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  Books   09 Mar 2024  Book review | Edge-of-seat thriller on an Indo-Pak showdown

Book review | Edge-of-seat thriller on an Indo-Pak showdown

THE ASIAN AGE. | ANIL BHAT
Published : Mar 9, 2024, 8:40 pm IST
Updated : Mar 9, 2024, 8:40 pm IST

Written in a simple style, with some Urdu sprinkled here and there, makes the book a good read

Cover image of Plot, Lies and Deceit: Pulwama and Balakot
 Cover image of Plot, Lies and Deceit: Pulwama and Balakot

Writing fact-based fiction, for whatever reason, is not an easy task. Reading this book which is the author’s third novel and an account of the conversations in Pakistan army conference halls and operations rooms, one tends to believe that the text is transcribed from recorded tapes. The timelines, Pulwama and Balakot, chosen by the author appear to make his task easier as many Indians and Pakistanis are quite aware of the sequence of events.

The first chapter describes how a patriotic Indian hacker is giving the data of recorded conversations to a retired Indian military intelligence officer to be passed on to the government. The hacker claims to have got the information by planting some bug on the computer of Pakistan’s infamous Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) when he had done some project for that organisation.

It all starts with a review in the GHQ Rawalpindi about the tempo of terrorism in J&K in the year 2018. The meeting concludes that the process maintaining Kashmir on the boil is losing momentum as the Burhan Wani effect is petering out. A suggestion comes up to engineer a suicide bombing by a local Kashmiri youth to motivate other local boys to join the militancy and also to shed the label that it is Pak-abetted trouble. The ISI is tasked and in turn it “outsources” the task to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). Description of the JeM headquarters visited by the director-general, ISI, to vet the plan of Pulwama incident is very real.

The vivid description of the Pulwama incident, the jubilation in the DGISPR (Directorate General, Inter Services Public Relations) and the talks to exploit their success inspires hate in the reader for the Pakistani establishment. This is followed by panic that sets in on the premises of those headquarters about the possibility of the Indian retribution. The discussion is even joined by their Prime Minister who is overwhelmed by American pressure. This makes the establishment decide and share the location of the perpetrator terrorists of the Pulwama incident. But the DG ISI, even while sharing the location of the terrorists, forewarns those terrorists, which lead to casualties on the Indian Army while killing them. As a result, the Pak establishment feels the heat of the Indian Prime Minister’s threat. They do not even try to play the nuclear card as they feel that the Indian government will call its bluff.

The novel then describes the preparations in Pakistan by its army, navy and air force, all monitored by the Pak army chief. Meanwhile, several steps are shown by the DG ISPR to keep the morale of the nation and its armed forces high and at the same time convey to the international and Indian audiences that any conflict will be to India’s disadvantage. In fact, at times, it appears that the author is highly appreciative of the efforts of DG ISPR during that situation of despair in Pakistan.

The description of how the Indian pilot felt before ejecting and on seeing the Pakistani pilot eject is exhilarating. Narration of the treatment of the Indian pilot in captivity and the dilemma of Pakistan over handing him over to India due to overhanging fear of the Indian PM makes one proud to be an Indian. The concocted analysis of how the MiG was able to down an F-series aircraft makes the Indian reader feel good.

Written in a simple style, with some Urdu sprinkled here and there, makes the book a good read. While the author has changed the names of characters, he has added a list of real characters as a ready reckoner for the readers.

For non-military readers the book is interesting and informative. In fact, readers in both in India and Pakistan will get a fair idea of how the Pakistani Army thinks and acts. The book being available in Hindi also will give it a much wider reach, which matters a lot as in India, apart from soldiers’ families, knowledge about the armed forces is not much.

The author, who served in the infantry’s Madras Regiment, also held appointments in military intelligence and information warfare. His earlier novels are fictionalised accounts of his experiences in Manipur, Sri Lanka and Jammu & Kashmir. While this book leaves a nagging doubt that the author may have had some access to actual conversations, it is not surprising or impossible.

Plot, Lies and Deceit: Pulwama and Balakot

By Brig. P.S. Gothra (Retd)

Sabre and Quill

pp. 171; Rs 399

 

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