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Anger Management - India-Pakistan Relationship from the Diaries of Diplomats

“The diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan appear to be determined by one overarching factor: Pakistan’s quest for identity. This quest has played out, most

visibly, along two axes of contestation: territory and security.” ~ Amb Ajay Bisaria


An Illustration on Anger Management - India-Pakistan Relationship

Illustration by The Geostrata


After World War II, one of the most important events of the twentieth century was the decay of the colonial British empire and the decolonization process thereafter. The process of that decolonization was accelerated when the British had to give up 'Jewel in the Crown'—British India.


British PM Clement Attlee decided that the British would leave the Indian subcontinent by June 30, 1948. What followed were repetitive attempts to find political solutions; the failure of all of those attempts resulted in the catastrophic partition of British India, with two dominions of India and Pakistan carved out of it. 

 

Despite opposition from many prominent leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, the continent was divided, thus starting the saga of the troubled India-Pakistan relationship.

Highlighting the overriding intricacies of India-Pakistan relations, Amb. Ajay Bisaria, who is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan from 2017 to 2020, Indian high commissioner to Canada (2020–22), and India’s ambassador to Poland and Lithuania (2015–17), has written an admirable book titled “Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship between India and Pakistan.”

 

Divided into thirty-four chapters and eight sections that cover events spanning seven and a half decades from 1947, the book has been published by Aleph Book Company, an independent publishing firm promoted by Rupa Publications. 

 

Unlike the other books written on the subject, this one is unique in two ways. Firstly, instead of following an event-based approach, like covering major events one by one, it has followed a time-based approach, with each section of the book covering a decade from 1947 to this date, which makes it research-friendly. 

Further, most importantly, the book stands alone in covering events from the eyes of the diplomats, for the author has noted down the excerpts from the memoirs and letters from various diplomats who have been to India and Pakistan. 

 

Through the personal accounts of Indian High Commissioners (and Ambassadors) to Pakistan, from Sri Prakasa to himself, the author has elicited a novel angle on the complex relationship between India and Pakistan. Additionally, on occasions, he has also mentioned correspondence between Pakistani top diplomats and the foreign secretary, making sure to give more clarity on the issue.


Cover of Anger Management by Ajay Bisaria


Often, when we talk about India and Pakistan, we get reminded of the brutal wars that both countries have fought. For decades, many military and political leaders have written about those wars from strategic and political standpoints. This book, however, provides an interesting perspective on what goes on behind the scenes when there are wars between countries.


While soldiers on the border fight to make sure the enemy does not advance on our territory, diplomats on the back channel make sure that the interests of the country are not being hindered, especially when there is the involvement of an international entity (such as the US in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War).


In some cases, diplomats during the war face more threats, especially in countries like Pakistan, which has no regard for international diplomatic conventions and laws. 

The same happened to High Commissioner Kewal Singh, who was in Pakistan during the launch of Operation Gibraltar—Pakistan’s despatch of raiders into Kashmir, which was inspired by the Muslim conquest of Spain from the Strait of Gibraltar—during which all the staff of the High Commission were under de facto house arrest. Pakistani police ransacked the Indian buildings, frightening and humiliating Indian families, despite Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi having all freedom and protection. 


The book also notes another such incident where Pakistan showed total disregard for the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. On the night of December 3, 1971 (the day Pakistan preemptively attacked Indian air bases), High Commissioner Jai Kumar ‘Makhi’ Atal was informed by the establishment that since both India and Pakistan are now at war, the High Commissioner was an ordinary prisoner of war and should be put under house arrest. This was an illegal act, let alone a moral one. Eventually, after the war, he was released from house arrest and allowed to resume his diplomatic status. 

 

Apart from all the facts and figures, what makes this book interesting is the inclusion of various anecdotes from leaders and diplomats. The inclusion of many riveting anecdotes makes the book an enthralling and captivating read. 

What happened during the Balakot airstrike? What was the situation in Pakistan when the Parliament of India decided to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution? Can there be peace between both countries? One will find all the answers in the book. 


A lucid and straightforward writing style maintained throughout the book makes it a must-read for scholars and students of international relations and diplomacy.


 

BY DARSHAN GAJJAR

TEAM GEOSTRATA

1 commento


Book has covered all the lengths of Indo-Pak relations from 1947 until 2019, one stop read for academicians and alike. Marvelous book by Amb. Bisaria

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