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234. Understanding Pashtunwali (with Tilak Devasher and PS Raghavan)
The Missing Piece in South Asian History
The Pashtuns are perhaps the largest ethnic group in the world without a country of their own. They inhabit a continuous stretch of land from the Hindu Kush to the Indus, across Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan used the Pashtun-dominated areas in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as a launching pad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and later during the US-led War on Terror.
In the process FATA was kept in a constitutional and informational black hole. The discontent finally burst in 2018 when the extra-judicial killing of a Pashtun youth led to widespread protests.
In this episode of BIC Talks, veteran analyst Tilak Devasher speaks to Ambassador PS Raghavan, chairperson of the National Security Advisory Board of India about his book The Pashtuns in an attempt to fill the gap in the geopolitical understanding of South Asia, given the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the shifting power equations in the region. This conversation was part of the Bangalore Literature Festival 2022.
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Tilak Devasher is the author of three widely acclaimed books on Pakistan: ‘Pakistan: Courting the Abyss’ (December 2016) that was termed ‘easily the best book on Pakistan’ by a noted Pakistani commentator – Khaled Ahmed; ‘Pakistan: At the Helm’ (July 2018), that a Pakistani reviewer in Dawn termed as ‘a book that any future leader of Pakistan ought to have by their bedside, simply because it is the sum of all that has gone before’; and ‘Pakistan: The Balochistan Conundrum’ (July 2019) that a Pakistani reviewer in Dawn held was ‘far better than the books written on the subject by our own academics and writers.’ Tilak retired as Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat Government of India in October 2014. He is currently a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and also a Consultant with the Vivekananda International Foundation. During his professional career Tilak served in J&K, Delhi and abroad. He specialized in security issues, especially pertaining to India’s neighbourhood. Post retirement, he has continued to take a keen interest in such issues with special focus on Pakistan. Tilak has taken to writing after superannuation. Apart from his books, he has written articles for a host of newspapers, magazines and think tank journals. He is a regular contributor to the Indian Express, Tribune and occasionally to India Today. He also appears frequently on TV talk shows.
A former Diplomat and Ambassador, P.S.Raghavan is Chairperson, National Security Advisory Board of India. He had diplomatic assignments in USSR, UK, Poland, South Africa and Vietnam, and was Ambassador to Czech Republic, Ireland and Russia. He was Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (2000-2004), dealing with foreign affairs, nuclear energy, space, defence and national security.
As Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs (2013-14), he steered India’s external economic relations and the Administration, Security and e-governance departments. He founded and headed the Development Partnership Administration, which coordinates India’s economic partnership with developing countries.
P.S.Raghavan graduated in Physics from St Stephen’s College, Delhi and also studied Electronics & Communications Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He is a Member of the Academic Council of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore and a Distinguished Fellow with the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi.