‘The Third World War’ is another apocalyptic masterpiece from the controversial but extremely experienced BBC journalist, Humphrey Hawksley. Hawksley’s long career as a journalist for BBC at covering strategic international issues has given him an unrivaled understanding of global affairs and he brilliantly uses this acquired perspicacity to create a fictional yet possible storyline of ‘The Third World War’ as he did in his earlier bestsellers like Dragon Fire and Dragon Strike.
The story is set in the present scenario of world events. It is the post-Iraq war period when the Indian Parliament is attacked by Islamic militants, killing hundreds with the primary targets being the Indian Prime Minister Vasant Mehta and his daughter Meenakshi. As usual, the first fingers are pointed at Pakistan, whose role is suspected in the deadly attack. But the actual state of affairs comes to light when the Pakistani President, a childhood friend of Vasant Mehta, is assassinated a few days later. His killing triggers chaos and upheaval in the entire Middle-East advocated by Muslim extremists. The situation gets worse when a US naval base in Japanese territory is bombarded with missiles in a North Korean sabotage. Meanwhile, a sample of smallpox vaccine mysteriously vanishes from a Russian laboratory.
A sense of destruction pervades. The atmosphere as the most volatile regions on this planet suddenly go active. Although initially all these events seem to be unrelated but it is only after the American and British intelligence agencies unearth some chilling links between these incidents of impulsive vehemence that the clandestine motives of a few individuals surface.
The most remarkable thing to be noted here is that the actions/reactions of the world leaders. They are strikingly similar to how one might expect them to behave if such a situation were to arise in verity. For example, China provides strong support to its all-weather friend Pakistan when India plans to retaliate by dismantling Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal for good. China ensures that Indian doesn’t get the backing of United Nations and particularly US to go ahead with its plans.
While the US President Jim West tries to analyze the gravity of the situation, Japan takes the suo moto decision to shed its US patronage and independently tackle the mounting threat from China and North Korea. With the influx of colossal amounts of intelligence reports, it is fairly established that the larceny at the Russian laboratory was executed by North Korean operatives under the direct orders their military dictator who plans to launch a biological attack on US soil. As the events unfold, Jim West finds himself in his greatest dilemma. He tries his level best to avoid a war but every decision he takes only fans the widespread fire. He apprehends that most of his so-called allies have turned their back against him as the world heads towards Armageddon.
‘The Third World War’ is an absorbing read. The moment you feel the climax has arrived, the story takes a new turn to leave you in a thrilling limbo. The intelligent conversations between the leaders, chronological narration of events and the detailed description of a world marred by violence and distrust forces us to ponder over the nature of our impending future. Direct references to today’s political events make the entire plot sound extremely tangible.
It delves into the world of politics and accentuates on the nature of compulsions, constraints and exasperation that the leaders around the world have to tackle while dealing with sensitive issues. It is a must-read for anyone who takes interest in global issues as it certainly brings out a strong message for all of us to pursue – sort out your differences by dialogue, denuclearize your arsenal and eliminate the rogue elements before its too late.