@_Anonymous_ - the review is upThe Fourth Round 1984 - Ravi Rikhye
View attachment 19012
I had wanted to read this book for a very long time. Since the time I read about it in a Wikipedia Article (which still mentions that book will be published in 2007), I have been trying to get my hands on this book. Finally I got lucky and had a paperback version in my hands.
The book's style is slightly different from most war fiction. There are no characters to relate to. Instead it feels like one is reading about the war upon its conclusion. It felt different to say the least but the writing is crisp and feels accurate with no wild flights of fantasy that plague most other writers in this genre.
The book begins with India striking at Kahuta and despite the huge cost of the mission, hitting really hard. Pakistan in its turn hits back and to rub it in strikes at the Parliament. Upon which India declares war.
The book highlights the underlying considerations for both sides quite well. India is a bit cocky at start given its overall superiority and tries to steam roll Pakistan but repeatedly chooses public sentiment over sound military strategy. The young officers of its Army prove their mettle time and again but some choice mistakes at the top stop India from getting the thumping win it so desperately needs. Ravi notes how arrogance at the top regarding "irregulars" cost India heavily in terms of men, equipment and time as the attack on Lahore flounders.
Pakistan on the other hand starts off quite well punching way above its weight, taking huge wins in Kashmir as India is not able beat Pakistan's US supplied surveillance systems which let Pakistan blunt India's numerical advantage considerably. Pakistan also makes the most of the advantage provided by its superior Airborne Radar but ultimately buckles under pressure the moment things start going badly for it. India breaks its lines at multiple points and takes huge areas in its control.
Reflecting the reality of the 80s, Pakistan is lavishly supplied by Saudi Arabia, USA and other Arab nations. China makes some noises but then decides its better off sitting out this round. USSR plays it carefully giving just enough support to India to not piss off the Americans.
A misunderstood situation brings USA into the conflict supporting Pakistan openly and Indian leadership decides its time to call it a day.
Where this book stands apart is that it highlights the reasons why India would have missed a chance to inflict a decisive win in the west. While that might not go well with the super charged nationalist brigade its still a valuable discussion point - India in the 80s was strong enough to beat Pakistan but not strong enough to prevail over a hidden coalition that was quietly propping up Pakistan.
Frankly, I never realised Rikhye used historical fiction as a format to propagate his strategic views in this book. Nevertheless a fairly accurate reading of the events, were it to unfold, going by your review. Of course, we say this with the benefit of hindsight on the perceived reality then & how it turned out when we look back on it.