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

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Lessons of Hope for India and Pakistan

Animosity at Bay: An Alternative History of the India–Pakistan Relationship, 1947–52 by Pallavi Raghavan, HarperCollins Publishers India, 2020, pp 288, 699.

In the 74-year-old history of India and Pakistan, it is the more recent memory of terrorist attacks in Mumbai and other places, that tends to overpower the monstrosity of partition and the visuals of endless streams of refugees. The two countries lurch between wars and failed peace moves and function in a state of suspended hostility. The fog of war, terrorism and partition often obscures the fact that these were two new states that were formed in 1947 and that history of how they evolved, with bilateral engagement forming a crucial part of this process, is a fascinating and important one. Pallavi Raghavan’s Animosity at Bay: An Alternative History of the India-Pakistan Relationship, 1947–1952 offers a ringside look at this dialogue and problem-solving between India and Pakistan, and how that process formed an integral part of state formation and in a sense, solidified partition.

Starting with the nitty-gritties of the bureaucratic travails of the respective high commissions, the book examines the Nehru–Liaquat Pact in which they agreed to protect the interests of the minorities in their respective countries, along with the question of evacuee property, the no war pact, the Indus Waters Treaty and trade and financial relations. The book also examines how the countries dealt with each other on international platforms. At the heart of the nascent post- partition relationship of the two states was a desire to cooperate, which may be hard to digest for the hawks on both sides. The book stands apart as it uses each of the examples to meticulously trace the process of engagement through archival research. That this was not to last is evident in how each state conceptualised its identity and who belonged to it, and how it would dictate what constituted its external relations. The road ahead seemed initially paved with good intentions and that is an important context to understand not only post partition politics but also later developments, leading to intractability and war.

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Updated On : 28th Aug, 2021
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