The Book, Dragon Fire, by British journalist, Humphrey Hawksley, is ostensibly a novel. A fictitious scenario of nuclear war involving
China , with the
U.K. , and
Russia willy-nilly getting sucked into the crisis, the book created quite a stir. Former Prime Minister Gujral, many retired foreign secretaries and strategic analysts have on the scenarios visualised by Hawksley. Many dismissed the work as more fiction. Others, including defence minister George Fernandes, considered it plausible.
The novel is well crafted with an uncanny depiction of escalation in international conflicts, from isolated ‘terrorist’ raids to state-sponsored terrorist acts against ‘enemy’ targets culminating in the use of nuclear weapons. Though the countries in the vortex of crises in the book are
Pakistan , the narrative could be extrapolated to other contexts .
The story starts with a band of Tibetan ultra operating in India being recruited into a paramilitary force, hijacking a couple of India airforce planes to launch a blitz-krieg raid on Lhasa to free a venerated Buddhist monk held by the Chinese under inhuman conditions.
India of deliberate complicity in the affair, and invades
India from its Northeast. Simultaneously, Pak-inspired assassins blast the Kashmir Assembly in session and shoot down helicopters carrying the Indian home minister and senior military personnel. These two incidents trigger a whole series of military crises, punctuated by panicky diplomatic manoeuvres between
Russia in a mad race in pursuit of peace by threats of war.
Pakistan undergoes through a military coup at the behest of Islamic fundamentalists set on liberating
China extends its war to the naval front from a base near
Myanmar ’s Irrawady delta. Sensing a Chinese nuclear strike against Indian naval vessels in the
Bay of Bengal ,
Britain , with American consent, quietly mobilises its naval force alongwith
New Zealand and destroys the Chinese base. A Chinese nuclear submarine escapes detection and destroys Indian naval vessels. The
Beijing against launching naval operations against
Taiwan , which uses the imbroglio to declare independence. The Russians warn the
U.S. not to exploit and crisis to gain further hegemony over
Asia ’s northern tier. The
U.S. demands that
Russia use its good offices to compel
India to declare a cease-fire.
In the sub-continent a massive invasion by
Kashmir and by
Pakistan across the
Thar desert take place with nuclear war threats. As Indian troops lurching forward,
Islamabad launches theatre nuclear weapons on Indian armour incinerating the advancing columns.
India sticking to conventional warfare deals deathblows to most of the enemy’s governmental infrastructure and its nuclear and air force facilities. At this point
China drops a 185-Kiloton bomb over
Bombay and later over
Delhi ’s is final act is to target
Beijing ’s Western Hills military complex. The subcontinental nuclear holocaust ends with a cynical declaration of cease-fire by
China . After a brief period of ostracizing of
China , worldly wisdom ensures that most nations resume cordial relations with
The entire process of escalation from the raid on
India ’s nuclear response against
Beijing occurs in a span of six days underscoring the dictum that atomic wars will be of very short duration. The process also reveals the role of terrorism as the unanticipated trigger for crossing the nuclear threshold. The author shows uncanny insight into diplomatic and strategic psychology and how events oversake the best of rational anticipations. The enmeshing of idealism and diplomatic cant over the hot lines and, the limits to rationality, are delineated with stark reality by Hawksley.
The book should be compulsory reading for politicians, military brass and civilian strategic analysts, alongwith more such fiction, viz Warday and the Journey Beyond, by Witley Strieber and James Kunetka. While Hawksley concludes with a nuclear obliteration of Mumbai and
Delhi , Strieber and Kunetka deal with the U.S.-Soviet nuclear war and the destruction of
New York and
San Antonio . The description of immediate effects are horrendous, what happens in the aftermath, after five years is yet more horrific. States like
California become independent, internal immigration laws bar people from the entering atomic-afflicted parts of
America which becomes worse than leper colonies.
Japan takes over the industrial legacy of
America , while
Britain , in the name of humanitarian relief, runs most of the
U.S. With millions dead and still dying, millions of families split forever, the
U.S. becomes a lost country in body and soul.
The two books thus form a unity. If only their moral can unite mankind to stop, hear and act on the menace of atomic weapons, the next century would be a saner one.