Verma, C.B., Global Geo Strategic and Politico-Military Perspectives Through Millennia Past, English, Hardcover, 2 Volumes, 994 pages, Rs 3995/-, Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2018
Sanjiv Nandan Prasad

For those baffled by the absurd magnitude of contemporary history – mammoth armies, perpetual wars, automated weapon systems, barbaric massacres, shocking terrorist attacks or weapons of mass destruction – history is perhaps the only refuge. For in it one begins to see some semblance of order emerging out of what otherwise appears a chaos threatening to spin out of control. The publication under review should find a respectable place in the list of those works which help us chart a somewhat broken path through such a landscape of human history.

If you are toying around with the title a few explanatory lines might help. Geo-strategy links geography with strategies of war - for geography is in important senses “the mother of strategy.” It places the planning and management of war in the context of geographical, physical, and artificial characteristics of the operational region. Our unfriendly neighbor reaped the advantages and the disadvantages of such a strategy while entrenched in and retreating from its positions in the Kargil Sector in 1998. The other phrase in the title refers to interlinks between the political and the military – the political implications of military moves and vice-versa. Everything from the Korean War to the Islamic State in Syria and their subversive resistance to American backed state qualifies as politico-military. History seen through these perspectives would unravel links between geographies and strategies of war and interlinks between the political and military aspects in a specific era.

Let me begin on a note of caution. This is not an Operations Manual – if you are a beginner in the profession of arms or in the skill of deep reading and only peripherally interested in history from a politico-military perspective – do not pick up this title. However, if for any reason history moves you, geo-strategy appeals to you and you find the lure of great minds decoding important events around you in “so-true” narratives irresistible – grab it!

The book is awesome for the sheer audacity of its scope. To claim to understand and interpret quite a few important landmarks of global history – from the pre-historic era to the contemporary era - from a geo-strategic and politico-military perspective and read an evolutionary logic through them, is no joke. And indeed, the Major is serious – very serious in his attempt.

Fifty years of systematic study and research in matters military and geopolitical have prefaced five years of actual writing to produce the almost thousand pages of closely packed text that constitute this book. It reads like a life-time work – passion oozes from every chunk - cover to cover – reaching into the deepest recesses of the Major’s mind, scouring the labyrinths of his soul – driving him to challenge his own limits and explore his own mind – chasing his firing neurons in something of a frenzied quest – ending exhausted but not exactly satisfied. Issues are approached from multiple perspectives – classical literature, spirituality and contemporary classics are only some of them. There is something of a passionate drive at work here – if you have experienced it you know what I mean - if not, try reading through him.

Understandably, the book calls for time, needs patient attention and demands perseverance – but it rewards you amply – with discoveries, insights, revelations, revisions and a world view that the academia may find worth engaging with.

Two parallel streams flow in the text - a historical account of various human civilizations through pre and recorded history and the multi-dimensional developments in military strategy and thinking that have taken place intermeshed with them. Many major historical landmarks and developments in military strategy linked to them can be found in the book – to expect what has been left out even in a pair of well-fed volumes would be unfair. Facts, inferences, observations, quotes and perspectives are liberally interspersed through the chapters, often knitting themselves into engaging and informative sections. What the book promises is not a radically new take on global history but a new synthesis of circulating ideas and opinions from the global domain.

Another aspect that a reader would find of pivotal importance is the “multiple aspects of basic strategic cultures and thoughts”. These aspects have been instrumental in historically path-breaking events, including the inseparable as well as complimentary making of military history.

Let’s look at the section of which we are a part – “Space Age” of the Present Modern Era. (sic) Multiple advances in the post-Industrial Revolution era in the fields of electronics, computers, automation, IT, nanotechnology, cryogenics, nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, extremism, terrorism and space age – all of them feature here. The average page length for each of these sections is about 35. Apart from documenting the outlines of each, the book offers an analysis of how weapons systems and platforms and war strategies have evolved in dialogue with important political and technological developments, through this era. And the last section studies the Indian situation in fair detail.

Information War is a case in point. If war is understood as a contest or conflict involving the use of force to control or subjugate an opponent, Information War represents its special case. The human mindscape is its theatre, social/political engineers and programmers working in tandem with intelligence and military officials are its warriors, and carefully chosen and doctored information disseminated through sophisticated programmes that track their users’ preferences and predispositions are its weapons. Swifter, subtler, more efficient and ruthless this breed has already conquered minds and hearts, effected bloodless coups and enthroned and dethroned tyrants and dictators in theatres that would have proved very challenging if not impossible for conventional forces. The book bares some of it!

I am personally invested in the well-being of such books – not necessarily their commercial success. I appreciate people from specialized domains extending the free leg of their compass into other disciplines without losing their center. Startling insights result – today’s interdisciplinary world knows it only too well. What such projects hold for me is the promise of looking afresh at relatively stable domains from multiple perspectives that may help answer new queries and concerns arising in many curious contemporary minds. This book appears one such attempt.

Review by, Sanjiv Nandan Prasad, Associate Professor, Department of English, Hans Raj College, University of Delhi ([email protected])

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