The Arab Spring That Was and Wasn't
The Arab world has remained an indissoluble part of global religious, political, economic and strategic imaginations and over the decades the region has evolved to become a focal point of world politics. Different epochs have defined the significance of the region differently.
Its defining feature in the previous century was the discovery of oil and its subsequent evolution as a hub of Cold War politics. Similarly the emergence of radical Islamist ideology has defined the last three or four decade of Arab politics.
But nothing defines the political trajectory of the region more distinctly than the Arab Spring. It not only defied the centuries-held notions about the region, but also forced a revisit to the Orientalist reading of Arab politics, culture, religion and norms and values.
It has been more than a decade since the Arab uprising, which many erstwhile optimists had passionately called Arab Spring, changed the nature of a huge swath of land which in global diplomatic parlance is called West Asia and North Africa (WANA). Like other events of the region, the Arab uprising too refused to stay in the confines of the Arab world alone, its multiple aftereffects continue to be experienced across the world.
This is what is explained in the latest book by Ambassador K. P. Fabian, a retired Indian Foreign Service officer who has been an astute observer of political developments. This book is reflective of his in-depth understanding of history, politics and geopolitics, religion and ideological and sectarian politics of the region.
The author has not only explained the cause and politics of the Arab uprising, but also made a successful endeavour to provide a contextual analysis of the uprising. Ambassador K. P. Fabian in his comprehensive study has traced the genealogy of this watershed event through the empirical analysis of its trajectory, and remarkably connected the present to the past of the Arab world.
He is correct in claiming that whatever the Arab world is witnessing today is an outcome of politics pursued by autocratic Arab leadership and interventionist politics of big powers in the Cold War and Post-Cold War era. This book offers a very comprehensive account of what has happened in the region for so many decades, and how the political fate of the Arab streets has never been determined by the ingenious Arabs. The political and strategic domains of the Arab world were usurped by other regional and global powers soon after these Arab nations achieved their independence.
Ambassador Fabian has tried to portray a comprehensive picture of what happened in different countries during the Arab uprising. He has argued rightly that the impact of the differences in the past politics of Arab nations was quite obvious when one tends to interpret the trajectory of the Arab uprising.
This book is significant in many ways because it deals with the political history of different Arab states like Tunisia, Sudan Egypt, Libya and other small but strategically important countries like Yemen and Algeria. Fabian has devoted a few chapters to study the Arab uprising phenomena in the Gulf nations.
He has argued at length how monarchies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and Morocco opted for preemptive moves to stop the wave before it morphs into insurmountable challenges to their life-time rule. Apart from offering a brief account of the political history of these small states, Fabian has rightly claimed that these GCC nations were unified in their response to the Arab uprising.
The title of the book conveys the content of the book and the Ambassador is right when he questions the success story of one of the largest resistance movements witnessed in the recent past in the Arab world. It not only toppled many life-long rulers but triggered a new political discourse in the region and created a new dictum that the Arab world would never be the same.
This book is rich in terms of sources and can be useful for those who are keen to know what has happened, what is happening and what might happen in the Arab world, which no country in the world can afford to ignore. This book is important for those who want to know how geo-economics and geopolitics have come together to influence global politics.
It explains how the radical politics emanating from the region has disrupted the political and cultural cosmology of Europe. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has added further significance to the region and one is seeing how the world leaders are racing against each other in chasing the Arab oil and gas.
Title: The Arab Spring That Was and Wasn't
Author: Ambassador K.P. Fabian
Publisher: Macmillan Education( New Delhi )
Price: Hardcover - Rs 1,650, Paperback- Rs 685
Dr Fazzur Rahman Siddiqui is a Senior Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs