In This Review

Engaging India: U.S. Strategic Relations with the World's Largest Democracy

Engaging India: U.S. Strategic Relations with the World's Largest Democracy
Edited by Gary K. Bertsch, Seema Gahlaut, and Anupam Srivast
284 pp, Routledge, 1999
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India: A History

India: A History
By John Keay
592 pp, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000
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These two books arrive in time to help Americans seeking better relations with India in spite of the recent bumps in the road. Written shortly after India's 1998 nuclear tests, Engaging India focuses on improving U.S.-Indian relations after the diplomatic fallout. The Indian contributors strive to explain what led New Delhi to test the bomb and argue that this need not prevent closer relations. Their judicious, well-researched arguments conclude that Washington should accept the reality of a nuclear-armed subcontinent and work more closely with the Asian democracies to make certain that China does not destabilize the region.

Keay takes a much longer view in his ambitious history of five millennia of Indian life. Reviving the great Indian narrative tradition, he underscores the extraordinary amount of violence throughout Indian history. For example, the builder of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan, became emperor by defeating his father in war, ordering the deaths of his elder brother and several cousins, and then fighting each of his four sons. Keay does not romanticize the British rule of India, and his treatment of postindependence India is limited to a short chapter. Instead, he carefully uncovers India's prehistory -- a great challenge given that the ancient Indians left no texts -- and skillfully describes the evolving Indian concepts of kingship, statecraft, and military strategy. He even defends the chaotic Mughal succession battles because from "the filial free-for-alls there emerged some of the ablest, most charismatic, and long-lived rulers India has ever known."