T.C.A. Raghavan, The People Next Door: The Curious History of India’s Relations with Pakistan

Pakistan’s position in the regional politics of South Asia has always remained a gravitational point of global academic circles due to Islamabad’s counterbalancing role against New Delhi’s belligerent regional approach. The intellectual communities from various parts of the world tried to explain and analyse the evolving nature of India-Pakistan hostility and its unquestionable association to South Asian regional politics. So, an active engagement of international academic circles in the South Asian regional affairs has resulted in varying arguments on the New Delhi-Islamabad hostility in regional and extra-regional affairs. The book under review is an analytical survey of a diplomat who observed the toxic interaction of two nuclear neighbours having decades-long hostility. A diplomatic account of India-Pakistan hostility has been maintained by Raghavan, who served as Deputy High Commissioner (2003-07) and High Commissioner in Pakistan. The professional background of serving beyond South Asia enabled Raghavan to thoroughly summarise the changing nature of multi-layered enmity between Islamabad and New Delhi. Based on his academic knowledge supported by a PhD degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, the professional experience in the Indian Foreign Service facilitated Raghavan in completing the book on impartial grounds.

The book is divided into eight brief chapters, and every chapter covers a separate theme related to the India-Pakistan rivalry. In addition to covering the whole debate comprehensively in eight chapters, a short introduction and brief epilogues in the book starts and ends research in the book. The chronological order in Raghavan’s study tries to make it a ‘history book and not a ‘policy’ book explaining the evolution of India-Pakistan historical antagonism (p. xi). The persistently evolving unfriendliness between the two nuclear neighbours further shed light on different situations, scenarios, and issues about an irrepressible New Delhi-Islamabad hostility. The historical overview of the conflicted interaction between South Asian rivals equipped with nuclear weapon capabilities is the book’s central theme cemented in the author’s personal stories and professional experiences belong to his life in Pakistan. While adopted various angles in studying the South Asian problems linked to New Delhi-Islamabad’s toxic diplomatic and politically incompatible behaviours, the involvement of external players internationalises the politics of nuclearised subcontinent, which is an important part of the discussion in the book.

The knowledge-based of a strong academic background and the professional experiences founded in diplomatic career made Raghavan’s study an important contribution in the existing literature discussing the South Asian security environment. The regional security environment disturbed by an unending India-Pakistan rivalry maintained by Raghavan in the book slightly echoes the author’s antipathy towards Islamabad. The academic and professional associations of authors to Indian politics influenced the arguments in the book, which undermined the impartial and unbiased features of the study. Raghavan animosity in structuring and framing the book’s main argument further affected the legitimacy and legality of the main arguments in the book. Furthermore, the inclusion of selectively critical literature produced by different authors further compromised the balanced foundations of the available data accessed for the book. An analytical survey of varying levels of India-Pakistan confrontational behaviours faintly emphasises the role of cinema and film industry in constructing toxic societal attributes in both countries in Raghavan’s analysis (p. 217). Moreover, the role of cricket diplomacy and a brief detail of cricket matches contested by the two-sided sportsmen tries to explain another dimension of antagonism between both hostile neighbours. Instead of establishing and promoting the constructive role of diplomatic forces at different levels, the arrangement of cricket matches between Indian and Pakistani teams emerged as an irrefutable social aggression across the border (p. 269).

By explain and analysing the different phases of historical antagonism between New Delhi and Islamabad against each other, the book’s prime focus is on the different features of hostility between two nuclear neighbours of South Asia. In his study, the analysis of Raghavan mainly described the societal factors in the decades-long rivalry between two nuclear neighbours of South Asia. The discussion on the politics of the sport, the role of TV channels, and the film industry explain the two-sided societal toxic interaction between both nuclear nations. In this way, the book is an appropriate study to estimate the academic strength of the Indian academic community discussing New Delhi’s historical antagonism against Islamabad. The book is an appropriate study to understand the existing level of New Delhi’s way of examining the South Asian regional politics upset by India-Pakistan rivalry.

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