In This Review

The Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India, and Pakistan
The Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India, and Pakistan
By Robert J. McMahon
Columbia University Press, 1994, 431 pp.

The author, an American historian who has combed the archives, argues that the U.S. alliance with Pakistan in 1945 was a monumental strategic blunder that increased Indo-Pakistani hostility, undermined regional stability, and led India to seek closer ties with the Soviet Union. Examining the volatile South Asian region across four presidencies from Truman to Johnson, McMahon claims that the U.S. strategic rationale was ill-defined, inconsistent, and even contradictory because of its exaggerated concern about the Soviet threat and the indifference to regional imperatives. In a stimulating conclusion, he argues that there were at least two better options for U.S. policy in South Asia during the Cold War. First, there was the possibility of a regional policy centered on a strong relationship with India, an option advocated by the State Department's South Asia hands. Second, there was the possibility of careful evenhandedness, which would have ruled out security ties with either Pakistan or India.

This study is a model of its kind and, whether one accepts the conclusions or not, it sheds a good deal of light on center-periphery relations during the Cold War.