art and the artless consumer
Review by Rekha Jhanji
of Art: A Contemporary Introduction by Noel Carroll. Routledge,
London. Pages 273. $ 19.99.
the title of the book suggests, it is an introduction to western
aesthetics in the light of recent developments in the western
art scene. The author is a professor of philosophy of art in the
University of Wisconsin, Madison. His constant interaction with
graduate students seems to have given him a great deal of
experience in writing this introductory volume. Despite being in
touch with the recent trends in western art, he is adept at
explaining complicated aesthetic concepts in simple and readable
He begins with
an introduction to philosophy and shows how analytical
philosophy of art has helped in understanding the problems of
art. He states clearly that the role of a philosopher is quite
distinct from that of a social scientist, the former is
preoccupied with what ought to be the case while the latter is
concerned with what probably is the case.
The method of
research depends on the kind of questions one is attempting to
answer. For instance, a question like "what is
pornography" demands a conceptual answer while a question
like "how much pornography is there is Glasgo" demands
an empirical answer. Thus conceptual analysis and empirical
research both have their respective functions and both seem to
complement each other in our quest for knowledge.
philosophy discusses concepts that are fundamental to our life
practices. Art is a recurring form of human practice that exists
cross-culturally. The purpose of analytic philosophy of art is
to explore the concepts related to creating and thinking about
art. The subject matter of analytic philosophy of art includes a
discussion of general concepts like those of representation,
expression, artistic form, creativity, artistic value and
interpretation, on the one hand, and the more specific concept
related to specific art forms like the nature of literature,
dance, drama, music and film, on the other. It could also
discuss and explore the concept of certain artistic genres like
fiction, tragedy, poetry and the like.
holds that clarifying our concept of art is not merely a dry
academic exercise. It lies at the heart of our artistic
practices, since categorising entities as art works puts us in a
position to mobilise a set of art responses that are the very
stuff of our activities as viewers, listeners and readers.
In a broad
sense there need be no difference between the philosophy of art
and aesthetics; they might be taken as interchangeable labels
for the division of philosophy that investigates art. But in a
narrow theoretical sense the two terms, at least in principle,
signal a different primary focus: the philosophy of art is
object-oriented; aesthetics is reception oriented. Aesthetics is
broader than the philosophy of art, since it studies nature as
well. The author thinks that philosophy of art could define
"art" without reference to aesthetic experience or
audience reception. Such a philosophy of art would not regard
aesthetic experiences or aesthetic properties as necessary
ingredients in all art, although it might still recognise them
points out that there is also an approach to philosophy of art
which maintains that any definition of art must necessarily
involve notions of aesthetic experience. Such definitions are
called aesthetic definitions of art. On this view, the
philosophy of art belongs squarely in the domain of aesthetics,
along with the study of aesthetics of nature.
definition of art is particularly attractive because of the way
in which it suggests systematic answers to many of the leading
questions of the philosophy of art. It enables us to say why art
works are good and when they are good. Specifically, art works
are good when they realise their presiding aesthetic intentions,
when they indeed afford aesthetic experiences. They are bad when
they fail to deliver the goods — that is, aesthetic
experience. However, the author points out that the aesthetic
definition of art neither in its content-oriented account nor in
its effect-oriented account lays its hand on a necessary
condition of all art. He points out that the aesthetic
theorisation of art is not comprehensive because it cannot
account for anti-aesthetic art which has existed on the art
scene for the past eight or nine decades. A comprehensive theory
of art ought to accommodate all art practices.
critically examines many conventional concepts of aesthetics.
One such notion is that of being disinterested. He points out
that cases of disinterestedness are really cases of inattention.
However, one may not find his arguments for substituting
interestedness with inattention convincing because an interested
approach to art is actually a response which is extremely
attentive but lopsided.
husband who goes to see Othello is in complete empathy with all
the nuances of Othello’s feelings. One could not say that he
is inattentive to what is happening in the play. Carroll says
that "disinterestedness" refers to our motivation with
respect to certain acts of attention and thus it is not
attention proper. One fails to understand how one can separate
attention from its motivation without artificially narrowing
down the very concept of attention itself.
that there are several ways of responding to artworks. Aesthetic
responses to art works represents one family of art responses;
it is neither the only kind of art response nor the only
appropriate form of experiencing art. In the history of
aesthetics, there is a tendency to treat the notion of aesthetic
experience as a synonym with experiencing art in general. The
author obviously does not endorse this view. He thinks that as a
consequence many legitimate art responses have been
arguments have been offered in support of this view:
* X is a
legitimate response to an art work if and only if X is an
aesthetic experience; * responding to the
representational content of an art work and reflecting on its
moral message are not aesthetic experiences; and *
therefore responding to the representational content of an art
work and reflecting on its moral messages are not legitimate
responses to art works.
The author says
that the above conclusion can only be derived by trading
illicitly on these different meanings of aesthetic experience.
This kind of argument commits the fallacy of equivocation.
Strictly speaking, aesthetic experience comprises the detection
and discrimination of aesthetic properties, on the one hand, and
design appreciation, on the other. Limiting the scope of
aesthetic experience in this way does not disparage it because
it is very important for art, but we derive more from art than
only aesthetic experience which includes knowledge, moral
insight and a sense of allegiance.
I do not quite
understand why Carroll first delimits the concept of aesthetic
experience to perceptual discrimination and design appreciation
and then insists that such a view excludes knowledge, moral
insight and a sense of allegiance. The fact of the matter is
that the aesthetic experience cannot be divorced from the moral
and the cognitive experience. The question is only of the
dominance of a particular experience and not its
compartmentalisation. In our experience of art, the moral plays
a subsidiary role, but it is not altogether negated from it.
concludes by a critical evaluation of the neo-Wittgensteinian
and the institutional theories of art. Neo-Wittgenstenians
argued for the rejection of any essentialist definitions of art.
They were influential on the western aesthetics scene for nearly
two decades. Gradually philosophers came to believe that the
arguments of neo-Wittgensteinians in favour of seeing art as an
open concept were not as persuasive as they initially thought
them to be. A consequence of the defeat of this view has been a
return to the project of defining art essentially. Two of these
theories are the institutional theory of art and the historical
definition of art; both these theories are highly controversial
and they have been severely criticised.
leaves it to the reader to choose the theory of his or her
choice. An introduction to these theories is given to help the
reader find his or her own views on the subject.
All told, it is a very good
introduction to western aesthetics. It is written in an
extremely lucid style. This is the kind of textbook that we need
to write on Indian philosophy. However the only problem with
analytical philosophy is with its tendency to trivialise issues.
Sometimes in its over-enthusiasm for clarity, it turns a deaf
ear to serious philosophical debates.
revolutionary philosopher again
Review by Shelley Walia
and the Rhetoric of Nihilism edited by Tom Darby. Carleton
UniversityPress, Ottawa. Pages 205. £ 12.95.
and Post-modernism by Dave Robinson. Icon, Cambridge. Pages
79. £ 2.99.
by Paul Strathern. Constable, London. Pages 77. £ 2.95.
Nietzsche by Lawrence Game and Kitty Chan. Icon, Cambridge.
Pages 176. £ 8.99.
perpetuation of a social system and its largely status quo
ideology rests mainly on more or less coherent ways of
maintaining the power structures which control it. These
constitute its foundations which are integral to a closed
system. The decentring of these centres involves rethinking of
perspectives on values and "reality" that has at its
origins the metaphysics of presence.
Foucault, taking his cue from the anti-teleological philosophy
of Friedrich Nietzsche, maintains that "there is no
centre, but always decentering, series that register the
halting passage from presence to absence, from excess to
dificiency". Derrida and after him Lacan tried to retard
the process of relegating the contrary opinions to the margins
and always endeavoured to find ruptures, gaps or weaknesses in
the arguments that privilege "reality" and
ideology expressed in his work, "Human All Too
Human", was a preparation for ushering in the brave new
world, one in which good and evil no longer existed in any
transcendental way, a world of no absolute values or divine
sanction. The book "Nietzsche and the Rhetoric of
Nihilism" which is a collection of essays of prominent
scholars from Europe and North America provides new readings
and perspectives on Nietzsche’s work, questioning the
conventional interpretation of its "nihilistic"
is taken up in Dave Robinson’s "Nietzsche and
Post-modernism" which brings out clearly the huge impact
of Nietzsche on 20th century philosophy and literature and its
well-grounded notions of beliefs and values. Nietzsche casts a
"long shadow" on the complex cultural and
philosophical central themes of post-modernist thinking and
emerges as its radical supporter.
basically was on the subversive notions of Christianity and
its slave morality that strategically attempted to emasculate
the will to power. His "Beyond Good and Evil" is a
superb critique of western civilisation, its values and
psychology. The book rebounds from "God is truth" to
‘‘all is false" and I do not think there has been a
finer demolition job of philosophy ever since.
extreme positions that everything lacks meaning and that all
philosophy is superfluous, he argues, ‘‘All our organs of
knowledge and our senses are developed only as a means of
preservation and growth. Trust in reason and its categories,
in dialectic, therefore the valuation of logic, proves only
their usefulness for life, proved by experience, not that
something is true." He goes on to trace will to power
through human motives which are only acts that are honourably
disinterested but are often revealed as "sick and
Nietzsche, the individual was advised to take responsibility
for his own actions in a "godless" universe. The
making of one’s own values in an unfettered freedom became
his credo. It was a war on the optimism of logicians and a
firm rattling of the iron cage of language that constricts our
thinking and is largely responsible for the fashioning and
refashioning of truth. "The centre has no natural locus
but is itself a function of the structured system, which,
since it is always expressed in language, turns out to be
language itself." This morality for Nietzsche became the
power of the herd and represented those who are individually
weak but collectively strong, it was nothing else but an
evolutionary urge to survive. "There are no moral
phenomena at all, only moral interpretations of
to this was the idea that "God is dead" which
apparently was an awful notion, yet dionysic and exhilarating
and a daring venture for knowledge. From the post-modernist
view, Dave Robinson does not regard Nietzsche a nihilistic.
Putting his ideas into such radical and non-conformist
expression was a way of opening the world to inifinity where
"free spirits" could jostle with the
"transcendental signified" that had as its base the
logocentric ideology of western metaphysics and the proposed
groundings of the reality on which rests existence.
endeavour, Nietzsche was only looking at the practical effects
of language that Wittgenstein later took up. Meaning for both
these thinkers was located in the changing relationships
between thought and action and therefore not fixed or
timeless. Thus all "truths" become illusions within
which each individual was condemned to make choices or take
the decision to make no choice which, in turn, becomes itself
a choice. Existentialism in the Sartrean or Nietzschean sense
depends on our willed freedom and the inescapable fact of
books on him suggest a re-evaluation of his works in the
present post-modernist scenario. For a clear understanding of
his radical "philosophy", a light-hearted and
idiosyncratic" book like "Nietzsche" by Paul
Strathern or ‘‘Introducing Nietzsche" by Lawrence
Game and Kitty Chan are informative and stimulating. Nietzsche’s
major ideas are woven into the text in such a way as to be
readily accessible to all.
and "The Will to Power" are works that pose problems
to readers. Is traditional morality just a "useful
mistake"? Does "the will to power" lead to the
Holocaust?And what are the limitations of scientific
knowledge? All these questions have been raised in the works
of contemporary writers who have, like Derrida, called for a
re-evaluation of all values, a strategy of disruption or
Taking up the
Nietzschean idea of the "principal of suspicion".
Derrida has tried in his philosophy to "make enigmatic
what one thinks one understands by words". This must not
be taken as an extreme step at demolishing all knowledge and
thought; it is only a step towards relinquishing the age-old
dream of foundational truth that western philosophy hijacked
after the Dionysion element in Greek civilisation was
overpowered by the Apollonian, leading to the "death of
tragedy" and the dominance of epistemic violence seen in
the working of the state apparatus.
Marx and Freud, Nietzsche, therefore, is one of the main
sources of 20th century thought. His formulation that God is
dead, that the world is the product of the will to power, and
that true value lies in a morality of strenuousness has become
part of the European experience in our age. Though he was an
antisystemic thinker, he understood and systematically
"unmasked" the ethics of praise and blame, of
punishment and reward, of the agony of conscience.
had tried to produce truth, as Derrida argues, "at the
moment where the value of truth is shattered".
Nietzschean thought becomes the subversion of empiricism and
idealism which smacked of a fundamental immobility and
reassuring certitude which is beyond the reach of freeplay.
however, escape the logocentric tradition since it accompanies
all philosophy and we have no language which is alien to it.
Therefore, we cannot get outside it, we can only wander about
in it exposing inconsistencies and patched up rips.
It cannot be denied that
language is an endless interwoven fabric (textile, text) of
signifiers with no demonstrable power of direct representation
or reflection of a reality external to it. "There is
nothing outside the text," as Derrida asserts. Language
composes our consiciousness and we stay within its
as they are, not as they are seen
Review by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon
Phenomenon by Kamal Matinuddin. Lancer Publishers New Delhi.
Pages xviii+298. Rs 595.
author of this book, Lieut-Gen Kamal Matinuddin, has had a long
and distinguished military career in Pakistan. He has also been
the Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies,
Islamabad, besides being the editor of a monthly publication
entitled Afghanistan Report. He is a keen observer of the
international and Central Asian affairs, especially Afghanistan.
out research for his book on Afghanistan called "Power
Struggle in the Hindu Kush", he interviewed all important
Afghan leaders and went to Moscow and Teheran to assess their
long-term interests in Afghanistan. He has kept himself abreast
of the day-to-day Afghan situation in all its depth and
centuries, Afthanistan’s peculiar geographical location has
given it a commercial and strategic importance. Neighbouring
countries like Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia and India have
always kept a watchful eye on the developments in Afghanistan.
In recent years Afghans waged a decade-long struggle against the
Soviet occupation of their country. But even after achieving the
uphill task of throwing out Russia, the Afghans have been driven
from one disaster to another. They have not been able to
establish a stable national government. The country has been
engaged in a civil war with the Taliban movement adding a new
dimension to the crisis.
Who are the
Taliban? Where did they come from? What was their origin? Who
organised them into a mighty movement? How did they acquire so
much military strength and sophisticated weapons? Who trained
them to use these weapons? What have been the sources of their
strength and weakness? What is the socio-political ideology of
the Taliban? What are the apprehensions, suspicions and
reactions of the outside powers vis-a-vis the Taliban? Was
Pakistan’s policy of being the first country to recognise the
Taliban government in its national interest? These are some of
the questions which the author has attempted to answer.
Taliban is the
plural of an Arabic word Talib which literally means a person in
search of knowledge. In Pushto the word Taliban generally
denotes students studying in deeni madarasas (religious
seminaries). These madarasas not only imparted religious
education but also organised students into militant groups who
would be prepared to use force to subdue their rivals. Apart
from government aid and donations from local philanthropists,
the madarasas were reportedly given grants by Iraq, Iran, Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan and some other friendly conservative
countries. There are reports of 30,000 students from various
madarasas joining the Taliban movement.
believes that the rise of the Taliban phenomenon was due to the
bitter agony experienced by the Afghan people on account of the
fratricidal war and the anarchy which was prevailing in their
land. People were made to believe that the warring mujahideen
factions were only concerned about grabbing power and were not
sincere about the establishment of what they perceived to be a
truly Islamic state in Afghanistan. They were disenchanted with
the state of affairs that followed the ouster of Najibullah. The
moving spirit behind the Taliban movement was a jihad veteran,
Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund. A devout Muslim, Omar stood for an
Islamic government and the enforcement of the shariah (Islamic
laws) in the areas liberated and captured by the Taliban.
emerged on the scene when there were no foreign troops occupying
their country. The ruling clique had lost popular support
because after throwing out the Soviet soldiers from the land it
had begun to behave like an occupation force. War-weary Afghans
joined the Taliban movement which promised them peace and
security. The movement caught international attention when
within a short span of three years between 1994 and 1997, it won
a series of victories in four provinces, the most notable being
the capture of Kandahar and Kabul. President Rabbani was ousted
had been providing political and moral support to Taliban,
extended official recognition to the Taliban government assuming
that it was representative of the country’s all ethnic groups.
Only two other countries, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have
recognised the Taliban government. Russia, India, Iran and many
Central Asian Republics continue to support the ousted regime of
Rabbani though he and his allies control less than one-tenth of
critically analyses Pakistan’s Afghan policy in respect of the
Taliban. He feels that it would be wise for Pakistan to try and
establish normal relations with the major Afghan factions and to
work with the United Nations towards a broad-based government in
Afghanistan. Pakistan has a high stake in an early and lasting
peaceful solution to the Afghan crisis the possibility of the
civil war spilling over into Pakistan, the continuing presence
of more than one and a half million Afghan refugees in the
border areas, the eventuality of the dismemberment of
Afghanistan and the perilous ramifications of such a development
are some of the issues which have been delineated by the author
with remarkable insight and objectivity.
The author has
discussed the political and diplomatic consequences of the
Taliban phenomenon in detail. He believes that the Taliban
factor has had an adverse effect on the historically sound ties
between Iran and Pakistan. He thinks that India’s interests
are also served by keeping the Afghans cauldron boiling, thereby
ensuring that Pakistan is involved on its western front. A new
axis comprising Iran, India and Russia has developed to contain
the influence of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in Afghanistan. Of
late the USA has also joined the front against the Taliban. It
has accused the Taliban of harbouring terrorists.
The author has
arrived at a praiseworthy conclusion that all countries must
resist the temptation to intervene in the civil war in the hope
of swinging the outcome in their favour. He proposes that the
United Nations should take a deeper interest in Afghanistan.
This could be in the shape of an international conference of
those powers that have something at stake in Afghanistan. Their
aim should be to place an embargo on the supply of weapons and
to station a peace-keeping force in Afghanistan.
He has made a
brilliant analysis of the strength and shortcomings of the
Taliban regime in clear and unambiguous terms. Some of the
weaknesses which have made the Taliban unpopular are lack of
military expertise, failure to accommodate the requirements of
the Shias, an inability to keep pace with modern trends, a
posture of self-righteousness, reluctance to accommodate the
interests of the other factions in Afghanistan and the
enforcement of a very rigid religious code, especially for
sources of Taliban’s strength are their sincerety, honesty,
simple life-style and devotion to their cause. They have become
tough and battle-hardened and have, through trial and error,
learnt how to hold ground. With over 90 per cent of the Afghan
territory under their control, the Taliban rulers have become a
force to reckon with.
sources of Taliban’s strength are their sincerety, honesty,
simple life-style and devotion to their cause. They have become
tough and battle-hardened and have, through trial and error,
learnt how to hold ground. With over 90 per cent of the Afghan
territory under their control, the Taliban rulers have become a
force to reckon with.
formulated in the concluding chapter of the book are of special
interest. The author believes that the Taliban will have to
temper their religious extremism with modernism before they can
hope to receive financial and technical aid from the world
community. The Taliban regime needs to acquire expertise in
running a modern state. They and their interpretation of Islam
will have to accommodate universally accepted human rights if
they want other nations to help them in their hour of need.
As the final
solution of the Afghan problem is still elusive, there is need
for dispassionate consideration of the situation as it exists
today. The author has given a few laudable suggestions that
Pakistan should support the territorial integrity of
Afghanistan, insist on the policy of non-interference in the
internal affairs of Afghanistan, make efforts towards a
ceasefire and the establishment of a broad-based government in
Afghanistan. Pakistan should be content with having an
independent, integrated and friendly western neighbour.
should have enlarged the scope of his study by incorporating
similar suggestions for the international community as well as
the Taliban militia. There is no denying the fact that Taliban
does command a mass base fired by religious zeal. Attempts of
outside powers to prop up another regime in Afghanistan are
bound to invite new militancies and provoke a new orgy of
violence. Unabated supply of arms by outside sponsors has
worsened the crisis. On their part, the Taliban militia should
cease to pose a threat to the entire region and beyond. The
Taliban leadership should learn from past mistakes and set their
house in order. Their topmost priority should be to restore
peace in the war-torn country. This will provide legitimacy to
The author, though not an
arm-chair academician, has carried out a comprehensive and
analytical study of the Taliban phenomenon. He has tapped
primary sources and has recorded interviews with leading Afghan
and Pakistani personalities. This has lent authenticity and
credibility to the book. This study could be useful to the
general reader as well as those who are desirous of taking up
further research on Afghanistan in the future.
laws in USA
Review by D.R. Chaudhry
Affirmative Action Debate edited by George E. Curry. Perseus
Books, Massachusetts. Pages xv+ 368. $ 16.
doctrine of white supremacy has been an important ingredient of
the culture and policy of the United States of America. The US
Supreme Court in 1857 approvingly concluded that both the north
and the south regarded slaves "as beings of an inferior
order, and altogether unfit to associate with the
white......they had no rights which the white man was bound to
respect". Even Manusmiriti, the basic text of the
Brahminical ideology, is not as harsh with dalits as this
observation of the highest seat of the American judiciary.
Over the past
three decades, the USA has struggled to overcome this sordid
legacy. The struggle against it was launched by its worst
victims — blacks, now known as African-Americans in American
society. Out of that struggle came the policy of affirmative
action aimed at providing relief to the victims of racial and
gender discrimination in American society, the
African-Americans, hispanics, Asian-Americans, native Americans
Kennedy coined the phrase "affirmative action". He
issued an executive order that directed employers to hire
workers "without regard to race, creed or national
origin". Affirmative action does not involve quotas, and it
does not involve preferences to the unqualified.
It is about
opening the doors of opportunity to qualified African-Americans,
Latinos, Asian-Americans, other coloured persons and women. This
is an idealistic position about the affirmative action policy.
American society has still to go a long way before the ideal is
achieved substantially. Its implementation is all the more
difficult because American society is the most diverse society
the world has ever known. It is a veritable melting pot. In Los
Angles alone, for instance, schools teach children who speak 80
In spite of all
the diversity in American society and the complexity of the
issue involved, the affirmative action approach has shown some
tangible results. It provides a glimmer of hope to millions in
American society who have lived on the periphery. The book under
review has collected the leading voices on both sides of the
fence in this controversy. A provocative range of politicians,
academics, researchers, legal experts and business people debate
the issue, some arguing in its favour while others opposing it
tooth and nail. The merit of the book lies in the fact that it
contains a lot of empirical evidence, data, facts and figures on
the result of the affirmative action policy pursued so far and
this enables the reader to make up his or her mind about the
efficacy of the policy or the lack of it.
Fletcher, the first black person to be appointed Assistant
Secretary of Labour for Employment Standards in 1969 by
President Nixon, is convinced that if the role of blacks in the
economy could be changed, it would lead to changing the nation’s
culture. Cornel West echoes a similar sentiment when he lays
emphasis on more drastic measures to end the maldistribution of
wealth and power.
contributors to the debate who have done well in life are not
very enthusiastic about the affirmative action policy. Robert L.
Woodson Sr expresses this viewpoint most emphatically. He sees a
flagrant abuse of the policy in operation.It is the middle and
upper income blacks who are the prime beneficiaries. The basic
philosophy is that race in itself is a disadvantage. This
premise, in his opinion, undermines the tradition of
self-determination and personal responsibility.
does not find much substance in this argument. He is all for
federal assistance to minority-owned businesses in the form of
contract set-asides, management and technical assistance, grants
for education and training. In spite of positive discrimination
in favour of minority-owned businesses, more than 95 per cent of
the government contracts go to businesses owned by the whites.
African-Americans, Asian-Americans and native Americans comprise
nearly 25 per cent of the population; they own only 6 per cent
of the operating businesses. These businesses account for just 1
per cent of the nation’s gross business receipts and generate
less than 3 per cent of employment.
Lichtman, Jocelyn C. Frey and Helen Norton offer a staunch
defence of affirmative action for women in American society.
Qualified women have been shut out of employment, education and
business opportunities solely because of their sex. Women and
coloured people make up fewer than 5 per cent of senior
managers. 16.4 per cent of white men were high wage earners
(earning $ 50,000 or more annually) in 1992, compared to 3.8 of
white women, 1.6 per cent of black women, and 1.8 of hispanic
Harry P. Pachon
laments that the Latino voice is missing in the debate. As
recently as 1990, for every Mexican-American male manager in
California’s major private sector industries there were 20
white male managers. Theodore Hsien Wang and Frank H. Wu speak
on behalf of Asian-Americans. Only some Asian-Americans have
made significant strides in socio-economic status. Overall, they
remain underrepresented in many areas and continue to experience
discrimination. They are better educated than the whites on an
average. However, they earn between 10 to 17 per cent less than
their male white counterparts. Asian-American women earn as much
as 40 per cent less than white men with the same credentials.
speech "Mend it, don’t end it" delivered at the
National Archives on July 19, 1995, is an important document in
the book. He emphasises that affirmative action must not mean
unjustified preference of the unqualified over the qualified, no
fixed quotas, no selection or rejection of anyone based on race
or gender without regard to merit. However, the area of
opportunities must be enlarged for those who have remained
deprived so far.
deprivation still persists. The unemployment rate for
African-Americans remains about twice that of whites. In the
nation’s largest companies only 0.6 per cent of senior
management positions are held by African-Americans, 0.4 per cent
by hispanics and 0.3 per cent by Asian-Americans. Women hold
between 3 and 5 per cent of these positions. While white men
make up 43 per cent of the work force, but they hold 95 of these
affirmative action policy has provided some relief to the racial
minorities in America. Between 1960 and 1990 the percentage of
black men in managerial posts has doubled while the percentage
of black women in these jobs trebled. Impressive gains if seen
in absolute terms. However, seen in statistical terms, the
minority groups have still to traverse a long distance.
A piece of
statistics given by Jesse L. Jackson Sr would make the point
clear. White men are 73 per cent of the population and 48 per
cent of the college educated workforce, they constitute 80 per
cent of the tenure professors, 80 per cent of the members of the
US House of Representatives, 86 per cent of the members in major
law firms, 88 per cent of the holders of the managerial-level
jobs in advertising, 90 per cent of those occupying the top
positions in the media. 90 per cent of managers of the major
corporation, 90 per cent of the members of the US Senate, 92 per
cent of the heads of the Forbes 400 companies, 97 per cent of
school superintendents, 99.9 per cent of professional athletic
team owners, and 100 per cent of US Presidents. In the face of
such daunting empirical evidence highlighting the hegemony of
the white male in every walk of American life — the book
abounds in such statistics — the opponents of the affirmative
action have been put on the defensive.
The USA is a
young nation and the history of racial and gender discrimination
is only a few centuries old. But in India, the history of
discrimination based on caste and gender is of several thousand
years old and hence the problem is much more intractable. Unlike
in America, we have a quota system and the same seems to have
degenerated into vote bank politics. For instance, the Mandal
Commission report lays due emphasis on educational and economic
empowerment of the weak sections alongwith providing a quota for
them in government jobs. Only the quota was picked up and the
two other weighty recommendations were not even considered by
nothing substantial has been done in matters of educational and
economic empowerment of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled
Tribes after giving them a quota in government services.
Then unlike in
America, the vast field of private enterprises is out of bounds
for the weaker sections. What is the percentage of weaker
sections in high positions in the media, films, business and
industry and other related fields? It is not necessary to
prescribe a quota for them in these fields but something must be
done to increase their representation in these vital fields.
Those who are fighting for such
sections in Indian society must do a good deal of home work
instead of relying on rhetoric, Here the debate on affirmative
action in American society can be of great help to them.
"nations" within a nation
Review by Surinder S. Jodhka
National Identity in South Asia edited by S.L. Sharma and T.K.
Oommen. Orient Longman, Hyderabad. Pages xxii + 226. Rs 300.
has once again become a contentious theme. The political
happenings in different parts of the world during the past two
or three decades have made us rethink what we had assumed to
be the obvious or "natural" units of the global
political geography. It was in the 1970s that the western
world experienced what Anthony Smith called the "ethnic
revival", and India and some other Third World countries
saw the emergence of "new" social movements during
the 1980s. The distinctive feature of these "new"
mobilisations was that many of them gave primacy to the
question of "identity" over "class". The
collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent political
reorganisation and ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe during
the 1990s further added to this "crisis of the
It is in
response to these developments that social scientists the
world over have once again started talking about the
underlying assumptions of nationhood and the related questions
of citizenship, democratic rights of communities and cultural
identities. Conventionally speaking, subjects like nation and
citizenship were viewed primarily as political phenomena and
hence had been the concerns only of political scientists and
statesmen. However, in the new context the questions being
raised in relation to nation go much beyond the conventional
notion of "politics". The collection of papers
presented in the book by two distinguished sociologists of
India, Prof S.L. Sharma and Prof T.K. Oommen, convincingly
show the relevance of looking at these questions in the
broader social and cultural context. The specific focus of the
volume is the South Asian experience.
introducing the volume, Professor Sharma in the opening
chapter of the book makes a substantive comment on some of the
issues that have been raised by the authors of different
papers. He also points to the problems that social scientists
have encountered in defining terms like nation and ethnicity.
Though many formal definitions of "nation" were
available, it was difficult to find a definition that would be
universally applicable. Quoting Nazir on this, he points out
that "there is not, and there cannot be, a general
definition or universal definition or a general theory of
nation, nationality or nationalism". Language, religion,
ethnicity or a shared history of colonial domination could all
provide a basis for the formation of a nation. It is this
context of the experience of nation formation in South Asia
that most of the papers in the volume try to address.
and Prof J.P.S. Uberoi emphasise the need to recognise the
pluralistic nature of South Asian societies. Prof Oommen
offers an overview of "the different modes of
conceptualising nation and national identity" in
contemporary Indian history. He is critical of those who tend
to equate Indian civilisation with the Indian nation. The two
are conceptually different categories. Several nations or
states could co-exist within a civilisational region. He also
makes a crucial distinction between the "state" and
the "nation" or "citizenship" and
"nationality". Citizenship "alludes to
membership in politico-legal entity — that is, the state and
the entitlements thereof". Nationality "refers to
membership in a cultural entity — that is, nation and the
identity that it implies".
according to Prof Oommen, were essentially cultural categories
and it was not natural for a nation to establish its own
state. Such theories and experiences were European and did not
fit in with the realities in the South Asian context.
"South Asian states should be viewed as collectives of
nations co-existing within federal states".
In his paper,
M.N. Karna too characterises India as a multinational state.
India’s different nationalities vary in size and are at
varying degrees of development. The critical point that he
makes is that along with the regional national consciousness,
there also existed a consciousness or an identity of what he
Sharma is, however, not convinced by the characterisation of
India as one state with many nations as is done by Prof Oommen.
In his introductory note, he argues that such a distinction
between "nation" and "state" assumed that
the two were fixed entities or fixed categories. Nations, he
argues, were fluid categories, always in the process of making
(or unmaking) and so was their relationship with the state.
looks at the history of the concept of "civil
society" in the western and Indian context. Disagreeing
with classical western understanding, he suggests that the
civil society was not only a category of bourgeois society but
was a category of what he calls "universal human society
or of historical civilisation as against pre-history".
The establishment of the civil society required "new
forms and concepts of pluralism, mediation of one and the many
and of the common usage or custom of the people to sustain
framework, he suggests that the civil society in India was
established when the post-independence Indian state
institutionalised a system of pluralism through the
introduction of vernacular democracy or multi-lingualism when
the states of India were reorganised on linguistic lines.
Writing on a
related theme, V.N. Pandey looks at the manner in which the
relationship between the state and civil society has been
viewed in the West and in India. He is critical of the
"fallacious understanding of the relationship between
state and society as mutually hostile, and its consequent
polarising effects". He argues that such discourses not
only marginalised concerns for questions like social equality
and justice, but also resulted in "a retrogressive
romanticisation of traditon/culture and civil society".
well-argued paper, Dipankar Gupta offers a sociological theory
of the emergence of nation-states. He agrees with Marx who had
argued that the development of capitalism dissolved the older
types of social ties and gave rise to a new type of class
society where money alone mattered. However, according to
Gupta, "what has not been adequately theorised is why the
impetus that dissolved the old solidarities and parochial ties
did not go far enough." Or, in other words, why did
capitalism need another kind of limiting ideology — namely,
He offers a
rather interesting answer. He argues that like other economic
systems, capitalism too requires "a politics of
commitment". However, since in principle the modern
capitalist economy was based on an open system of
stratification (continuous hierarchies), it could not fuel a
politics of commitment from inside like the old systems based
on caste or kinship could do. Capitalism had to thus take
"recourse to creating supra-local allegiances based on
territorial attachment to the nation state". This gave
the continuous hierarchies of class more space to realise
themselves and, at the same time, fashion an exclusivist
identity based on the principle of repulsion.
the broader questions of the concepts and history of nation in
the sub-continent, there are several papers that look at the
specific categories of people and their place in the
"nation agenda". Jagannath Pathy provides a critique
of the ways in which social science and development discourses
of the Indian nation have treated the so-called tribal
population of the country. Similarly, G. Aloysius looks at the
question of caste and Maitrayee Chaudhary at the question of
gender in relation to nation.
In her paper
on "gender in the making of the Indian nation
state", Chaudhary focuses on the history of women’s
question in India in relation to nationalism and development.
She examines the relationship between the Indian nation-state
and women at three levels: women as agents and recipients of
development as politically equal citizens and as cultural
emblems. Chaudhary argues that though as a liberal state,
India was formally committed to the economic, political and
cultural rights of individuals, it treated women rather
differently. History of the Indian experience shows that the
state has tended to relate to them through the given
collectivities — namely, family and community. She also
identifies the major shifts in the state policy towards women
over the last five decades and their various implications.
volume focuses largely on India and the issues emanating from
the Indian experience, the last two papers deal with the other
parts of the sub-continent. In a wellresearched paper Tanveer
Fazal looks at the dynamics of "religion and language in
the formation of nationhood in Pakistan and Bangladesh"
and the problems they have had in negotiating the questions of
majorities and minorities.
interesting paper Kalinga Tudor Silva explores the shift from
caste to ethnicity in the process of the formation of national
identity among the two major communities of Sri Lanka —
namely, the Tamils and the Sinhalas. Though caste has remained
a relevant source of identity, particularly in the private
lives of these communities, their nationalist mobilisations
have also strengthened ethnic identities among them. The
process of ethnicisation though encourages exclusiveness in
relation to the other communities, it also promotes
egalitarianism within the communities, undermining the
fundamental values of caste and the hierarchy.
The volume on the whole makes
good reading and raises some very interesting points, all of
which could not be covered in this review. It would have been
desirable if the editors had solicited some more papers on the
question of nation and national identity from comparatively
less known regions of South Asia such as Nepal or Burma. The
Indian experience may not necessarily apply to these nations.
revisited by a second wife
Review by Deepika Gurdev
Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin. Harper Collins, New
Delhi. Pages 540. Rs 195.
I were to use just two words to review this book, they would
be, read it!
to be one of my last buys during my India trip, my India
collection, as I refer to it. Expectedly it also happens to be
one of those books for which I have wished an unhurried
ending. Little wonder then that I have spent over a week being
transported back in time to the Sardarji land, my land…in a
time not so long ago. As I went through page after carefully
written page by Shauna Singh Baldwin, I could not help but be
surprised that there was so little pomp, pageantry and hype to
usher in this novel when it promised so much more than some of
the recent Indian writings in English.
possibly why "What the Body Remembers" makes for
such a poignant and memorable read. In fact, it is a novel to
take note of. So if you are looking for that almost perfect
read to end the year 2000, I recommend to the reader to tuck
into the razai with warm cups of tea and peanuts to
keep you company in chilly Punjab nights and relish every
written word of Baldwin’s masterpiece.
Here she is
— an Indian writer in English — who displays emotional
intimacy with her story and does not seem to be an outsider to
the story she is narrating. Here is one author who writes with
the sole reverence for the characters in her novel not that of
her audience. She has no obsessions and makes absolutely no
qualms of making an exception to any audience — western or
The novel is
richly peppered with Punjabi phrases but there is no glossary
to explain those words. As a reader you just have to learn to
flow with the words or you must forget about reading let alone
enjoying this book. Quizzed about the lack of a glossary,
Baldwin remarked it was deliberately amiss as "I feel
these break the spell of the story. And this book is not an
attempt to explain Indian culture. Indian culture just is in
this book — and it is for the rest of the world to figure it
out and enjoy it."
For all the
resident outsiders who are drawn to their motherland wondering
where the home really is, Baldwin answers in no uncertain
terms: ‘‘Where the heart is.’’ That is something she
would know best because the Indo-Canadian writer was born in
Canada, brought up in India and now lives in the USA. Quite
like the transcontinental life she has led, her career has
been multi-faceted as well. The writer, who won the
Commonwealth Writers Prize for the Best Book from the Canada
and Caribbean region this year, has had a very varied career
as author, IT consultant and erstwhile radio show host of
The idea for
her novel was born out of a short story titled ‘‘Satya’’
which won the 1997 Canadian Literary Award. Obviously, there
could not have been a better beginning than this. ‘‘What
the Body Remembers’’ certainly marks the transformation of
a fledgling writer into a better known debutante. ‘‘Satya’s’’
story that just "refused to be put down", led
Baldwin on a three-year journey to "reclaim women’s
stories from partition". Though the author is modest
enough to admit that without the Internet this could have well
taken 10-12 years to complete.
The year is
1937, the setting is a small village in Punjab, India, aptly
called Pari Darwaza. From this Darwaza the readers witness the
beginning of the tense and tumultuous decade that culminated
in the violent and still controversial partition.
At the heart
of this powerful saga of a Sikh family set against the
independence movement are three unforgettable characters.
There is the rich, 40-something Sardarji, Rawalpindi-born,
UK-educated with a degree in engineering, a man caught in the
midst of transition on more than one front. He reads among
other classics ‘‘The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire’’,
builds canals that criss-cross Punjab, and makes energetic
blueprints for a modern canal-irrigated India.
are the two women who drive this powerful and poignant tale.
The story truly begins when the Sardarji takes a 16-something
village belle Roop as his second wife. Roop’s mother had
died in childbirth, her father is deep in debt, her brother is
in the Army, she spends her days hoping to find a way out of
Pari Darwaza, to break free from her trapped world and knows
that marriage is the only passport out of there. So when she
learns that she is to be married to a wealthy Sikh landlord,
she is expectedly elated. She is aware that she would be a
significant other in his life, but is willing to trade her
present life to the unknown as the second wife.
Roop, the Sardarji’s ‘‘little brown koel’’ imagines
the first wife will treat her as her younger sister. Little
does she realise that she will end up belittling her and will
look for ways to get rid of her. This would include bearing
children for Satya, going through the pain and the agony,
watching the children till their naming ceremony and then
handing them over to childless Satya. For young Roop, the
marriage turns out to be a nightmare.
Sardarji’s first wife, is introduced as a fierce, beautiful
childless woman, who is well beyond the child-bearing age. She
manages most of his properties. She is pained that the
Sardarji chose to get married quietly without caring to take
her into confidence. Brilliant, manipulative and beautiful,
she is his political conscience and his connection to his
is complex, shaded and resonant with ironies. She is
introduced as a woman born well before her time into a feudal
patriarchal world, fatally unable to lower her resolute eyes
in front of a man. Satya is a strong woman whose quarrelsome,
mocking intelligence he seeks out, rejects, then misses with
an ache when he can no longer have it.
experienced of the two, she knows how to bring the Sardarji
around: "She offers him crumbly pinni sweets
impressed with the mark of her fingers." Satya’s
inability to bear children combined with jealousy has turned
her heart "black and dense as a stone within her".
Her rival is not only 25 years younger, but of considerably
lower social rank, and her husband’s obvious infatuation
with Roop rankles considerably: "How can a young woman
know how to manage his flour mill while he is hunting kakar
with his English ‘superiors’? How will she know that his
voice is angry with the servants only when he is tired or
is predictable: the struggle between the two women for control
of the children to be born and for the husband’s attention.
Eventually Roop demands the ouster of the elder from the
household, and Satya is sent away. But her spirit is not
exiled and years later, when Roop and the Sardarji find
themselves swept in the bloody partition of India, it is
memories of the elder woman’s strength and wisdom that Roop
draws on to survive.
story immediately pulls the reader into her world, Satya’s
story that runs parallel also makes for compelling reading.
But the novel is not just a struggle for power between the two
women. It is the Sardarji’s story as well. Somewhere neatly
in between his story fits, as the India he knows and
understands begins to change. The escalating tension in his
own family reflects the religious and political dynamics that
will lead to the cleaving of India — and trap the Sikhs in
the middle of a horror wrought by the wresting of land. In a
dramatic, terrifying conclusion the tragedy and strength of
Roop, Satya, and the Sardarji’s lives reflect the greater
world in which they must survive. Thus, at one level, this is
a story of family ties, and on another, it is social history
capturing the customs, traditions and mores of rural Punjab.
This novel is
definitely of a woman’s perspective. And because women
suffered most when their homes were uprooted, the novel is
turned into a more intimate account than just the story of
Roop and Satya. Deeply imbued with the language, customs and
layered history of India, ‘‘What the Body Remembers’’
tells the story of partition for the first time from the Sikh
women’s point of view, shedding light on the largely
undiscovered canvas of what we know now as India and Pakistan.
portrayal of partition is made even more poignant in the
smaller stories that deserve equal attention. As the country
is in flames, the personal tragedy is played to full scale.
Mani Mai feels no remorse when Roop and her children leave
Rawalpindi, the trains are brimming with people, but most
heart-rending is the chilling story of Kusum, Roop’s dutiful
sister-in-law, who has never said nahin-ji to her
elders, especially her father-in-law even when a kirpan
is held over her submissive neck in honour of the quam.
memorable metaphors, Baldwin achieves an artistic triumph in
‘‘What the Body Remembers’’. In developing the
characters in the novel the political blends perfectly with
the personal as India’s struggle for independence unravels
in the light of the ensuing conflicts between Roop, Satya and
Baldwin’s next book should
be concluded fairly soon; insiders say it is going to be a
wonderful blend of the 21st century techniques married to
stories as old as India itself. She is, clearly, an author who
has achieved a lot by the artistic blend of fact and fiction.
I would definitely be watching out for her next work, hope you
hill man in uniform
Review by Manmant Singh Sethi
Sunsets in the Himalayas: A Compilation of Vignettes from the
Experiences of a Moun-taineer by P.M. Das. Lotus Publishers,
New Delhi. Pages viii+184 including glossary. Rs 250.
is a bureaucrat’s favourite sport? Paperweight lifting or is
it the paper pin tathelon? Or someone who has an ice axe to
grind? Is he a disgruntled bureaucrat with a frigid boss or a
Well, be a
little surprised. Mountain madness attacks even the police.
The book starts with an introduction of the author and some
reasons for this affliction. The first, he confesses, is his
father. The next major reason is probably his schooling under
many illustrious mountaineers like Gurdial Singh (Guru) at the
Doon School. The author has a classic public school profile.
Climbed mountains in the midterms under teachers with the
barest of equipment. Went to the venerable St Stephens College
in Delhi. And that is where the bug bit him the hardest.
expedition in 1972 to Zhanskar where the party ran afoul of
the Delhi bureaucracy but were looked after well by the local
police probably tilted his choice to eventually join the IPS.
contains vivid accounts of the 25 years of climbing set in a
chronological order. The chapters are based on diary notings
maintained during each trek.
chapter (expedition) is aptly titled, "Initiation to high
altitude: a youth’s trek to Harki Doon and the Banderpunch
Valley (Garhwal)". The expedition starts out with the
author and his school buddy, now in college with him, taking
off to the Garhwal Himalayas. It becomes abundantly clear that
the author is of a scholarly bent of mind and not just ogling
at the hill girls (though he freely admits to their beauty) on
the expedition. He is also aware of the hill’s flora and
fauna and reels off the correct botanical names of most that
unfortunately an expedition rarely consists of just the real
climbing. So we will never know how they met Mr Gurdial Singh
on Camp 1 of Bunderpunch or Black Peak. Was it preplanned or
school or a college of a similar bent of mind is supposed to
make a complete man of you, not, as is errantly believed,
common brand of men’s drapery. For a man who has everything,
you ought to send him among the less fortunate, so that he
acquires humility and is able to contribute to society in any
measure. So St Stephens sent out in 1970 a team of five boys
and two lecturers to Namik, a small village in the Pithoragarh
district, far from arc lights and television cameras, to
distribute wheat, medicine, clothing, etc. and carry out a
by now, addicted to the hills, took a hike to a nearby
glacier. It is amazing to read that these villagers live
within a day’s walk of the inhospitable glaciers, where
death is just a misstep away. In these inhospitable terrain
these simple people eke out a living, heroically and unsung.
expedition to the Zhanskar valley (western Ladakh) was his
brush with the cussedness of the great Indian bureaucracy.
That in true reckless spirit of youth they proceeded without
permits only to be welcomed and assisted by the local
officials wherever possible.
expedition to the Bhagirathi II was the scene of a tragedy.
Three climbers, all skilled — Pratiman, a JCO in the ITBP,
Nirmal, a mushroom farmer and Das, the author — attempted
and climbed a technically simple mountain. But in
mountaineering, reaching the top is only half the job. The
real task is staying alive on the way down. Just when they
thought they had put the worst behind them, a simple slip by
one of them dragged the other two who were roped with him.
They fell 400 metres before coming to rest in a tangle, just
short of a steep drop. Nirmal died immediately while Pratiman
suffered serious injury and the two were tangled badly. Das
was the least injured and managed to extricate himself from
All night, he
sat by the side of a dead and a dying companion, ill-dressed
for the night out in the open. Knowing that falling asleep
would be fatal for him and Pratiman, he stayed awake,
coverning his bare hands with spare socks, hallucinating and
forcing himself to stay alive and awake. Early morning he set
off down and roused help which was unable to negotiate the
terrain in the night. They brought down Nirmal who was long
dead and Pratiman who was alive but died half an hour later.
made with both Indians and foreigners follow with lots of
colour and black and white photographs. In one chapter we read
about his expedition with the London Metropolitan Police. In
response to the appreciation showed by the expedition to Das’s
human and climbing skills, Mr Ribiero, the then DGP of Punjab,
wrote a letter to the superintendent of the force in praise of
Das. The latter states that Das, unlike many of his
colleagues, fought the terrorists from the trenches and got a
bullet in the ribs for the effort.
provides a touch of the author’s literary talent in the form
of a short play and some mountain poetry. The author also
makes an impassioned plea for more exposure of the police to
adventure (and I guess the bureaucracy in general) and also of
the youth of the country. He asserts that such exposure has
led to remarkable changes in hardened criminals and
handicapped people in the USA. And as a true nature lover, he
makes an impassioned plea for the conservation of environment
point of the book is the first successful Indian expedition to
the Everest from the North face, of which the author was the
senior deputy leader.
The ties that bind those who
challenge death are strong. A poignant tribute to those who
fell to the wrath of the mountain. The book is a wonderful
memoir but falls a little short of weaving the magic of story
telling. If only the author had pushed his "literary
neurons" a little harder than his "literally
bombast and threat
Review by Bimal Bhatia
Nuclear Security edited by Raju G.C. Thomas and Amit Gupta.
Vistaar Publication, New Delhi. Pages 323. Rs 595.
may not believe this. Over a dozen people on both sides
advised the use of nuclear weapons during the Kargil
war," a former Indian chief of Naval Staff told his
stunned audience in Colombo a few weeks back.
demonstrates the type of short fuse that India and Pakistan
may provide in the context of South Asian security, this is a
welcome book that debates various facets of the nuclear issue.
The nuclear and missile tests conducted by India and Pakistan
in 1998 substantially altered the security environment, both
in the region and globally. Examining the complexities and
dynamics of this new strategic framework, this timely and
significant book examines the claim of many Indian strategists
that stability in the region is better served under conditions
of declared — rather than covertly deployed — nuclear
is Allis Chalmers Professor of International Affairs at
Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA. His numerous
publications include — "South Asian Security in the
1990s" and "Democracy, Security and Development in
India". Amit Gupta is associate professor of political
science at Stonehill College, Massachusetts, USA. He is the
author of "Building an Arsenal: The Evolution of Regional
Power Force Structures".
together original essays by a diverse group of scholars, this
volume discusses a number of important issues. Stephen Cohen
and Sumit Ganguly attempt to explain the rationale for India
and Pakistan going nuclear. Cohen argues that a set of
medium-term factors which emerged since 1990 influenced the
decision to test, including the deterioration of the strategic
environment caused by the rise of China, the reluctance of the
USA to become a declining power, the break-up of the Soviet
Union, and Pakistan’s arrival at nuclear parity. Further,
with the coming in of the BJP the bomb issue became more
salient, for the first time in decades the economic cost of
going nuclear was viewed as a minor issue by most Indians.
discredits the idea that a jingoistic BJP tested nuclear
devices to appease the more radical elements of the party and
to gain political mileage. External threat perceptions and the
absence of a security guarantee from friendly nuclear states
are among the reasons offered by him for India going nuclear.
been an advocate of India’s signing the NPT as an avenue of
optimising India’s strategic and economic interests Raju
Thomas now argues that an Indian deterrent may be a necessary
evil. His earlier argument rested on the premise that India
going overtly nuclear would compel Pakistan to follow suit and
aggravate the Chinese threat, apart from imposing an economic
burden. Signing the NPT, he had argued, would compel Pakistan
to follow suit and in turn give India the conventional edge
required to subdue the threat to Kashmir and stabilise
Indo-Pak relations. Regarding the Chinese threat, India had
lived with it for over 35 years.
vertical proliferation, the world has lived with it. So could
India was Thomas’s previous stance India’s exercising the
nuclear option would lead to further proliferation in West
Asia, Central and East Asia, thus making the world and India
"regional-to-global" security prespective. Thomas
now takes a "global-to-regional" view, arguing that
a nuclear weapons deterrent may be necessary in a unipolar
military world where an unrivalled and powerful US-led NATO is
expanding and threatening to intervene in the internal affairs
of sovereign states on human rights grounds. Thomas gives the
example of NATO’s use of massive conventional force in the
former Yugoslavia, with Russia watching from the sidelines,
unable to come to the aid of Serbia, its close ally. Although
Russia’s nuclear arsenal may deter another
"humanitarian intervention" by NATO in Chechnya,
Moscow will be unable to deter a western military intervention
in Kashmir. Thomas thus reasons that although a regional
analysis suggests that going nuclear may be expensive, a
global analysis suggests that security concerns have shifted
in favour of a credible Indian nuclear deterrent.
Ollappy takes a move optimistic approach to the doctrinal
issue, arguing that India must move away from a position of
ambiguity in its strategic doctrine to one that explicitly
states its objectives and the force structure required to
achieve them. In giving practical shape to the contours of
India’s nuclear posture, the political decision-makers who
are placed Janus-like at the intersection of the domestic and
international spheres will have to balance both internal and
external factors. This involves a delicate trade-off between
military expenditure and economic development.
the desired level of weapons that India must possess for its
security, ambiguity still prevails. If the draft nuclear
doctrine released in August, 1999, is taken as a statement of
"general principles", as some members of the
National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) have said, nothing
definitive about the configuration of the nuclear force can be
concluded. In a statement to parliament, Prime Minister
Vajpayee made an oblique reference to China: "We are not
going to enter into an arms race with any country. Ours will
be a minimum credible deterrent which will safeguard India’s
security." Thus the draft doctrine does not seem to be
country or threat-specific, but it certainly is open-ended
even as it reflects India’s aversion to risky and expensive
a freelance defence analyst based in Washington, examines
Pakistan’s nuclear rationale and the costs and consequences
of Islamabad’s actions to match India, bomb for bomb and
missile for missile. Pakistan’s nuclear policy remains
India-specific despite periodic rhetoric or allegations about
its development of the Islamic bomb in support of Islamic
causes. Although it is in Pakistan’s interest to dispel such
suspicions of wider nuclear objectives, there are few in that
country who will argue that Pakistan unilaterally give up its
right to nuclear weapons without an equivalent Indian
according to Zahra, irrespective of India’s claim that its
nuclear policy is globally oriented and not directed at
Pakistan, it cannot avoid the complicating Pakistani nuclear
factor. Under such locked-in and predetermined circumstances
and with little room for manoeuver, she argues that for the
sake of regional nuclear stability it would be important for
the West to ensure that democracy and political and economic
stability prevail in Pakistan.
Mistry reviews the history and development of India’s space
programme, analysis the capabilities of its space assets, and
examines their political, economic and geostrategic
implications. The space assets and programme — developed for
commercial purposes — have found military applications. The
draft nuclear doctrine formulated by the NSAB specifically
calls for space-based communication and reconnaissance
reconnaissance capability would upgrade India’s strike
potential which would in turn dilute the Pakistani deterrent.
However, with the Pakistani nuclear delivery systems becoming
more susceptible to an Indian first strike, it could make
Islamabad more likely to consider a pre-emptive first strike
of its own. These factors have significant implications for
regional security because they decrease the stability of
deterrence in the subcontinent.
would take at least until 2003 for India to develop a modest
nuclear deterrent force against China, India’s satellite
reconnaissance systems will enable New Delhi to counter
Chinese conventional threats in the short term.
examines the issue of ballistic missile proliferation in South
Asia. He says that the risk of an inadvertent nuclear conflict
between India and Pakistan has increased. The centrality of
nuclear-tipped surface-to-surface missiles to India’s and
Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is likely to increase as their
security perceptions spur further augmentation of their
missile capabilities. A threat perception that could lead to
full weaponisation is India’s fear of Chinese encirclement
and the belief that a significant nuclear capability is
required against China.
serve as weapons of terror against the civilian population. In
the Indo-Pak context the targeting of the adversary’s
population centres with conventionally armed missiles could
cause problems for the government by triggering major
population movements and lowering morale.
scientist, reflects on the futility of nuclear weapons in
general and for India in particular. He invokes the dread and
despair expressed by Robert Oppenheimer, one of the first to
develop the atom bomb. On seeing the destructive power
unleashed by the bomb in 1945, Oppenheimer recalled a line
from the Bhagwad Gita: "Now I have become death, the
destroyer of the world."
Singer and Amit Gupta focus on arms control. Gupta proposes
the development of both a regional and an international arms
control agenda to help India to achieve the goals of
deterrence and cope with the post-test environment in a new
international system in which nuclear weapons are no longer
the sole currency of power.
There is a lot of meat in
this book for scholars, academics, the military brass and
policy makers to chew on. But because the draft nuclear
doctrine and the Kargil Review Committee Report have not even
been debated in Parliament, there is little to hope that a
wholesome debate will take place to address the entire
spectrum of security concerns India faces in the regional and