In This Review

Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947
Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947
By Sumit Ganguly
Columbia University Press, 2002, 187 pp.

Since gaining independence in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought four wars and endured several crises. The recent evolution of Indian and Pakistani nuclear capabilities has led commentators to brand the subcontinent "the most dangerous place on earth." Hence the dearth of serious scholarship on the roots of Indo-Pakistani animosity is puzzling. Analysts of South Asian security affairs have tended to put the cart before the horse by intensively studying subcontinental nuclear issues while neglecting the underlying political dynamics that produced the Indo-Pakistani nuclear arms competition.

Ganguly has now filled this hole in the literature. In his brilliant new book, he provides a sophisticated and lucid explanation of why India and Pakistan have suffered such chronically bad relations. Conflict Unending sets the industry standard for those scholars who aspire to combine rigorous social science with regional expertise, and it cements Ganguly's reputation as one of the world's leading experts on subcontinental political affairs.

Ganguly develops a three-tiered explanation of Indo-Pakistani conflict. First, he cites the "fundamentally divergent ideological commitments of the dominant nationalist elites," which create an irreconcilable dynamic whereby the success of India's secular nationalism inevitably implies the failure of Pakistan's Islamic nationalism -- and vice-versa. Second, this ideological chasm has yielded irredentist (Pakistani) and anti-irredentist (Indian) claims to the disputed territory of Kashmir. Third, these conditions have provided the backdrop for repeated "opportunistic" clashes, where "one or both parties saw significant opportunities at critical historical junctures to damage the other's fundamental claims." Ganguly applies this analysis to the entire history of Indo-Pakistani animosity and sees little hope for a breakthough. Although pessimistic, Ganguly's work provides South Asianists with an invaluable foundation from which to reinvigorate their efforts at creating a stable and just subcontinental order. Given the tortured history of Indo-Pakistani relations, that foundation is itself a glimmer of optimism.