A different Central Asia

South-Central Asia: Emerging Issues.
ed Dr Kuldip Singh.
Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. Pages 295. Rs 350.

I review this book as a student of political science, for after the break-up of the mighty USSR in December 1991, there is a paucity of material on the region. Scholars and policy makers have made this area a focus of their study, as the region has a great potential for progress, economically as well as politically.

The break-up of the Soviet Union, which saw the emergence of 15 sovereign states (of which five: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyztan are in Central Asia), meant different things to different people. The USSR meant social imperialism, where everything was centralised. The five states had been under the control of the Communist Party, but after gaining freedom, these have been trying to chart out their independent policies with regard to each other and other states.

The book is the result of a seminar where renowned scholars presented their papers. The research paper by Dr Bhupinder Brar, Professor, Department of Political Science, Punjab University, Chandigarh, suggests that we should "focus on how different Indians look at that region and, in the process, reveal themselves". P. S. Sahai, who is on the faculty of CRRID, Chandigarh, was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy, Moscow, during the year 1991-92. He says in his paper that because of the centralisation in the defunct USSR, India could not understand the Republics individually.

Meena Singh Roy, Research Officer, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi, argues that India’s foreign policy is now not only focusing on Pakistan and China but also moving towards Central Asia.

P. L. Dash, Professor, Centre for Central Eurasian studies, University of Mumbai, says that the states have enormous energy resources. While Gulshan Sachdeva, Associate Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, (JNU), New Delhi, delves into the various market reforms adopted by the five states, Sanjay Bhardwaj, Assistant Professor, JNU, argues that India is highly dependent upon the Gulf countries for oil imports.

Global terrorism should make India frame a dynamic foreign policy with regard to Central Asia to guarantee an uninterrupted flow of energy sources at affordable prices.

Nirmala Joshi, Professor, JNU, contends that prior to 1991, there was no nationalistic feeling among the people of the Soviet Union. With the Central Asian countries coming to their own, the ethnic divide can lead to clashes among the people and the states.

K. S. Sidhu, Professor, Punjabi University, Patiala, feels that Islamic fundamentalism can be one cause for concern. Baljit Singh, Reader, University of Jammu, analyses India’s policy towards Central Asia. Col Clifton Marques studies all players who have been taking a keen interest in the region. Ambrish Dhaka, Assistant Professor, JNU, identifies potential powers that would influence the course of events in the Central Asian countries.

The paper by Surendra Chopra, Formerly Professor and Head, GNDU, traces Pakistan’s efforts to carve an influential niche for itself in the region. Harmeet Singh, Senior Lecturer, GNDU, criticises the nuclear proliferation unleashed by Pakistan.

Mohammod Monir Alam, Lecturer, University of Jammu, has examined the emerging defence and security relations between Russia and Tajikistan. He says: "Without the Russian help, the survival of Tajikistan as a nation would have become difficult." Suneel Kumar, Senior Research Fellow, GNDU, says: "... the ruling elite of these multi-ethnic states has an ultimate goal of integrating the ethnically diverse populations into a single nation while diluting ethnic borders and legitimising political ones though nation building."

Vishal Chandra, Associate Fellow, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi, lays bare the perils of elections in Afghanistan. The paper by Rajlaxmi Dash, A Bibliographer’s Perspective on Central Asia, gives a detailed list of books, journals etc. written on Central Asia.

Dr Kuldip, editor, is also Director, Centre for South-Central Asian Studies, GNDU, Amritsar. His own paper is very comprehensive, in which he explains the nature of the US war on terrorism with reference to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The book fulfils the long-standing demand of students who want to know more about the five Central Asian states.