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June 24, 2012

Riaz Mohammad Khan served as Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary and the country’s ambassador to China, European Union and Belgium, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. His book, Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict, Extremism, and Resistance to Modernity, was published in 2011

What are you reading these days? Nothing in particular. These days I am working on the Urdu translation of my book. I am also working on a coffee-table book and a couple of other projects. With these, daily newspapers, the internet, and magazines, I am left with little time to do any serious reading, although as a habit I do browse through books.

Which books are on your bedside table? Some include The Age of the Unthinkable, On China, Ill Fares The Land and The Great Unraveling.

What is the one book/author you feel everyone must read? It is difficult to name one book. How do you compare great classics in literature or poetry of different languages: how do you compare Diwan-i-Ghalib with James Joyce’s Ulysses or Plutarch’s Lives or Darwin’s Origin of Species. But let me attempt an answer in a context. In Pakistan there are interminable drawing room discussions on international politics, full of comments about international power play, conspiracies and injustices. I suggest two fairly recent books that relate to dynamics of power which are worthy of attention. One is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, an overview of 12,000 years of human history linking power with innovation and environment. The other, Empire of the Summer Moon, relates to the struggle of Comanche Indians against European settlers.

What is the one book you started reading but could not finish? A number of them, given the fact that I have been fortunate to have come across so many books to read.

What is your favourite childhood book or story? One of them was a coloured 1948 atlas of BOAC that made geography to be my favourite subject and instilled in me an interest in the world.