Right from the dawn of civilization Silk route shaped and reshaped our cultural landscape. With it the ancient travelers along with religious preachers, including Sufis of higher order, and even philosophers and traders, have played pivotal role in exchange of cultures from one region to another. It has played an important role in propagating Sufi thought and Sufi philosophy. It is of course an absolute fact that renowned Sufis have travelled this trade (Silk) route and reached even to the interior India. Silk Route was much more than a trade route. Above all, it was a great channel of communication, a means of contact between peoples and places, and a conduit for religion and technology to travel throug. By means of the Silk Route, dialogues were established between diverse peoples, new ideas disseminated and technologies transferred. Meanwhile as the pathway for conquering armies and mass migrations, it helped shape the present political, ethnic and religious character of entire region.
The present review is about a book that is an edited volume, and the chapters in it offer deep insight into a wide range of themes from historic-cultural, trade and energy, geo-politics and regional cooperation. This book is basically an outcome of two international conferences “Dynamics and Revival of Silk Route: Perspective, Challenges and Opportunities and Eurasian Peace and Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities, edited by Professor Ajaz Banday Former Director, Centre of Central Asian Studies University of Kashmir. The conference brought together scholars of repute from in and outside India to deliberate on several issues that have a considerable bearing on the future of this region.
The book begins with a foreword by Prof. Riyaz Punjabi former V.C University of Kashmir, provides a comprehensive analysis of Silk Route and maintains that Silk Route has been a vibrant passage to transmit faiths, ideas, cultures, arts and crafts and merchandise in the entire region. Prof. Punjabi states that revival of Silk Route has evoked a great interest across the Eurasia. He further says that this Route is envisioned to reopen the old ties and forge a close economic and commercial cooperation between the Europe and the Central Asia.
The book under review is divided into four sections:
(1) Historic-cultural; (2) Trade and Energy; (3) Geopolitics; (4) Regional Cooperation.
First section of the book is about the historic cultural links in which Valeria Fiorani focuses on how Silk Route has given life to varied cultural forms including religious syncretism. Cultural links promote mutual understanding, imposing new rules and renewed spiritual values on individual perceptions. Mansura Haider gives an overview of varied events and activities depicting efflorescence of culture and multidimensional aspects articulating the pace of growing, scientific developments, modernism and modernity. D.A Almova in his paper explores that this route is one of the remarkable achievements of human civilization, “a complex time and space formation, dynamical according to the historical content and real organization of the large and diversified conglomerate, having a steady objective importance in life activity of the huge majority of peoples, occupying the areas and countries of Eurasia (p.67).” Prof. Mushtaq Kaw discusses how this route served as a “dialogue route” that facilitated arts, expertise and technologies and forged cultural pluralism and human co-existence within a wide geographical, cultural and political space. Prof. Kaw also throws lights on the connections between Kashmir-Uzbekistan by saying that Central Asian experts have brought to surface diverse resemblances between the two regions. In fact, these resemblances were not developed overnight but over a long historical course. Prof. Banday describes the Silk Route as the oldest international highway and made a major contribution to the civilization of mankind, for besides merchants and their goods, there also moved along it the products of human thought, skill and migration.
Second section is on trade and energy in which Elaheh Koolaee and Mandana Tishehyar focuses on how China will remain a great force in Central Asia in the years to come, despite US presence to create hurdles. The main aim of China is not to use energy resources but to achieve the geopolitical and strategic goals to catch an appropriate place between the other competitors in the region. Bek Ali Yerzhan says that nuclear energy can bring peace and cooperation in Eurasia as Kazakhstan has gained rich experience in nuclear fields (Uranium) that it inherited from Soviet Union. He opines that nuclear business is a new and lucrative field of commercial relations. The business will definitely enhance and diversify the relationship between the countries and will guarantee peace and cooperation not only in Eurasia but across the world.
Third section speaks about geo-politics in Eurasia. P.L Dash in his contribution put forth several reasons that catapulted the Caspian/Central Asian region to international limelight since 1990s. He says that Russia continues to remain a decisive and viable factor in the Caspian security system, evolving politically volatile and economically unstable. He further says that Russia may be down for a time being but it will remain not out in a region where the US wishes to venture to the vacuum created by Soviet collapse. The more the US would wish to side step, bypass, or overrun Russia in its backyard, the more it would be traumatic for the US in terms of loss of men and material (p.290). Arun Mohanty examines how China is trying to dominate the Central Asia and recognizes Russia’s strong role in the region but resents US military presence there because of the sensitivity of her north western region, however, none of the actors risk military confrontation.
Fourth section throws light on regional cooperation in Eurasia. Gregory Gleason analyses the costs and benefits of broad political inclusion as a counter-insurgency mechanism, and then derives general observations about Afghanistan’s foreign policy relations with its neighbors. Akihiro Iwashita says that the international community keenly focuses on the Silk Route region, as prolonged stability of the border area and intensive interaction among all the countries that have stakes in Central Eurasia is a necessary condition for the development of the Silk Route region. Sengul Ozerkan says that Eurasian geography has allowed Turkey an alternative to the Atlantic as well as is exposing her economy to this geography for exploring new pastures for her development. This news awakening in Turkey has also allowed her to ensemble all Turkish speaking peoples in to a common web that they had spun together in the Eurasian plains, steppes and mountains. Valeriy S. Khan’s throws light on the Silk Route as transcontinental transport and was the first integration transportation and trading and cultural information model of the international relationships focused on the interests of all continents. Further, he says that it has all chances to raise this integration to the highest level with the help of modern technologies to carry forward the greatness of the ancient way into the future. Mirzokhid Rakhimov says that it is high time to restore the regional and international cooperation in the vast Eurasian space to revive the Silk Route for social, economic and cultural exchange. Security challenges of the 21st century demand large scale partnership and extended cooperation. The new Silk route communication strategy will make positive changes in this regard. Gulshan Sachdeva focuses on regional economic cooperation through Afghanistan and maintains policy makers in Afghanistan believe that after decades of war the country has a unique opportunity to realize its potential as a ‘land bridge’ between Central Asia, South Asia and West Asian region, and advocated that peace and stability can provided huge economic opportunities not only to Afghanistan but also in the entire Eurasian region. Prof. G.M Mir describing the routes and regional cooperation, and says revival of this grand route not only bring economic cooperation but also develop peace and stability in the region.
The chapters in this volume provide us a sound understanding about the Silk Route and Eurasia, its different dimensions with regard to its revival, security challenges, regional and economic cooperation. It focuses on for the restoration of vigorous and intensive regional and international cooperation in the vast Eurasian space to revive the Silk Route for social, economic and cultural exchange as Silk Route developed to become a driving force in the formation of diverse societies across Eurasia and far beyond.
Dr. Aashiq-ul-Islam teaches at Department of Islamic Studies, GDC, Pampore. Mail at [email protected]