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The tense borders of the subcontinent

Is India in a position to focus on its foreign policy, or does it have more pressing domestic matters at hand? In this excerpt from his book Flying Blind, Mohamed Zeeshan takes a look at the relationship between India and South Asia.


Welcome to the world’s most fearsome neighbourhood. It hosts two nuclear-armed residents, has seen civil wars in at least three countries, and houses the world’s oldest, earliest and longest- running United Nations military observer mission. There is a third nuclear power just outside the door, and one of those civil wars ran for as long as three decades. All this is while discounting other nearby countries (hint: Afghanistan) which have been ravaged by multilateral fighting and terrorism for decades.

South Asian countries rarely contain problems within their own borders. Over the years, the region has witnessed cross-border military action on numerous occasions on multiple fronts—from Afghanistan in the north-west to Sri Lanka in the south-east. Domestic troubles often have region-wide implications—and civil wars in one country have killed prime ministers in another. Domestic political interests in provinces of India have often compromised deals and agreements with neighbours. In 2011, India and Bangladesh tried to sign a water-sharing agreement, in a bid to put an end to the long-running dispute over the Teesta River that flows across the two countries. The deal was quickly thwarted by opposition from the state of West Bengal.

front cover Flying Blind
Flying Blind||Mohamed Zeeshan

Such difficulties have led South Asia to become the least integrated region in the world. In his 1914 poem titled ‘Mending Wall’, Robert Frost wrote, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’ South Asia took him seriously. South Asia is one of the world’s fastest-growing regional economies, but that is not because of ties among its members: Trade between South Asian countries is a negligible 5 per cent of the total trade conducted by all South Asian countries (it was 3 per cent in 1990)—and represents just 2 per cent of South Asian GDP. Compare all this with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in South East Asia: Trade within that region is a healthy 25 per cent of all trade by ASEAN countries—and represents more than 20 per cent of ASEAN GDP. With nearly all intra-ASEAN tariffs eliminated, trade grew from $68.7 billion in 1995 to $257 billion in 2017, according to the Asian Development Bank.

But this sort of heavy fencing makes South Asia a problem for India; indeed, it is so critical a problem that New Delhi’s plans for global leadership will fall flat if India does not win support in South Asia. Consider this the veto vote over Indian leadership. No global power ever rises if it is constantly putting out fires in its neighbourhood. And the bad news is that it is much easier for India to take action and gain influence as far as Nicaragua or New Zealand than it is to win over its neighbours.

In recent years, South Asia has increasingly become a distraction for India while it seeks to spread its reach further afield in the world. For little gain to anybody in the region, New Delhi’s resources of strategic thinking have been drained disproportionately by intractable challenges in the neighbourhood. With every country, there is a headline dispute to which everything else is often held hostage: In Sri Lanka, it is the rights of the Tamil minority and Indian Tamil fishermen; in Nepal, it is the rights of the Madhesi tribes which populate the Terai plains; in Bangladesh and Pakistan, it is the partitions and their many associated headaches. In all countries, there is of course the big white elephant: Chinese interference to counter-balance Indian hegemony.

Indian diplomats are often frustrated that South Asia is not well-integrated. All large neighbours are always treated as threats by default anywhere in the world. But economic interests often help boost at least economic integration. This is what China has managed to do in East Asia and South East Asia, despite long- running animosity in those regions towards Beijing and even explosive ongoing disputes. The Philippines, for instance, welcomes in Chinese investment on its railroads and highways, even as it locks horns with Beijing in an international tribunal over the South China Sea. Yet, in South Asia, even economic ties are scorned at suspiciously.


Flying Blind is an essential read for anyone hoping to understand the multi-layered complexities of India, its relationship with the subcontinent, and its foreign policy.



5 books that will help you cook Christmassy goodness

The holiday season is synonymous with fun, frolic and feasts. With a party or a get-together happening almost every day, we have brought to you a list of five books that will make whipping up a feast as easy as hosting a party.

On the Dessert Trail

Restaurateur, chef, cookbook author Monish Gujral in On the Dessert Trail has picked more than eighty signature recipes from his travels around the world and presented them with his own unique twist. So, whip up a dessert and carve a sweet place in your guests’ hearts.

Shaken And Stirred

Parties are incomplete without drinks. In Shaken and Stirred, celebrity chef Vikas Khanna brings together a collection of non-alcoholic drinks that go a long way in creating a room full of happy guests. The versatile recipes are full of imagination and will help you create drinks for any occasion.

A Chef in Every Home

Celebrity chef Kunal Kapur with this book will allow you to transform into a star chef. This cookbook brings you simple and fuss-free techniques and a delectable recipe for every mood and moment. Use this book to not only host a magnificent feast but also to make cooking an enjoyable and valuable experience.

The Suriani Kitchen

Lathika George’s The Suriani Kitchen gives us a glimpse into the fascinating kitchen of the Syrian Christians of Kerala with their unique stories of cooking and mouth-watering dishes. Authentic and easy to execute, these recipes are accompanied by a guide to spices, herbs and equipment which help your guests have a sumptuous experience.

My First Kitchen

Is this the first party you are hosting? Are you worried what to have on the menu? Your worries end here. Vikas Khanna in My First Kitchen teaches you how to take the first steps in establishing a cooking haven of your own. With more than 100 recipes to suit every kind of palate, this cookbook is all you need to become a cooking genius.
So which recipe will you pick to delight your friends and family?

The Birth of Prithviraj Chauhan, An Excerpt

Prithviraj Chauhan was destiny’s chosen one, singled out for glory and greatness. Anuja Chandramouli is back with an endearing tale of the legendary warrior who lives on in the hearts of those who remember his unmatched valour and timeless heroism.
Here’s an excerpt from the book.
The queen tossed and turned; her sweat-streaked body caused the soft sheets to cling to her contours as she stifled a scream that fought to burst from her lips. A good girl must be seen not heard, she had been taught since childhood.
Silently she pleaded with she knew not whom, begging to escape the terror that was engulfing her. When that failed, she tried to wake up. Her efforts were entirely futile. No matter how much she tried, a force she could not withstand tore her apart, dragging her along the serpentine alleys of her simmering subconscious.
Propelled along a rocky slope, she felt the flesh scraped off her delicate feet, which were decorated with intricate henna patterns, leaving them battered and bloodied. Dragged along sandy plains, under a blazing sun, her skin, softened with milk and honey, caught fire. She wrapped her burning arms protectively around her tender belly and snarled savagely at the elements.
Then she was swimming against the currents of a raging river as predators with serrated teeth and spiked tails pursued her ruthlessly. The wind snatched her from their jaws as they were about to swallow her and lifted her high up in the air. Shrieking its terrible intent into her ears, it ripped off her garments before releasing her in endless space.
As she plunged into the depths below, she could not hold back the primeval screams of agony from bursting out in a shrill cacophony. Then she was falling through emptiness, plummeting towards certain death. Shutting her eyes tight, her arms flailing, she forced her leaden legs to move, desperate to arrest her fall.
Then with a suddenness that made her dizzy, everything went still. Holding her swollen belly in her arms, she opened her eyes. She was standing at the threshold of a stone temple. Before her, was an altar where a smokeless fire was burning. Vigorous and strong, it was brighter than her eyes could bear.
Shining with divine vehemence, it beckoned her forward. Helpless in front of the hypnotic pull of those ancient flames, she stood before it, so close that the heat scoured her clean even as her heart grew hot. And yet, she could not draw back.
Enraptured, she stared into its depths. She watched the mesmerizing dance of the flames as they swayed in discord to the crackling cadence of the age-old rhythms, orchestrated by the divine father out of his deep love for the sacred mother. The sky and the earth—always together; forever apart.
Tears sprang into her eyes and she clasped her hands in prayer as the earth mother addressed her throbbing heart.
What is it that you would know of me?
‘Tell me of the child I bear in my womb.’
A mother always knows. A mother must.
‘My boy will be the greatest of kings. A mighty warrior. A lion among men and as such will be entitled to the king’s share of success, prosperity and happiness. He will shine with the brilliance of a thousand suns. His name will live forever.’
So it shall be. The flame in his soul is destined to burn for as long as his lion’s heart can bear it. Blessed as he is with the tejas of the divine, he will shine brightest when he makes the ascent to the pinnacle of glory, just before his swift descent to darkness and the depths of abject failure. For so it must be.
‘Never! I will never allow such fate to befall my son.’
A mother is a fool! He was never yours alone. And never will be. Prepare yourself for the reign of the king of the earth. For fame and fortune, love and death, glory and grief!
The flames rose higher and higher, oblivious to the mother who wailed in misery. Blinded by the all-encompassing radiance, magnified by the strength of her tears, she was ill-prepared for the darkness that descended without warning, snuffing out every trace of the sacred fire.
The silence was broken only by infernal howls of abject sorrow—a mother’s terrible lament—amid the hushed murmur of a premonition, repeated over and over.
Prithviraj! Prithviraj! Prithviraj! King of the earth!
All around there was nothing but darkness. And the memory of light.

Three Families Who Show Why the Sindhi Way of Doing Business is Successful

Sindhis have braved adversities like Partition, fled from one nation to another and weathered ups and downs in the economy and have yet set up some of the biggest companies in the world with the help of their sharp business acumen.
In Paiso, Maya Bhatija captures the stories of five companies, built painstakingly by many generations by five Sindhi families.
Here are three families who show how the Sindhi way of doing business has led them to success:
Harish Fabiani, Americorp Ventures and India Land Properties

Jitu Virwani, Embassy group

Ramola Motwani,  Merrimac Ventures

Aren’t these stories inspiring?

There’s a New Boy In Nicky and Noni’s Class! Do They Become Friends? — ‘Being a Good Friend Is Cool’: An Excerpt

In Sonia Mehta’s Being a Good Friend Is Cool from her new series of books — My Book of Values, the author talks about the cool value of being a good friend.
Nicky and Noni have a new boy in class, but Nicky seems to be doing something wrong. What is it? Let’s find out!

What do Nicky and Noni do next? Do they become friends with Jojo? Grab a copy of Being a Good Friend is Cool to find out!

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