Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Longest August by Dilip Hiro

“Brisk and clear history of partition and its effects... Mr Hiro has written a highly readable account of a complicated history... A dispassionate chronological narrative, it is an excellent introduction to a bitterly contested topic.”  The Economist


Dilip Hiro’s ‘The Longest August’ gives the most comprehensive look at a global hotspot that has played an important role in the many of the major global struggles of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from decolonization to the current War on Terror.



Perseus presents
the excellent
The Longest August
by
Dilip Hiro




The long running one-upmanship between Pakistan and India continues. To get even with Delhi for hosting US President Barrack Obama as the chief guest for India’s Republic Day parade on 26 January 2015, Islamabad invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to be its chief guest at the Pakistan Day parade on 23 March.

The rivalry between the two South Asian neighbors dates back to 14 August 1947 when British India was divided into independent Pakistan and India. This occurred in the midst of communal holocaust, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. More than 750,000 people were butchered, and 12 million fled their homes – largely in caravans of bullock-carts – to seek refuge across the new border. It was the largest exodus in history. Sixty-eight years later, it is as if that August never ended.

In a riveting account of the relationship between India and Pakistan, renowned historian and journalist Dilip Hiro traces the landmark events dating back to 1888, and rooted in Hindu-Muslim tensions, that led to the partition of the sub-continent. To this day, lasting amity between Hindus and Muslims has proved elusive, and the Line of Control in Kashmir remains the most heavily fortified frontier in the world, with 400,000 soldiers arrayed on either side.

Since 1947, there have been several acute crises between the neighbors, including the secession of East Pakistan to form an independent Bangladesh in 1971, and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by both sides resulting in a narrowly avoided confrontation in 1999 and 2002. Hiro also illustrates the geopolitical importance of the India-Pakistan conflict by chronicling their respective ties not only with America and the Soviet Union, but also with China, Israel, and Afghanistan

Hiro weaves these threads into a lucid narrative, enlivened with colorful biographies of leaders, vivid descriptions of wars, sensational assassinations, gross violations of human rights-and cultural signifiers like cricket matches. The Longest August is incomparable in its scope. It presents the first definitive history of one of the world's longest-running and most intractable conflicts.

The Longest August contains many startling revelations.
·         For example, it was Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who organized the armed tribal recruits’ raid on Kashmir in October 1947 (p. 115).
·         As early December 1948, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru decided against holding the promised plebiscite in Kashmir (p.151).
·         To find out why China suddenly declared unilateral ceasefire on 20 November 1962 when its troops were winning, see p. 172.
·         And what made Pakistani President Field Marshall Ayub Khan change the operational commander in mid-stream during the Indian-Pakistan War in Sept 1965, thereby giving India a chance to bolster its forces, see p. 183.
·         An unvarnished description of the debacle that Pakistani military faced in the Kargil War in May 1999 was published in October 2013 by Lt-General Shahid Aziz in his Urdu-language book How Long This Silence? (p. 297).
·         It was in late September 1999 that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf finalized his clandestine plan to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (p. 304).

The Author:

Dilip Hiro is one of the world's leading experts on the Middle Eastern, Central and South Asian, and Islamic affairs.  His 34 books include Inside India Today, The Timeline History of India, Inside Central Asia, and Apocalyptic Realm: Jihadists in South Asia. He contributes to the New York Times, Guardian, Observer, Nation, and Los Angeles Times as well as Salon, TomDispatch, and YaleGlobal online magazine. He is a commentator for CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera English.

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