Reginald Massey FRSA, is an authority on the culture, religion, music and dance of India. Some of his books are standard works and used by international bodies such as New York's Lincoln Center. In 2002 he delivered the keynote address to inaugurate the Indian Classical Dance Season at the Edinburgh Festival. He wrote and narrated the BBC's well known documentary on Kathakali, the dance drama of Kerala. Later he wrote and produced “Bangladesh I Love You”, a new style travel-docu that starred the boxing phenomenon Muhammad Ali. He has written for leading papers such as The Times and The Guardian and has been a critic of The Dancing Times of London for nearly four decades. [Background of Reginald Massey FRSA , as compiled by the BBC.]
By Dilip Hiro
Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-17378-9
Reviewed by Reginald Massey FRSA.
Dilip Hiro is well known to those who are interested in South, Central and Western Asia. Born in Larkana, the fiefdom of the feudal Bhuttos of Sindh, his writings have received worldwide attention and praise. His play To Anchor a Cloud was premiered in London in 1970 and was well received by the mainstream critics. It is the most moving and powerful drama yet written about Shah Jehan and Mumtaz and the inspiration and erection of the Taj Mahal.
The British imposed Durand Line which defined the 1,610 mile long border between Afghanistan and British India cut across Waziristan and thus split the Waziri and Mehsud tribes between Aghanistan and British India. Pakistan inherited the Durand Line which was one of the reasons why Afghanistan and Pakistan were never on very friendly terms. Both successor states of the Raj inherited the sins of their former masters. Likewise, the McMahon and Johnson Lines in India’s case. These frontiers –imposed on China then considered a ‘degraded nation of opium-drugged coolies’ by the west – were rejected by the new resurgent China. Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai were a different breed as are their present day successors. The next century, it is widely believed, is going to be a Chinese Century. In fact, it is my prognostication that it is China that will eventually obliterate Islamism.
But Nehru, born an Indian Kashmiri Pandit but an Englishman to the core, insisted that the British demarcations were India’s frontiers. His stubborn attitude resulted in India’s military humiliation in 1962. Even to this day the frontier has not been clearly mapped or agreed upon. The Indian government does not talk too loudly about the matter but tracts of Arunachal Pradesh, in India’s North East, are claimed by China. It is only a matter of time before China will physically move into the territory that was mendaciously sequestrated by Sir Arthur Henry McMahon. The Johnson Line is not even discussed now since China has occupied the Aksai Chin region.
In 1979 the pro-Moscow Afghan government worried Washington and President Carter authorized the CIA to help anti-Marxist Afghan rebels. In this enterprise he sought the assistance of the obnoxious Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator or Pakistan.
Money, arms, ammunition and military training were provided to the Islamists by the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This happened six months before the deployment of the Soviet army in Afghanistan. The eventual defeat of the Soviets strengthened the resolve of the jihadis. Islamic schools, madrassas, were established in Pakistan with the active encouragement of Zia-ul-Haq. He believed that if the Islamists could defeat the mighty Soviets then India, his arch enemy, would be no problem.
At the same time madrassas were started in India with money from Saudi Arabia.
India has a home grown jihadi problem but has managed to deal with it and somehow control it. India’s bigger problems are the expanding Hindu militant groups and the Marxist (Naxalite) uprisings. And then there is the unsolved Kashmir issue and the discovery of the remains of ‘the disappeared’ in Indian Kashmir has not helped India’s standing.
However, in Pakistan the problem of Islamism threatens the very existence of the state. The army and the civil authorities seem to be powerless to deal with the menace. Pakistan
is, after all, an Islamic state and the Islamists wave the flag of Islam. Their slogans proclaim Islam and the supremacy of Sharia Law. If an educated secular-minded Pakistani opens his mouth against the iniquities of Sharia he risks a blasphemy fatwa
from a semi-literate mullah. I know many Pakistanis who are deeply worried about their country’s future. But they dare not confront the Islamists openly. Moreover, the current mushrooming of telly-mullahs is another disturbing development.
Hiro lists major skirmishes between Afghan and Pakistani forces since 2005. Another fact: thirty years before India established full diplomatic relations with Israel, India was importing arms from Israel. And yet another fact that most people do not know:
only two of Pakistan’s six claimed atomic tests in 1998 actually involved nuclear explosions and two of India’s five declared nuclear tests did not take place at all. Nevertheless, both are nuclear armed states and real danger lies ahead if the Islamists get their hands on Pakistan’s nuclear missiles. The Islamists continually argue about the existence of what they label ‘state-sponsored terrorism’. They cite Israel’s actions in the Gaza strip and the West Bank and India’s heavy military presence in Kashmir.
There is no doubt that the jihadists of Al-Qaeda in collusion with Taliban activists in Afghanistan and Pakistan aim to establish an Apocalyptic Realm which would comprise the whole of South, Central and Western Asia. Hiro offers some fresh strategies to combat and even defeat jihadist extremism. India and the west have got to realize that Islamism is basically an internal Muslim problem. No outside intervention can solve it. That is why foreign intervention in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have failed most miserably. All over the Muslim world, Muslims are murdering Muslims. The latest on the list is the shattered condition of Syria.
The six maps in this book are thoroughly informative.