Book Review : The War Ministry
By Krishan Partap Singh
This is the third and concluding book of the Raisina Series; and is the best of the lot. The journey, begun at a steady pace in Book One (Young Turks), and ably supported by the absorbing but different book Two (Delhi Durbar) is taken to a crescendo, a rapid and heady speed that will leave you in awe of the writer’s skills in terms of penning words as well as his understanding of international and Indian political realities and byplays. This current book is the fastest paced among the three, the most enthralling as well as the most engaging book of the entire series. As you close the book, you are left wanting for more, alongwith a tinge of sadness that never again will you have the pleasure of wondering what happens next to Azim, Karan and Raj…
For those new to the series, the main characters are:
Azim Khan : Steady, Ambitious, Idealistic Yet Practical, Patriot with a dream
Major Karan Nehru : Kargil War Hero, Egomaniac, Insecure, True Friend, Short-Tempered, Selfish, Drives you up the wall in frustration and anger – and yet, you find it impossible to be angry at him!
Raj Mehra : Kingmaker, Balanced, Smart and Intelligent, The Best Of the Three
Radha Khan : Azim’s Alter Ego; Wife; and biggest support – and partner in crime (alongwith Raj and Pooja) who plots to end the constant feud between Azim and Karan
Pooja Nehru : Mrs. Karan Nehru – only person to scare the Legendary Karan (As Above)
That about sums it up. The War Ministry is all about a running feud between Mr. Steady and Mr. Ego – Azim and Karan – which forces, yet again, Raj Mehra to step in after being harangued into it by the best-friend wives of the two fighting best-friends above! Sounds boring, isn’t it? Well, the interesting point is that these two once-best-friends-and-now-almost-enemies are The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India, running a government in the aftermath of a War with Pakistan; and a running near-war situation with China. The repercussions for the government, and how these are handled make the meat of the book, and provide the spice and the binding – as political and international intrigue all play a role in the scenario – sometimes creating trouble, at other times having trouble created for them by the mercurial Karan’s irresponsible behavior, and the equal straightness, planning and stubbornness of Azim
You grow to respect Azim’s vision for India, his feeling of patriotism, and his handling of his Muslim Identity, and the way he handles the office of the Prime Minister. Such is the shine of his character that you tend to ignore his flaws, which get hidden in the brightness of his lustre. His dream of a united India without religious or other divisions (only modern India, that is – not Pakistan or Bangladesh!) strikes a chord with you, as his handling of foreign policy matters and other governance issues. On the other side of the coin, you have the lovable but irritating egomaniacal idiot Karan Nehru, who always requires a hit on the head to come to his senses. He is Azim’s equal in all aspects – dream, vision, patriotism, handling governance etc; and yet his ego overshines the positives, leaving you frustrated and angry at this rank idiot! And then there is Raj Mehra… who takes three books to come into his own, and claim the rightful position of the binding factor of these two – one an idiot, the other a stubborn fool!
The coincidences with reality in the series are uncanny – makes you wonder, is this in store for India? A squabble between the government and The Army Chief, then a moderate Pakistani Army Chief, New party coming to the fore, irritated China… all this has happened in real life, as well as in the book! Food for thought… is it prescient? And this was written before it occurred in real life. Coincidence? Food for thought! This is where the book scores – coincidence or not, it seems very, very real; is based and grounded in current socio-econo-political problems of India, and is very very logical in its story. The entire book is practical and believable. Its dealing with the Hindu-Muslim question and the concept of a Muslim PM – read the book for this alone. It will set you thinking, that is for sure.
Add to the potpourri above a full-blown international crisis, with USA and China breathing down India’s neck – in the middle of a full-scale political crisis at home, with Mr. Insecure-Inflated-Ego Nehru throwing tantrum after tantrum. You read on in frustration as Mr. Short-Temper Nehru drives India towards an unprecedented Crisis in the middle of the book – not helped by Mr. Stubborn Khan; even as India heads towards disaster. You are treated to an edge-of-the-seat climax as India inches towards a war with China, in a home situation where the Central Government can fall at any minute – with Pakistan threatening a second front. You encounter despair as even Raj cannot get through to either Mr. Stubborn or Mr. Ego – meantime, all the while, India hurtles towards war as Tibet explodes, China threatens, Pakistan starts growling…
Does the War Ministry survive? Does Mr. Ego learn the error of his ways? Does Mr. Stubborn climb down from his high horse? Does War erupt? Read the book to learn this, and more… for example, the firm and powerful handling of international relations by Karan and Azim – the only point on which the two agree. All in all, a truly superb book – a thriller. Its edge-of-the-seat riveting climax will have you biting your nails as things come to a head – the first political thriller from an Indian Author!