There have been several seminal works on Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, including a recent book by a member of the US Navy SEALS team that took out Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout. Now another book, but this one is by an Indian author, noted journalist and veteran editor Hiranmay Karlekar. This is his first work on Afghanistan and builds on an earlier book, titled Bangladesh: The Next Afghanistan, published six years ago.
The thrust of Karlekar’s narrative is the threat posed by a resurgent Taliban-Al Qaeda takeover of Afghanistan. India, he warns, will be “the first to feel the aggressive consequences” of such a takeover, as Pakistan, compromised by its links with the Taliban, will escalate Ghazwa-e-Hind or the Battle for India, which began in the 1980s with terror strikes. It could even force a conventional war in which the threat of using nuclear weapons could come into play. Karlekar explores the motives and intentions of the many players in the Afghanistan game, including the US and Pakistan. He documents Washington’s failures and Islamabad’s accurate weighing of how far Uncle Sam would be willing to stretch his neck out in this desolate Asian backwater.
One would have liked to read more about India in the Afghan context, how the MEA sees the Afghan checkerboard playing out, how it plans to defend the $1 billion it has invested in scores of goodwill projects, whether it is looking at military options, and whether any contact has been initiated with the Taliban. (The MEA says no, but Afghans talk of why the Taliban may not have targeted Indian projects.) Those who follow Afghanistan may be especially interested in a reading of how Indian policy for Afghanistan may shape out post-2014. Does Pakistan want a resurgent Taliban in Kabul? In Track-ii meetings, retired ISI officers have reportedly told their Indian counterparts that they’d prefer an Afghanistan with a weak man at the top, not the Taliban, which would seek to expand into Pakistan’s Pushtoon territories.
Karlekar’s research is extensive. He covers familiar ground but significantly adds to our understanding of a neighbour near yet distant. Perhaps we can look forward to another work on some of the more Indiacentric issues that Afghanistan throws up.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
What is the difference between Thomas Hardy and Doestovsky? Doestovsky is said to be special, because the plot is lost, and then found, and redeemed, according to readers. Thomas Hardy doesn't seem to do the same, in extent, according to his admirers. It depends whether one would read Mr. Karlekar's book, and Mr. Darlymple's book. Mr. Dalrymple writes about the early interaction with the Afghan's. Mr. Karlekar perhaps gives intimation, where a section of civiliation wants to make Afghanistan a friend, in the modern world.
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