Thursday, November 14, 2013

#BookReview: The Blood Telegram : India's Secret War in East Pakistan by Gary J. Bass

On the jacket:

In 1971, the Pakistani army launched an devastating crackdown on what was then East Pakistan (todays independent Bangladesh), killing thousands of people and sending ten million refugees fleeing into India. The events also sparked the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. Drawing on recently declassified documents, unheard White House tapes and meticulous investigative reporting, Gary Bass gives us an unprecedented chronicle of the break-up of Pakistan and Indias role in it. This is the path-breaking account of Indias real motives, the build-up to the war and the secret decisions taken by Indira Gandhi and her closest advisers. This book is also the story of how two of the worlds great democracies - India and the United States - dealt with one of the most terrible humanitarian crises of the twentieth century. Gary Bass writes a revealing account of how the Bangladeshis became collateral damage in the great game being played by America and China, with Pakistan as the unlikely power broker. The United States embrace of the military dictatorship in Islamabad would affect geopolitics for decades, beginning a pattern of American anti-democratic engagement in Pakistan that went back far beyond General Musharraf. The Blood Telegram is a revelatory and compelling work, essential reading for anyone interested in the recent history of our region.


With part of my roots tracing back to East Pakistan, or as we know, Bangladesh, I have always been curious about the country. The part of my family which hails from Bangladesh, had moved to this side, when my grandfather was a pre-teen. So, there isn't much I have heard from tales. I needed some reading material. All I knew, was that people from there infiltrate into our country and our songs.

A well-researched book, written from an outsider's point of view, The Blood Telegram gives us an account of the partition - what led to it, how it happened and what happened after the partition. I have heard of tales of the war, from my mother, an account of those last few days when India had joined in. Her accounts were those of someone living in Calcutta, far from where the war was - still it was sad. 

The Blood Telegram is a depressing account of war, death, people losing everything they had, clamor for power, a description of war hardly spoken about, but a war in which too much was lost and very less gained. Very well-scripted and smooth, don't let the thickness of the book fool you, it is actually quite a quick read, it's so nicely written

Rating: *****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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