Diplomacy: An out of the box approach
Dr Vaidehi Nathan
How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace, Charles A Kupchan, Princeton University Press, Pp 442 (PB), £16.95
In today’s world peace is more and more identified as cease of war. Friends become foes and foes become friends for mere geo-political self-interests. The ‘good-old’ neighbourly solidarity is a gone thing. So a book with title How Enemies Become Friends – The Sources of Stable Peace stirs up interest. Charles A Kupchan, a scholar in international affairs, attempts to look at ways of attaining stale peace. And yet, he has not touched the case histories of unmitigated enmities around the globe like between India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel, Iran and Iraq.
One of the objectives of the book is to prove that democracy is not a necessary ingredient for stable peace. This is in direct reference to the United States, which the author says makes it a pre condition. That is not entirely true. A large number of America’s friends are dictatorships. Kupchan adds four other ‘ingredients’ to peace. Engaging in dialogue with the adversary; stable peace is brought by politics, not economics; compatible social order between the two sides; and cultural commonality.
After discussing each of these, Kupchan gives some examples of successful peace. The most prominent is the Anglo-American friendship. “The United States and Britain enjoyed cultural commonality on several critical dimensions: race, ethnicity, religion, and language… Cultural affinity appears to have mattered most during the early and late stages of rapprochement.”
For any peace to last, the two sides must tone down their interstate rivalry and geopolitical competition. This would lead to conjoined interests rather than merely congruent, he says. According to him, “Union is the most advanced form of stable peace. The constituent states not only escape geopolitical rivalry and embrace rules and institutions to regulate their relations, but they go on to pool their sovereignty and merge into a new political entity.” He quotes the cases of two failed unions — United Arab Republic and the Senegambian Confederation. Most of the ‘friendships’ Kupchan talks about are born out of military needs which later translates into economic and political inter-dependence. The author makes a simple point that “Stable peace is possible. Enemies do become friends.” But it is equally true that in a politically uni-polar world friends and enemies are determined by reasons other than community and culture. For instance, there is no apparent reason at all for enmity between China and India. When the India-China war broke out in 1962, the Indians had been hailing the slogan Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai (Indians and Chinese brothers).
In a world dominated by arms deals, with even democracies such as India spending huge amounts of the national money on buying war equipments, the basic rules of friendship underlined by Kupchan seem to simplistic if not naïve. And hence the thrust of the book remains unclear because what the author states is applicable in an idealistic situation only.
(Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey – 08540.)
Dr Vaidehi Nathan
Threatened Birds of India – Their Conservation Requirements, Asad R Rahmani, Oxford University Press, Pp 861 (HB), Rs 3000.00’
The sheer bulk of the book on India’s endangered species of birds is scary. It can only mean one thing. That India is losing its bird population, at a rate not commonly imagined. And what is worse is, they have a few groups of people speaking for them.
India has nearly 1300 species of birds recorded. Out of these 158 are threatened, globally. The reasons range from loss of habitat to microwave towers, to bird trade, down to pesticide overuse. Threatened Birds of India – Their Conservation and Requirements by Asad R Rahmani is an attempt at compiling the data for drawing the attention of the officials and decision makers at the Ministry of Environment and Forests. This volume complements an earlier book Threatened Birds of Asia, which was equally comprehensive. “Our main purpose here is to publish existing and new information on the threatened birds of India in book form to make it easily accessible to Indian decision makers, policymakers, field conservationists, ornithologists, birdwatchers, media and civil society in general,” says the Introduction.
Almost all reasons for decline and extinction of birds are human-made. Several species of birds have vanished because of pesticide poisoning. Bird trade is yet another major reason. According to statistics, of the 1300 bird species 453 have been recorded in domestic and international trade. “Fuelling the demand for commercial exploitation of birds in India are the following 12 reasons: pet business, birds for table, aviculture, zoos, bird release for religious reasons, black magic and sorcery, medicinal use, sports (bird fights and falconry), taxidermy, for circuses and street performance, and use of body parts, including feathers.”
According to another article in the book, pesticides have taken the lives of several birds, the main culprits are several organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). The use of pesticides in agriculture commenced in India around 1948-49. It increased manifold with Green Revolution. “India is second largest manufacturer of pesticides in Asia and the third largest consumer in the world…Pesticide use in India averages 600 gm per hectare, compared to 10 kg per hectare in developed countries. Insecticides (73%) dominate the market, followed by herbicide (14%) and fungicide (11%).” The organochlorine compounds stay much longer in the ecosystem since their decomposition is slow and they kill slowly and silently than outright killings.
Marco Lambertini, Chief Executive, BirdLife International aptly puts it, “We live our greatest challenge and paradox. The challenge is to live within the resources offered by our planet. The paradox is that at a time when the value of nature to our economy and wellbeing is well recognised, the destruction of natural habitats and extinction of biodiversity has never been greater and faster.”
The present volume uses three types of maps — Polygon maps showing general distribution of the species, maps showing verifiable site records for specific species and third polygon maps showing general distribution and stray records.
The book has separate case studies on various species that are endangered, threatened and on the verge of extinction. It describes and illustrates fifteen critically endangered, fifteen endangered, fifty two vulnerable, sixty six near threatened and two data deficient species and three additional species. The painstaking work has been done by Dr. Asad R. Rahmani, who is the Director of Bombay Natural History Society since 1997. He has written profusely on birds. The book has been sponsored collectively by several agencies. It is definitely a useful volume. A must for those who are interested in birds, even it is only a hobby.
(Oxford University Press, 1st Floor, YMCA Library Building, 1, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi 110 001)