ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Ambitious Introduction to Latin America's Politics

Latin America: An Introduction by Vasant Kumar Bawa (Delhi: National Book Trust), 2010; pp 322, Rs 90.

When I returned to India after six months of fieldwork in Brazil, more than two decades ago, I met a senior journalist who scoffed at my excitement at having spent this time in Latin America. “What’s the use of studying Brazil?” he asked, “they are just in the pocket of the United States.” This was a view widely shared in New Delhi during the cold war, and in many ways, it was not incorrect. Latin America’s long and tortuous geopolitical history – “so far from God, so close to the United States”, as Mexican dictator Pofirio Diaz is said to have commented – has shaped the continent in profound ways. In 2012, however, the story is quite different. India and Brazil are closer to each other than ever before, and, more important, the relationship between the two countries is far more complex than can be defined by state-state ties. Even if there is a long way to go, it is unlikely that someone in my position would receive the same reaction today as I did in 1989.

In some ways, the best evidence of that change is the book under review, Vasant Kumar Bawa’s well-written and ambitious introduction to the region and its politics. Bawa is well known for other accomplishments: as a historian of Hyderabad and editor of the journal Deccan Studies. A former IAS officer, he has also long held a fascination with the region going back to the 1950s and his studies at Tulane University’s vibrant Latin American studies programme. His experience of following Latin American events has produced a book that is both timely and offers an effective political overview of the region. It is modestly priced and would be well suited for both undergraduates as well as newly anointed members of the Indian Foreign Service.

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