Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years by AS Dulat

Image result for Kashmir: the vajpayee yearsAS Dulat, is an erudite on the subject of Kashmir and also ex RAW chief, India's premiere Intelligence agency. In Kashmir, the Vajpayee years, Mr. Dulat shares his opinions, thoughts and experiences on the conundrum that is Kashmir. The author has spent a lifetime in Kashmir and knows all the power players personally. His work on Kashmir for the IB, RAW and the PMO make him a considerable expert on the subject.

Mr. Dulat is an ardent advocate of dialogue with all parties involved. During his lifetime he engaged in dialogue with Kashmiris from all walks of life, which included hardened separatists and even Pakistan backed terrorists. From his understanding there are two ways to untangle the 'Gordian knot' as he calls the problem of Kashmir either we blow the Kashmiris to hell and destroy ourselves in the process or talk to them and come to a mutually acceptable solution. Kashmir is a Muslim dominated state who at the time of partition was ruled by a Hindu ruler, Raja Hari Singh, the King of Kashmir was still contemplating on which direction to go whether to stay with India, go with Kashmir or become a sovereign state. This is when the Pak army invaded Kashmir and Hari Singh's hand was forced to accept the help of Nehru. Indian Army was lodged in Kashmir and has not left since.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

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Dan Ariely, is a behavioral economist, and a contemporary of Daniel  Kahneman, who is the author of Thinking Fast and Slow. When Dan Areily was young student in Israel, he was involved in a tragic accident which burnt half of his body, the poor fellow had to go to the hospital to get his bandages changed everyday. It was an excruciating process, the nurses used to pull the bandages quickly to shorten the duration of pain, Dan did not like this approach and after some research and education suggested an alternative, he suggested that the bandages be removed slowly, which would increase the duration but lower the intensity. Dan's recommendation were never implemented on a large scale, he was befuddled by the behavior of the nurses, after all their skills and experience they kept making the same mistakes. Perhaps, other people similarly made the same mistakes, they misunderstand the consequence of their behavior and, for that reason repeat the wrong decisions; This is the scope of this book. The author through repeated experiments and empirical evidence shows how we humans make the same mistakes again and again without learning and delude ourselves into believing that we are logical and rational beings.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Between Military and Mosque by Husain Haqqani

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Husain Haqani is Pakistan's former ambassador to USA, he is also an erudite on the subject of Pakistani politics and History. Through this book the author takes us through the history of Pakistan over the last 7 decades. The influence of religion and Military on Pakistan and how these two institutions have shaped Pakistan for good or bad and will continue to do so for decades to come.

Pakistan throughout it's history has had an arduous existence. From a dearth of resources, hostile neighbors and to a struggling economy. Pakistan has had to deal with a multitude of complex problem some of them her own creation. In fact the idea of Pakistan, as a separate state for Muslims, is in itself a misnomer since there are more Muslims in India than Pakistan.  The author enlightens the reader on Pakistan's three pronged approach to counter these myriad of problems.

A) Perpetual hostility towards India, Pakistan views Kashmir as an unfinished business of partition and feels it was cheated of it's territory. After India orchestrated the split of East Pakistan from the west, this enmity grew further.

B) Islam as the unifying force, Pakistan was created in haste and in this haste a lot of different and incompatible sections of the populace were brought together be it the Bengalis, Baloch, Sindhis, Afghans and Punjabis etc. Pakistan has tried to keep everyone under the prodigious umbrella of Islam.

C) Reliance on an external benefactor - Pakistan quite early in its history recognized the importance of USA; Pakistan started vowing USA. Pakistani diplomats and generals started deftly coaxing large sums of money from America. Pakistan a third world country maintains a first class military and to sustain its military expenses it looks to USA, China and Saudi Arabia to foot the bill. In return the Pakistanis act as bases for these countries to wage war. The author goes into much details about this in his book.