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.
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: http://www.iiss.org/publications/survival/.