In March 1998, India broke a quarter-century’s silence when it detonated a series of nuclear devices in the Rajasthan desert. Having announced it possessed the requisite credentials for membership in the nuclear club in 1974, India quickly disavowed any desire to join, pledging not to develop its capability further.. As the Pokhran explosions revealed, that promise would not be kept for ever, and the principal beneficiary of its breaking was now to be a right-wing government seeking to shore up its shaky political base by demonstrating its commitment to the ‘Hindu bomb’.
While most in the West were taken unawares by this sudden bellicosity in the land of Ghandi, more scrupulous observers on the South-Asian scene insisted it had a clear history. In this, his first book since the hotly debated In Theory, Aijaz Ahmad untangles many of the intertwined threads of historical and political traditions in a still-too-poorly-understood region of the world.Opening with an essay on the politics of Partition, the book moves on to a close analysis of Pakistan politics in the Bhutto period, the construction of ideas of nation and community in Urdu literature, and the resurgence of fascism in the recent rise of Hindu fundamentalism. The book closes with a set of detailed reflections on the current situation: the story of the BJP’s rise to prominence and government, the background to the ‘nuclear flashpoint,’ and an analysis of Indo-Pakistan politics since the Pokhran explosions and up to the Indian general elections of October 1999 and the military takeover on Pakistan very shortly afterwards.
Theoretically sophisticated, historically learned and politically provocative, Lineages of the Present offers Western readers a profound insight into the politics and history of contemporary South Asia and reveals Aijaz Ahmad as among its most lucid and authoritative analysts.
About the Author
Aijaz Ahmad is a renowned cultural theorist who has taught in several western and Indian universities. A frequent contributor to "Frontline" magazine, he currently lives in New Delhi.
“At least let it be understood that India bears more ultimate responsibility for the Kashmir troubles than Pakistan, and that the confrontation between India and Pakistan would be a far less dangerous thing had it not been for the BJP’s communal thrust at home and its attempt to turn India into a nuclear great power abroad ... Nowhere else in the world, as the left-wing analyst and journalist Aijaz Ahmad says, have nuclear threats been so lightly thrown around.”—Guardian