1971 and all that

1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh by Srinath Raghavan from Permanent Black.

The war of 1971 was the most significant geopolitical event in the Indian subcontinent since Partition in 1947. At one swoop, it led to the creation of Bangladesh, and it tilted the balance of power between India and Pakistan steeply in favour of India. The Line of Control in Kashmir, the nuclearization of India and Pakistan, the conflicts in the Siachen Glacier and Kargil, the insurgency in Kashmir, the political travails of Bangladesh—all can be traced back to those intense nine months in 1971.

Against the grain of received wisdom Srinath Raghavan contends that, far from being a predestined event, the creation of Bangladesh was the product of conjuncture and contingency, choice and chance. The breakup of Pakistan and the emergence of Bangladesh can be understood only in a wider international context of the period: decolonization, the Cold War, and incipient globalization.

In a narrative populated by the likes of Nixon, Kissinger, Zhou Enlai, Indira Gandhi, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Tariq Ali, George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, and Bob Dylan, Raghavan vividly portrays the stellar international cast that shaped the origins and outcome of the Bangladesh crisis.

This strikingly original history uses the example of 1971 to open a window to the nature of international humanitarian crises, their management, and their unintended outcomes.

Rs. 795, in hardback, 368 pages, For Sale In SAARC Countries Only, ISBN: 9788178243801

Atomic State: Big Science in Twentieth-Century India by Jahnavi Phalkey, also from Permanent Black.

In 1974 India conducted what it called peaceful nuclear tests. These demonstrated that the country possessed the technology required to make atom bombs. In historical accounts, this explosive achievement has come to be seen as the culmination of a state s efforts at capacity building and self-reliance through big science.

Questioning the received wisdom, Jahnavi Phalkey provides a fascinatingly different history. Mining new data from personal and institutional archives, she contradicts persistent nationalist notions about early atomic science in India as the starting point of bombs. She shows that the emergence of the country s nuclear science infrastructure was in fact tenuous, contradictory, and rich in faction fights which frequently determined outcomes and directions.

Phalkey traces the academic roots of India s nuclear research to universities, industrial philanthropy, leading scientists, and laboratories: C.V. Raman, Meghnad Saha, Homi Bhabha, Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, and Jawaharlal Nehru are among her book s major protagonists; and Calcutta, Bombay, and Bangalore the institutional centres. Big science in India is located via three transitions: of nuclear physics from table-top experiments to electronic equipment systems; of India from imperial rule to independence; and of international relations from imperialism to the Cold War.

A brilliant contribution to its field, this book makes us rethink the place of science in India s history, as well as the frameworks deployed for writing contemporary history.

Also Rs. 795, in hardback, 354 pages, ISBN: 9788178243764