By Dhruva Jaishankar
Stephen P. Cohen, who handed away this week on the age of 83, was an establishment unto himself. Raised in Chicago when native politics was a rough-and-tumble affair and educated in Wisconsin within the midst of a civil rights motion and social upheaval, he introduced each cynicism and idealism to the examine of warfare and peace in South Asia. His first forays to India as each a graduate scholar and younger tutorial had been troublesome. Delays achieve a visa meant that he was compelled to attend in London, the place he trudged by way of authorities archives and interviewed former British navy commanders in India, corresponding to Subject Marshal Claude Auchinleck. Along with his younger household (he’s survived by his spouse Roberta, 4 sons, and two daughters), Steve traveled by way of India, picked up some Hindi within the Himalayan foothills, and produced a socio-political historical past of the Indian military. This proved the beginning of a private journey, however one that will contact the lives and careers of numerous others.
The primary couple of a long time after 1947 had witnessed a substantial progress in modern India research in the USA. However coloured by the period’s geopolitics, specializing in India or South Asia develop into a dropping profession proposition amongst many American lecturers and policymakers within the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whereas numerous his contemporaries moved on to different points or areas, Steve (together with solely a handful of others, corresponding to Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph) caught it out. Within the 1970s, partly annoyed by the problem of conducting analysis in India, given the rising suspicions of American students, he produced a ebook on Pakistan’s military. West of the Radcliffe Line, Steve obtained appreciable entry, together with to Common Zia ul-Haq himself. (He would later joke that Zia did him the final word favor: By banning his ebook, the dictator ensured it might develop into a bestseller on the black market.)
He would later joke that Zia did him the final word favor: By banning his ebook, the dictator ensured it might develop into a bestseller on the black market.
Within the 1970s and early 1980s, Steve devoted himself to scholarship centered on the College of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the place he was a tenured professor. He recruited and mentored numerous doctoral college students, together with from India and Pakistan. A lot of them now occupy high tutorial positions at main universities around the globe. He additionally devoted numerous time to nuclear disarmament research and initiatives, throughout a interval when India and Pakistan had been engaged in furtive efforts to develop their nuclear weapon capabilities. Within the 1980s, he spent two years on the coverage planning employees of the U.S. State Division, then below the inimitable George P. Shultz. It was an expertise that enhanced his standing as an influential voice inside policymaking circles, but additionally instilled a sure irreverence in direction of Washington.
A decade later, after India and Pakistan examined their nuclear weapons in 1998, Steve discovered himself in excessive demand and have become a senior fellow on the Brookings Establishment. Whereas many others in his place would have handled this as a post-academic sinecure, Steve launched a second profession. Inside 5 years, he produced two books — “India: Rising Energy” and “The Concept of Pakistan” — which turned primary introductions to the 2 international locations for U.S. policymakers. In time, nevertheless, his focus remained on resolving India-Pakistan tensions, about which he stayed completely pessimistic (mirrored within the title of his ebook, “Capturing for a Century“). To this finish, he produced “4 Crises and a Peace Course of” with one Indian and one Pakistani co-author, helped foster a Regional Centre for Strategic Research in impartial Sri Lanka, and established quite a few coaching and examine packages for younger Indian and Pakistani safety students to work together with each other. His skepticism of Indian navy modernization efforts discovered voice in his ebook “Arming with out Aiming” (with Sunil Dasgupta). And all through this era, he remained extremely well-connected within the area, and notably in Pakistan with the nation’s navy management and civilian politicians from all main events. On her final go to to the USA simply two months earlier than her assassination, Benazir Bhutto went out of her approach to search an appointment with him.
Steve’s early scholarship has been constructed upon by others, corresponding to Steven Wilkinson’s work on the Indian Military and Shuja Nawaz on Pakistan’s. However he’ll at all times be remembered for his eagerness to mentor younger students, and never simply his college students and assistants. I used to be however one in every of a number of analysis assistants at Brookings — Dinshaw Mistry, Sunil Dasgupta, Tanvi Madan, Anit Mukherjee, and Constantino Xavier being others — to have been lucky to have labored below him. Such an intense apprenticeship enabled us to know Steve not simply as a scholar however as a human being. His ardour for jazz, tennis, quick vehicles, Mac computer systems, and the Chicago Bears was matched solely by a wry humorousness (a working joke was his being mistaken for Stephen F. Cohen, the Marxist scholar of Russia, or the opposite Stephen P. Cohen, a Center East professional). He shall be deeply missed but additionally celebrated for his private heat and loyalty to numerous beneficiaries in India, Pakistan, the USA, and around the globe.