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Book Review: South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures

My review for The Friday Times

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South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures is a comprehensive volume of essays edited by Adil Najam and Moeed Yusuf. Given the importance of the South Asian region, this book attempts to fill in a huge gap that has existed for decades. Discourses on South Asia for reasons well known, have been obsessive about all things security and in recent times terrorism. The editors note that South Asia “sits atop a globally strategic location” and gladly move on to other important topics, which makes this volume a useful contemporary reference. The introduction notes the immense potential for energy trade as well as the significant regional security implications for the world at large. This is why the future of South Asia is not just important to those who live in the region; it is duly a global concern. The 37 papers authored by 44 experts, in the volume trace the multiple futures and mercifully avoid the common fallacy of reducing South Asia to India and Pakistan and their bitter rivalries.

The introduction summing up the book rightly identifies that the idea of South Asia is a contested one and its ownership – political and economic – would determine the future. Commenting on the term Southasia introduced by Nepal based Himal magazine, the editors state: “…the future of the geography we know as South Asia will depend, at least in part, on what happens to the idea of Southasia. We are not in a position to say what that will be just yet, but it is clear that the aspiration of Southasianness is entrenched more deeply in the South Asian mind than we had imagined. It is an idea that our regional politics has often rejected and fought against. But the resilience of the aspiration suggests regional politics may eventually have to embrace it.” Thus the emergence of Southasia, a regionalized identity, will be a political process and the book suggests that there is no one course or prediction to hold it.

In this context the paper, the paper by US based Pakistani historian Manan Ahmad Asif entitled “Future’s Past” contends that though the immediate history of Pakistan and India might broadly be cause for pessimism (such as the violent partitions of ’47 and ’71), there is nevertheless a greater, storied and shared history that can be recalled in order to realize how communities in South Asia can peacefully co-exist. […]

Disaster management – which way now?

The NDMA also needs to be taken seriously by senior decision makers. Its capacity should be strengthened and the organization decentralized through investing financial resources and deputing able, willing and energetic officers to it. Similarly, the bleak situation with the provincial DMAs needs urgent attention. Punjab does not have a provincial disaster management authority, Sindh and KP are better led but without powers or resources; and Balochistan has seen more PDMA heads pass on the torch than prime ministers in the early days of Pakistan – an achievement in itself

August 17th, 2010|Pakistan, Politics, Published in The Friday Times|3 Comments

Magic moments – incredible photos on mysticism

Today, a magical photographer and a brave journalist Iason Athanasiadis, wrote to me after reading some of my comments in NYT. This is such a small world after all. Iason has also lived in Pakistan and some of his beautiful pictures can be found here (I am posting an image from Pakistan below from his collection). What a treasure it is. I am so grateful that Iason got in touch..

Here is another one from Iran – absolutely stunning… […]

February 28th, 2010|Photo stories, Sufism|3 Comments

Culture, conservation in Toronto – ideas and plans

My dear [cyber-]friend Shaheen Sultan has sent this interesting email. Those who are interested in helping her with the cultural and conservation efforts can either contact me or leave a comment here. In particular, truck art and other ideas for this haven in Toronto (Raza)
My friends  and I are in the midst of compiling a future project for Art and Culture restoration and conservation — an initiative very dear to my heart, as I have always believed in conserving cultural heritage so the generations to come shall benefit from global cultures where they are becoming endangered with exploitation and falling prey to decadence due to the age of modernity. No, I do not scorn “modernity”, but, I do not endorse the opinion that world culture becomes extinct with the arrival of technology and IGeneration. […]
January 29th, 2010|Arts & Culture|1 Comment

Another Incarnation

By PANKAJ MISHRA

THE HINDUS

An Alternative History

By Wendy Doniger

Visiting India in 1921, E. M. Forster witnessed the eight-day celebration of Lord Krishna’s birthday. This first encounter with devotional ecstasy left the Bloomsbury aesthete baffled. “There is no dignity, no taste, no form,” he complained in a letter home. Recoiling from Hindu India, Forster was relieved to enter the relatively rational world of Islam. Describing the muezzin’s call at the Taj Mahal, he wrote, “I knew at all events where I stood and what I heard; it was a land that was not merely atmosphere but had definite outlines and horizons.” […]

May 17th, 2009|Personal|0 Comments

Art as hope – paintings on Southern Thailand

Pearapong Khireewong is an extremely talented artist who hails from Southern Thailand and has captured the pathos of the bullets that were sprayed on the local populationand later the peace offensive by the now deposed Prime Minister Thaksin.

I was stunned by the light and statements that this canvas made. The painting above is entitled: The Bullet Holes in Narathiwat (Acrylic on canvas , 130 x 150 cm).

Another stunning work is entitled: Monument of the Selfless Heroes (Acrylic on canvas , 120 x 150 cm). Here the light conveys hope and the tidings of the renewal. The paper birds were used to calm the restive provinces. This news-item provides more detail:

“Military aircraft gently bombed southern Thailand with 100 million paper birds Sunday in a gesture intended to promote peace in mainly Muslim provinces where more than 500 people have died this year in attacks by separatist militants and countermeasures by security forces.” […]

October 16th, 2007|Arts & Culture, Politics, World Artists|5 Comments