June 05, 2005

Challenges to India’s security

Another review by V. N Dutta has appeared in Spectrum, a pull out of The Sunday Tribune.

It has all those ingredients for which V. N. Dutta, Professor Emeritus has attracted and influenced my understanding of history.

The review appears on the following link in the newspaper The Tribune.

The review is of the book, "Will the Iron Fence Save A Tree Hollowed by Termites?" by Arun Shourie. It is review of the book on Indian foreign and military policies.

Some of the comments of the reviewer is worth noting for a person who is more interested in reading and understanding of history. The relevant comments are quoted below.

"Towards the end of his life, Bismarck was asked: "How did you make Germany a great country?" The Iron Chancellor replied: "Alone, alone, alone." But, I think, it was Bismarck’s system of alliances and alignments that enabled Germany to consolidate. I wish that Shourie had emphasised the need for refining our diplomatic skills, too."

In the above quotation, a student who has read Treaty system in depth (though from limited and only Indian sources) delighted to read it because somewhere there is a suggestion how the understanding of history not of one nation but history as a subject can help in guiding the policies of the country.

The next important observation is thus: "Doubtless, there is an urgent need for us to know our neighbours through their history, literature and languages."

Somewhere, there is suggestion that how history should be taught. In many of previous posting it has been contended that there need to understand the actual definition of history while deciding the syllabus of history for a country. Secondly, there is need to rewrite the history for a country which has entered into new phase in 1947.

The last paragraph is worth reading for a student of history and especially for a student of philosophy of history. I quote, "Throughout the book, the author persists in suggesting maxims for guiding political and military leaders for forming government policies. Such a convenient rule-of-the-thumb approach universally applied tends to overlook the role of "contingencies" and " in the vicissitude of human offices. History, by no means, is a cookbook to offer recipes, as Kissinger tells us. History cannot give us any conceptual framework within which evolving political or military systems can be conveniently fitted…… The learned writer should know better than this reviewer that nationalism, unless leavened by liberalism, turns into chauvinism and fascism."

There is need to given stress on the line, "The learned writer should know better than this reviewer that nationalism, unless leavened by liberalism, turns into chauvinism and fascism."

Well the author of this blog would be expecting out of the world experience but if ever Arun Shourie happens to read these comments or the review by V. N. Dutta, (I have hunch that he would definitely read the review by V. N Dutta), it is not a criticism of Arun Shourie. Here there reviewer is expressing what a student of history feels when ever the subject of history is treated by other people and by a nation. It is a comment addressed to the general body of history faculty as well as the policy makers of the country and also general public. Somewhere it is being said that it is sad that history has been used merely as a tool. It is sad that real message which history is giving, is always taken as a defense and argument to promote ones own stand. The movement that is done, the lesson of history is overlooked and forgotten and history is reduced to level of a propaganda material. It becomes merely a justification for ones own versions.

It is desired here to repeat that "History, by no means, is a cookbook to offer recipes". It is a rationality and logic which should always remain present at the foundation on which the answers to the "contingencies" and "the vicissitude of human offices" should be formulated and executed. Is the reviewer perturbed by criticism of some of the leaders by the author of the book?

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