Author Archive

In Memoriam: Isher Ahluwalia, 1945-2020


October 28, 2020: Isher Ahluwalia came from a modest family of 11 siblings, discovered her remarkable academic talents in high school, and went on to start a brilliant career and a devoted marriage to Montek while they were living in Washington and Isher was finishing her PhD. She was, in short, intimidatingly smart, and gorgeous and gracious besides. But much more importantly, she was a brilliant economist, a woman of heart and dedication, with strong and very human priorities. These are the qualities to which her many friends were attached.

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Book Reviews: Pakistan, India, China

Survival 62-5 Book Reviews – South Asia

September 28, 2020: Three very different books caught my eye this year. Mariam Abou Zahab’s Pakistan: A Kaleidoscope of Islam provides a close-up and granular picture of a variety of strands of the Islamist movement. Her basic argument is that while the movement is usually described in ideological terms, the rivalries within it almost always turn on much more concrete local issues. Especially fascinating is her picture of Jhang, an area well known for having chiefly Shi’a landowners and Sunni laborers. Montek Ahluwalia’s autobiography, Backstage: The Story behind India’s High Growth Years, is an engaging account of his own life before he became one of India’s best known public servants and half of the country’s premier “economist power couple. Lots of economic analysis, leavened with a wonderful depiction of the personalities and professional cultures involved. Finally, in Fateful Triangle: How China Shaped India-US Relations during the Cold War, Tanvi Madan challenges much of the conventional wisdom about the awkward India-US relationship during India’s first three decades of independence. She argues that the way India and the United States were positioning themselves vis-a-vis China led to ebbs and flows in US-India ties. This story ends before today’s US-India relationship took shape – but Ms. Madan is working on another book, so we can hope the story is continued.

Click here to read review.

This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©The International Institute for Strategic Studies. Available online at:


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In Memoriam: K. Shankar Bajpai

K. Shankar Bajpai (flickr)

In Memoriam – K. Shankar Bajpai


September 7, 2020: The passing of K. Shankar Bajpai fells one of the giants of Indian diplomacy, a man who distinguished himself heading diplomatic missions in arguably three of the four most important posts for India – Pakistan, China, and the United States.


My connection with Bajpai dates from 1976, when he arrived in Islamabad as India’s first Ambassador to Pakistan after the 1971 war. It was a difficult posting for him. Pakistan was still reeling from the loss of its Eastern wing (which had become Bangladesh); Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Read more

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In Memoriam, Stephen P. Cohen, 1936-2019


December 6, 2019: The first time Steve Cohen came into the lives of the Schaffer family was when he turned up in New Delhi as a grad student some time in the early/mid 1960s. My late husband, Howard Schaffer, was a young political officer at the U.S. Embassy; Steve was on his way to becoming one of the pioneers among the U.S. academics specializing in the region. What both men remembered was that it was freezing cold. Steve curled up in a blanket in Howard’s apartment to keep warm.

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Book Reviews 2019: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

October 29, 2019: This year’s book reviews include two that focus on the relationship between Islamist extremism and broader national life – Madiha Afzal, writing about Pakistan, and Joseph Allchin, examining Bangladesh. The other three are primarily historical, but examine the historical roots of issues that are still with us. Srinath Raghavan puts his historian’s scalpel to work dissecting the US approach to South Asia, along three axes: power, ideology, and culture. Gyan Prakash looks at India’s Emergency, arguing that the stage was set for it decades earlier. And Walter Andersen and Sridhar Damle, in a sequel to their earlier classic book on the Hindutva movement, analyze the RSS and its role in Indian life and politics.

Read full reviews here.

This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©, The International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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Kashmir: Upheaval…and looking back

August 8, 2019: On August 6, the Indian government abolished the special status and limited autonomy Jammu and Kashmir had enjoyed since soon after India became independent. The action was generally popular in India, but was greeted with shock and anger among Kashmiri muslims and in Pakistan. This article gives you my take on this recent action.

But we also offer a look back. As many of my readers know, Howard Schaffer tracked developments in Kashmir for much of his long Foreign Service career. The account he gave of his first trip to the Kashmir valley in 1964, linked here from the Web site of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, is fascinating in light of the subsequent history. Read more

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Sri Lanka: The Indian Peace Keeping Force in Hindsight

Brookings India March 5, 2019

Brookings India hosted the first session in its series “Back to the Future” on March 5, 2019 in New Delhi. The  panel discussion examined the events leading up to the entrance and exit of the Indian Peace Keeping Force into Sri Lanka in 1987-90. Participants included four Indians who had been in critical policy-making positions in their government during this period, and Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, who provided a view from the United States, both on her own behalf and reflecting the experience of her late husband, Amb. Howard Schaffer. The discussion illustrates some of the different priorities in different parts of the Indian government; the sharp change in perspective when Ranasinghe Premadasa succeeded J.R. Jayawardene as Sri Lankan president; and a U.S. government position that supported the IPKF but remained quite detached.

A summary of the proceedings is here; a video of the session is here. Schaffer’s portion of the discussion is from 1:09 to 1:30 on the timeline of the video.

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Book Reviews: Pakistan and India

From Flickr,

November 9, 2018: Among this year’s good reads on South Asia one is on Pakistan/Afghanistan, Steve Coll’s Directorate S, which picks up the story he began in Ghost Wars about the way these two countries and the United States interacted during the decade and a half starting in 2001. One is on India, a riveting addition to the “New India” literature by James Crabtree, former Financial Times correspondent in Mumbai, aptly titled The Billionaire Raj. The other three look at Pakistan and India: Spy Chronicles, an extended long interview by two former intelligence chiefs from the two rivals, which will probably tell you more about how each related to his own government than about how the two countries relate; The People Next Door, by a former Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan, with a sensitively drawn take on how the two countries look at each other; and Moeed Yusuf’s Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments, about the challenges that a multi-player environment adds to the Cold War era conventional wisdom about nuclear negotiations.

Read full review here.

This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©, The International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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India’s Data Localization


The suggested draft bill released in July by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna committee is the most recent contribution to a sprawling debate over electronic data that has been going on in India and elsewhere for some years. The report and the bill concern the privacy of personal data, but they are part of a policy discussion that goes much farther, encompassing essentially all data that are stored electronically. This is a classic example of the old adage: be careful what you wish for – you might be sorry if it comes true.


See op-ed by Teresita Schaffer, published in The Print (India) October 10, 2018.

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Pakistan elections: Imran Khan Rising?


July 21, 2018: Since my last article on Pakistan, the election scene has shifted. At this point, it’s looking like an ugly election, and a decisive PML-N victory will be a surprise. The election is set for July 25.

Imran Khan from

The squeeze on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his party has tightened. Nawaz and his daughter Maryam were sentenced to ten years in prison by an administrative anti-corruption court for possession of property in Britain beyond their known sources of income. Both returned to Pakistan July 13 from London, where they were accompanying Nawaz’s seriously ill wife. On their return, both were immediately transported to prison.


There are numerous stories in the press about intimidation of newspapers and of candidates from the PML-N. Some include references to “people in uniform.”

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