Book review of shaking hands with clenched fists by Neha Nisar
Shaking hands with clenched fists the grand truck road to confidence building measures between Pakistan and India is a first ever academic book on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between two enduring rivals Pakistan and India, written by Dr. Asma Shakir Khawaja. This book offers unparalleled account of genesis and imperatives and the future of CBM’s between Pakistan and India through academic and theoretical lens.
This book provides the chronicles Pakistan and India bilateral relations, their practiced and discarded CBMs, the reasons behind their failures, their pros and cons along with the constructive policy options that could help in drawing up the roadmap for the regional peace and development. This book shed light on much undiscussed factor that derails the CBMs,the spoilers. Dr. Khawaja describes the historic trends that indicated that India pulling out of ongoing peace process against its pledges. Hindu extremist’s parties like RSS and Shiv Sena is considered to have been successful in derailing numerous CBMs. The author deliberated on Hindu nationalism which is based on the concept of Akhand Bharat(i.e. undivided greater India) and how BJP is internalizing Hindutva ideology through its curriculum. The authors argues that such religious connotations becomes fatal for regional peace when combined with political narratives.
This book very proficiently discussed Pakistani narrative on Kashmir issue and explained the trends of India backing out of every peace initiative that had the potential of resolving the conflict. Since independence till today India has shifted its goals post of Kashmir from “offering a helping hand to Kashmir” to “an integral part”, the author writes. India’s inconsistent policies for domestic and international vote bank results in dichotomy. India used Pakistan factor as a political dividends which creates more antagonistic feeling of Pakistan in the public. The author argues that parochial Hindu mindset is another impediment mirrored in efforts such as Neemrana dialogue during Modi’s regime.
The authors suggest that in order to untangle Pakistan and India from geography of mistrusts, increase interaction between both sides is required along with healthy trade relations through open borders which will link both nations together. She also emphasis on tourism due Kashmir scenic view, mutually controlled by Kashmiris, Pakistanis and Indians. She also wrote that there is an need to make the countries realize that a change in positions and not interests is vital for CBMs , moreover , CBMs should not be time or situation bound and should not be use as bargaining toll to bully the opponent.
This book is holistic examination of the necessity, importance and loopholes of CBM’s between Pakistan and India. It is great blend of theoretical understanding with practical policy options. It is a timely contribution which touched almost every area of CBM for instance water, societal role, the media, economic competition and military and nuclear peace efforts.