Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hoisted from the comments: MJ Akbar on The Blood Telegram, etc.

The best books I read this year were both from America. The Blood Telegram: India's Secret War in East Pakistan by Gary Bass, is less on the secret war conducted by Delhi and far more on Washington's secret policy of indifference towards the Pakistan Army's genocide in what was then East Pakistan during the fateful year of 1971, which ended in a war that created a new nation, Bangladesh. The second great read was The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinzer, which graphs the lives of the two brothers, one a secretary of state and the other a CIA chief. They controlled American foreign policy during the Eisenhower administration between 1952 and 1960.

If you think there are too many secrets on the cover, rest assured this is no exaggeration judging by what is revealed between the covers. If you want to revel in America-bashing, go ahead. There is enough to fuel a lifetime of fulminations. But I also marvelled at the unwritten sub-text, which neither author chose to stress: how focused and unrelenting America, with its many leaderships, is when it comes to national interest.

One wonders when India's foreign policy will be injected with a little more steel of self-interest, instead of being a charity shop of good intentions. It is good that Indian diplomats have stood up for one of their own in America. But this is only evidence of what they can do, individually and collectively, if they are given the freedom to stand up for their country with equal backbone.