Border Forces

Review Books

Explaining Pakistan's Foreign Policy: Escaping India

Aparna Pande


Pages: 245

80 pounds

After more than a quarter-century of cross-border terrorism, most Indians do see Pakistan as a hostile and recalcitrant neighbour. But very few of them, even at the top layers of the national security establishment, know why. Profound ignorance of Pakistan and its narrative of grievances against India adds to the unending Indian perplexity at the actions of the state across the Radcliffe Line.

Things could only get worse. After the generation of Indians that grew up in the pre-Partition years, there will be less of an instinctive sense of Pakistan. Since the mid-1960s, the contact with Pakistan's society has rapidly diminished, leaving the new generation of Indians with little understanding of the dynamic across the border. As in India, so in Pakistan, there is little scholarly research on the international relations of either the self or the other. As a result, the two countries, which treat each other as the principal security threat, have little knowledge of what animates the other on the world arena.

Into this void steps Aparna Pande, with arguably the best guide to understanding Pakistan's view of India and the world. The US-based Pande's work is very different from the rash of new books that have been published recently on Pakistan.

Most of those are from western journalists and think tankers who are part of the current Af-Pak policy industry that has thrived since 9/11 and the US military intervention in Afghanistan at the end of 2001. Pande's book is likely to stay longer on the shelves because it is a valuable source of reference on the origins and evolution of Pakistan's foreign policy.

The book is simple in its conception and quite successful in its execution. It seeks to explain the paradox of Pakistan's foreign policy ó an unshakable obsession with India and an unending and largely unsuccessful quest to break free from it. To unravel this paradox, Pande starts at the very beginning: the anxieties of the Muslim elite in undivided India. By returning to the origins of Partition and the political contestation between the Congress and the Muslim League on how to organise the subcontinent once the British leaves, Pande reveals the deepest foundations of Pakistan's anxieties about India.

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