|On the face of it, the discerning reader may well question the raison-d'-etre which motivated the author to present the public with �yet' another book on the Kashmir Conflict. So much has already been written, and while that is true, to be fair, finally we have a book which not only dissects the �vexing Kashmir Issue' to its core; it traces its evolution, brings out the essence of Kashmiriyat and what is made out to be the �Kashmir problem' in its entirety. The author not only leads us through the birth of the Kashmir dispute as such, and the many wars fought over it, but covers the various facets of 'No War-No Peace,' �limited war' and 'state sponsored terrorism.' Brig Amar Cheema, in his post retirement avatar as a scholar-soldier, has the unique advantage of having served and travelled extensively in the state during his service. He is not only familiar with the topography, local culture and aspirations of the Kashmiri people, but in presenting the soldier's point of view; his service background and familiarity with matters military, is evident.
The extensive bibliography referring to various books, works, periodicals and published papers, painstakingly collated, along with a number of detailed and easily understood maps and tables authenticate the author's meticulous research. Well laid out, the typography and font of the book are purposeful and produce a result that is aesthetically pleasing and complementary to the text. The juxtaposition of detailed step-by-step notes elaborating the text and providing interesting trivia cues the understanding at a deeper and more detailed level.
The Crimson Chinar is a detailed treatise, chronicling the genesis of the Kashmir issue. Logically and sequentially formatted, the book covers the Indo-Pak conflicts (Siachin and Kargil included), the Sino-Indian conflict, diplomatic machinations, political imbroglios, terrorism and nuclear shadow boxing which continue to plague the sub-continent. The casus belli of each of the confrontations related to the desire of Pakistan and China to posses �all' or �part' of its land mass � a geostrategic reality that is equally true even today, as it was during the Great Game.
The book has been crafted in eight informative and highly readable chapters. Chapter One; Kashmir's Tryst with History - The Run up to 1947 is actually a journey which takes us back to the beginning of time. Interestingly, Brig Cheema's research traces the earliest history of Kashmir to the times of the Ramayana and its rule under Hindu kings, mention of which is found in the Mahabharata. Undisputable traces of non-Muslim rulers of the State in the mists of time take us to the eighth century temples in Awantipura and Martananda. Between 273 and 232 BC, it was the rule of Ashoka the Great who brought Buddhisim to this region. After the marauding Huns and Tartars making military forays from 515 BC onwards, the author revisits the times under the Mughals, Sikhs, Dogras and finally the British, and their ''Great Game'' leading up to independence. We then see how India handled the accession of Junagadh, Hyderabad and the other princely states and how the same leadership grossly mishandled the accession of Kashmir.
Coming on to the wars, The first Kashmir war 1947-48 (Chapter Two) not only throws up many little known facts and interpretations, but leaves the reader shaken as to how close India came to losing the valley, had the raiders not indulged in rape and arson in Baramulla (loot lo Hindu ka zar, Musalman ka ghar aur Sikhon ka sar). But for valiant soldiers like Lt Col Ranjit Rai, Brigadiers Rajinder Singh and Mohhamed Usman, Air Commodore (Baba) Mehar Singh, Maj Som Nath and so many valiant soldiers, the war would have been lost before it started. Chapter Three treats us to the run up and through the �62 Sino-Indian conflict and the ham headed Indian response at the diplomatic and the military levels. If ever there was a failure of intelligence and national strategy, it was here. Eighteen years after independence, we were fighting another war with Pakistan (Chapter Four). Brilliantly covered is the fatal 'change of command,' when for some inexplicable reason General Musa replaced Akhtar Malik with Yahya Khan as the commander just when the Pakistani troops were within striking distance of Akhnur. This proved to be the turning point of that war! Chapter Five deals with the third round with Pakistan, the �71 war in which the Western front may have been a sideshow, but the invincibility of the Pak soldier was shattered once for all. Never again was Pakistan to �overtly' threaten India over Kashmir. Chapters Six, Seven and Eight cover in detail the chicanery of the Pakistan in Siachin and Kargil and the ongoing proxy war India and Kashmir face.
For the soldier we have the lessons of war concisely encapsulated: a reminder that calculated risks and bold plans, some contrary to political expediency, may well be in the national interest. For the politicians and policy makers: a wakeup call drawing attention to the lost opportunities combined with a timid, wavering and politically confused policy pandering to short term and myopic goals, suiting the 'political party' in power and to hell with Kashmir. For the academics, policy makers and journalists: Kashmir is not the Middle East, and no parallels and analogies between the two can be drawn. The Kashmiris have not been usurped from their land and neither have outsiders or settlers driven out the locals. If anything, Article 370 (considered part of the problem by some) guarantees special privileges and protection to the Kashmiris. For the Pakistanis: the State of Jammu & Kashmir is and remains an integral and inviolable part of the Indian Union. For the diplomats and the international community: if there is a dispute, it is regarding that part of the state which continues to be under the illegal possession of Pakistan (POK and Gilgit-Baltistan), including that part arbitrarily ceded by Pakistan to China, and that part of Kashmir which China has annexed by force.
As mentioned, the book is a value addition for all libraries, institutions and think tanks and a priceless read for the discerning individual.
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]