price: Rs 500

What lies at the root of Pakistan’s persistent animus against its larger, eastern neighbour? Was it rancour over the process of Partition and the territorial division, over Kashmir, the division of river waters, the loss of East Pakistan, lingering fear of hegemony, or something more ideological and intangible? What role did outside powers, notably the US, play? And more importantly, can this animus be overcome for a lasting reconciliation? If so, how?

These are some of the questions that veteran journalist BG Verghese, who died on 30 December 2014, deals with in his last book A State in Denial: Pakistan’s Misguided and Dangerous Crusade. The book differs from others on the subject with its ultimately optimistic outlook and some radical out-of the-box solutions on how the two countries can dismantle and bury deep over six decades old acrimony.

And these can be done in Kashmir itself, “which is not the core problem” and “can be shared” – a step which will “not undo Pakistan”, whose problem has always been a vapid “undefined ideology”. This ideology sought to give some purpose to a country “flawed at birth by the two-nation theory (with its inherent contradictions),” but was “little more than being ‘the other’ to ‘Hindu’ India, made more shaky by a “self-proclaimed lack of anchorage or rootedness”, fixating on an exclusive “Islamic lineage with no non-Muslim foundations or associations”.



BG Verghese book review (Photo: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=9941472&amp;l=a190d9aa3b&amp;id=716804120">Facebook</a>)
BG Verghese book review (Photo: Facebook)

But most tellingly, Pakistan, how much it may have wanted to orient itself westwards towards the Middle East, could never ignore India – at least, cartographically. As Verghese quips, pre-1971 Pakistan needed India, if only to display the entire country on the map.

With a seven-decade-long career, Verghese, the seasoned journalist, begins with a factual framework, with much new archival material from the official records of Indo-Pak relations.

Though many official papers remain in private hands, he notes “considerable material has otherwise come to light over the years through memoirs and other sources, Indian and foreign” which he has cited to provide “interesting nuances and nuggets in the present narrative that offer a better and deeper insight into the anxieties, hostilities, mistrust, hopes and yearnings that have gone into shaping what has been a tormented relationship...”

He also adds that he has also cited many foreign authors and “responsible Pakistani sources, so as not to make it possible for anyone to dismiss this text as an Indian rant and pure propaganda”.

 BG Verghese. (Photo: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=9941472&amp;l=a190d9aa3b&amp;id=716804120">Facebook</a>/ Altered by The Quint)
BG Verghese. (Photo: Facebook/ Altered by The Quint)

After an uncompromising introduction about the (mostly self-inflicted) malaise Pakistan finds itself, he takes us through a quick but incisive overview of the historical events that have come to define it – the battle for Kashmir in 1947-48, the integration of princely states like Kalat, Hyderabad, Junagadh and Bahawalpur into the two dominions and the hijinks that surrounded them, the 1965 war in Kashmir, and the creation of Bangladesh.

Verghese then moves to “hanging issues”, including Siachen (and the American perfidy in its mapping!) as well as an innovative idea for what used to be the world’s highest battlefield, the dangerous shenanigans of AQ Khan’s nuclear “business”, and on Indus waters sharing – an extraordinarily detailed account which not will be difficult for the author of Waters of Hope. He then “deconstructs Pakistan” with some hard-hitting, but cogently-argued arguments and contentions before coming to solutions./ These include autonomy and restructuring in the entire Jammu and Kashmir, overcoming the wounds of Partition and for Pakistan to “move away from fundamentalism and embrace the syncretic, Sufi-infused Islam it once knew.”

The “evil” influence, as he brings out, has been – by its acts of commissions and omissions – the US, which has often known what is going on but chose to ignore it for such unclear, future interest – a position also well articulated in Husain Haqqani’s Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding.



BG Verghese book review (Photo: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=9941472&amp;l=a190d9aa3b&amp;id=716804120">Facebook</a>)
BG Verghese book review (Photo: Facebook)

But Verghese’s book is not only a primer of what is wrong with Pakistan and how it could be fixed, but also an eloquent warning against India making the same mistakes and miscalculations, quite a few of which he discerns in some measures of some figures of the Narendra Modi government and some of its ideological backers!

Published by Rupa Publications India, A State in Denial - Pakistan’s Misguided and Dangerous Crusade by B.G.Verghese is priced at Rs 500. It is a non-fiction.

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in. This review was obtained on special arrangement with IANS)

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