In the field of South Asian studies, a new work by Sumit Ganguly is always welcome. A scholar with vast experience of the history, politics, and impact of the decades long Indo-Pakistani rivalry, few thinkers are as well equipped to assess and explore the continued salience and influence of that rivalry into the the twenty-first century.
Deadly Impasse: Indo-Pakistani Relations at the Dawn of a New Century takes a perceptive look at Indo-Pakistani relations from 1999 to 2009, a decade that saw recurrent crises, attempted peace negotiations, and outbreaks of seemingly state-approved terrorism. Ganguly takes as his central issue the disputed lands of Muslim-majority Kashmir, a point of contention between the two states ever since the 1947 Partition. The volume itself is slim, but crisp, clear, and succinctly argued. Across seven chapters, Ganguly sets out his case that thinking of Indo-Pakistani tension strictly in terms of security is to misunderstand the nature of this long-standing and seemingly intractable confrontation.
The study centers around the applicability–or otherwise–of the concept of the security dilemma to continued Indo-Pakistani tension. At the outset, Ganguly poses the deceptively simple question: does the security dilemma adequately explain the nature and persistence of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute into the twenty-first century? The dilemma suggests that the simple act of a state attempting to increase its security–for example through the purchase of advanced arms–actually makes it less secure, as its rivals perceive this as an aggressive act and in turn embark upon their own attempts to increase their security.
In the simplest terms, the author’s argument is that no, the security dilemma does not adequately explain continued Indo-Pakistani tension, especially regarding the hot-button issue of Kashmir. Drawing on Charles Glaser’s notion of the “greedy state” that acts from non-security motives (the desire for wealth, territory, or prestige), Ganguly makes the case for the significance of Pakistan’s revisionist desire to challenge the South Asian status quo established in 1947. This is in turn coupled to the power and influence of the Pakistani security/military establishment in political affairs. Indeed, the author notes that the Pakistani military has “been long committed to a policy of unrelenting hostility towards India” (p. 54). Moreover, the desire to integrate Kashmir into Pakistan stems from irredentism on Islamabad’s part and its self-perception as the true home of the subcontinent’s Muslim population. Ganguly thus argues that these factors more convincingly explain the persistence of regional conflict.