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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest


Conflict Unending: Indo-Pakistani Tensions Since 1947
Sumit Ganguly

New York, Columbia University Press, 2001
200 pp PB $18.50, ISBN 0-231-12369-8

In his concise account of the major Kashmir-related Indo-Pakistani conflicts since 1947, Sumit Ganguly provides a well-researched and thoughtful overview of the events that are responsible for the ongoing tension in South Asia. Ganguly starts by dissecting the first war after the partition of India and Pakistan and the following chapters describe and analyze each successive conflict. After discussing the Kargil War of 1999, Ganguly ends with a post-September 11 Epilogue, making recommendations for the future. The chapters are fleshed out with two key components: insights into Indian and Pakistani political aims throughout the last fifty years and detailed explanations of the military maneuvers and their significance to Indo-Pakistani relations. The appendices, which include UN resolutions, agreements and parts of the Indian constitution, are a nice addition to the book and are helpful in understanding why this conflict is deep-rooted.

In addition, Conflict Unending contributes a different perspective and explanation as to why the discord over Kashmir appears to be irresolvable. The author submits that "the underlying basis of the Indo-Pakistani conflict is really an argument about the fundamentals of state-construction" (5). He also proposes that "Pakistan's irredentist claim to Kashmir" (5) is another important reason for underlying tensions. This second, and more provocative statement, is what Ganguly tries to prove throughout the book by showing the Pakistani inability to effectively capture territory from India in any of the major military battles. Every chapter includes some mention of Pakistani miscalculation and error on and off the battlefield. In a particularly harsh judgment, Ganguly states that "The anti-Indian and chauvinistic ideology of the authoritarian Pakistani state repeatedly contributed to a flawed assessment of India's military capabilities and will" (7).

While captivating and easy to read, Conflict Unending does not present a completely balanced perspective. At times, the obvious bias in favor of India prevents Ganguly from appropriately criticizing the actions of the Indian government during the various stages of the ongoing conflict. Additionally, his India-centered approach to resolving the Kashmir issue (diving Kashmir along the Line of Control), while possibly the only viable solution, is too narrow in scope and does not take into account the emotional issue of national pride. However, Ganguly does correctly acknowledge that only US involvement will help bring a resolution to the conflict. On the whole, Ganguly's account is both thorough and interesting for South Asian scholars and non-scholars alike.

Bindi Patel

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