Pentagon's South Asia Defence and Strategic Yearbook 2012.; Edited by Colonel Harjeet Singh (Retired), Published by -Pentagon Press, New Delhi, Price: Rs.2950/-.
One may well be aware that climate, energy and food issues in South Asian countries can and do have grave security implications. One may even be aware that water-related disputes have the potential of giving rise to future wars. Or that the trafficking of drugs and narcotics has a bearing on the region’s security architecture. That drones or robots will fight future wars. Or that it is critical for countries to deal effectively with cyber security issues.
What one may not know is that elaborate explanations and perspectives to these and related issues have become available in one compendium.
The recently released Pentagon’s South Asia Defence and Strategic Yearbook 2012 provides a one-stop answer to anything and everything to do with the South Asian security climate.
Edited by Colonel Harjeet Singh (Retired) and published by the Pentagon Security International, the 368-paged volume covers a broad sweep: From the burning issue of China’s interests in the Indian Ocean to security issues in post-LTTE Sri Lanka to the India-Nepal military linkages.
Like any compendium of this kind, the volume has all the regular features: Country studies; an analysis of the military balance between the South Asian nations and a highly informative chapter on military expenditure.
What is special about this volume is the range and depth of coverage. Chapters include an analysis of the terrorism statistics; perspectives on Left Wing extremism in the six year period from 2005-2011 and an outlook on the emerging security architecture after “Operation Neptune Spear” – the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
The global security environment –and that of South Asia – is being radically transformed because of recent developments: The profound changes and upheavals experienced in the middle-east in 2011 and the Euro zone debt crisis.
For South Asia –as Col Singh (retired) writes in his introductory remarks – the present moment in history presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
South Asia is one of the world’s least integrated regions. Inter-regional trade in South Asia was 3.5 percent of the total South Asian trade in 2009 – up from a low of 2 percent in 1967, but significantly lower than 19 percent in 1948.
“The differences in regional economic integration mean that the effect of political tensions between countries on trade is more pronounced for South Asia. A region with low economic integration is likely to be losing out on the benefits that flow from trade due to economic proximity”, Colonel Singh writes in his introductory remarks.
The volume presents a varied perspective. Recommended chapters include a write-up on the importance of Tibet, authored by journalist Claude Apri, besides an essay on the “new red crescent” – Maoism of South Asia. This seminal article has been authored by defence analyst Major General (Dr) GD Bakshi (Retired).
Carleton University scholar Iqbal Shailo has authored an article on the role of India and Bangladesh in constructing South Asian security, while Indiana University scholar Jason G Stone has written a thought provoking piece on the 23 years of insurgency and counter insurgency operations in Kashmir from 1988 to 2011.
The exhaustive volume has been checked for veracity of facts by an eminent panel comprising diplomats Prakash Shah and C Shekhar Dasgupta, scientist K Santhanam and military experts including Air Marshal SK Malik, Lt Gen Ranjit S Nagra, Rear Admiral R Chopra and Brig JS Kanwar (all retired).
Stimulating and informative as the articles are, the compendium is also valuable for the important set of documents contained in the appendix: Among others, the Indo-US strategic dialogue joint statement, the joint statements between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan and the Indo-Afghan strategic partnership agreement.
In short, for anyone remotely interested in the strategic affairs of South Asia, this is one volume that one needs to read, buy and keep.