FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Dealing with the World
Posted:May 31, 2013
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Arundhati Ghose

Book: India's Foreign Policy: A Reader

Edited: Kanti P. Bajpai and Harsh V.Pant

Critical Issues in Indian Politics Series

Publisher: OUP

Price: Rs 1095

Pages: 464

Adding to a growing list of publications on India's foreign policy, this anthology of previously published essays seeks to examine ideas and imperatives which might explain foreign policy-making in India. Most of the articles were published at a momentous time, globally and nationally, in the last years of the 20th and the first decade of the 21st century. The essays, by reputed academics and scholars, look for answers to challenges faced by India's external relations through the lens of international relations theory and the eyes of academia. It is a brave, erstwhile member of the foreign policy establishment who undertakes to critique such a book!

Helpfully, the editors explain in the introduction the contours of the book, its organisation into four parts — addressing ideas which, according to them, have dominated India's foreign policy-making, the power and capacity needed if India should wish to become a major or even a great power, bilateral and regional relations, mainly focussed on Pakistan, China, the US and India's "extended neighbourhood", and global diplomacy, a section which, in fact, contains two outstanding essays on India's negotiating strategies on climate change and the WTO.

The editors also explain their decision to restrict the definition of foreign policy to exclude security policy (the series includes a companion volume on India's national security), the time within which the articles were written to within 15 years (in fact, most were written in 2001-2009), and the geographical areas on which the book has focussed. One can take issue with all three restrictions, even while respecting the right to impose them and appreciating many of the reasons cited by the editors to determine the content of such a book. However, the "exclusion" of major areas of India's policy interests because of their "secondary importance" seems to me a somewhat sweeping judgement; exclusion on grounds of space or the absence of scholarly writing on them would be valid enough. It is less understandable to relegate areas such as the UN and other multilateral groups through which India functions today, Africa and countries such as Germany and France, Japan and Brazil to a "secondary place", given the importance assigned to these areas in India's foreign policy.

The three essays in the section 'Ideas', written in 2001-2003, when Indian foreign policy was undergoing major changes, is perhaps the most interesting, though it is hard to see whether they would enlighten or confuse the target audiences of this work. One recalls the debates on non-alignment at the time, chiefly between those who saw it as an ideology and those who felt it was a strategy which needed to adapt to changed circumstances. All three essayists, C. Raja Mohan, Stephen Cohen and Kanti Bajpai, accept the centrality of non-alignment as the dominant idea in India's foreign policy in the early years, though Cohen and Bajpai widen the process to encompass "the Nehruvian Tradition" or just plain "Nehruvianism". All three note the shift in foreign policy to what Bajpai calls "Neo-liberalism", though Cohen argues that during Indira Gandhi's government, there was a period of 'militant Nehruvianism'. Mohan sees a parallel shift from multilateralism as the dominant mode of foreign policy. Cohen's perceptive essay also highlights the gradual emergence of regional perspectives as states in India developed the means to influence the previously Delhi-centric foreign policy, with the rise of powerful regional political parties. Both Cohen and Bajpai find the clearest articulation of the shift to a more "realist" and "militarist" stance in India's nuclear weapons policy, India's nuclear doctrine having been made public only in January 2003. Since the debate on several of these issues still continues, with an emphasis on "strategic autonomy" and the use of the NAM, not so much as a platform but as occasions for the crafting of issue-based groups on matters relating to economic, political and security issues, it would appear that strategy is today winning over ideology among policy makers, at least.

Two other essays by Sandeep Sengupta and Amrita Narlikar under 'Global Diplomacy' attract attention. These examine India's use of "group support" for achieving her objectives in multilateral negotiations on climate change and the WTO. Unlike the West, India did not have alliances to use as negotiating tools in multilateral forums; initially, NAM or the G-77 provided such a support group, but as India changed, her approach to issues did too, particularly in newer areas of global governance such as climate change. It is a pity that Narlikar chose to compare negotiating strategies on trade issues with security issues, such as non-proliferation. Negotiations on security and defence are usually zero-sum games with limited room for compromise.

At a more personal level, I find myself sympathetic to Manjari Chatterjee Miller's theory of "post-imperial ideology", though her application of what is probably better understood as a deep and abiding post-colonial approach to external relations, to the 1962 war with China, is probably stretching it too far. Certainly, the Chinese use this approach to dismiss India's claims on the border; India, on the other hand, sees herself as a successor state as far as the borders are concerned, having adopted from the British an entire legal system. A post-colonial outlook need not necessarily amount to a sense of "victimhood"; on the other hand, it does explain attitudes to sovereignty and territorial integrity, strategic autonomy, aversion to concepts such as the responsibility to protect and so on.

Still, at the personal level, Daniel Markey's critique of India's "foreign policy software" is perhaps deservedly included in the section on 'Capability and Power'. His horrified findings of the size of the foreign service, the workload and pay, the vast differences in the IFS culture from that of the US, basically suggest that these impediments make India a not-so-desirable partner for the US. While one cannot disagree with facts, it is equally true, as seen in the following chapter, particularly in the essays on Indo-US relations, that this extraordinary service has been producing remarkable results.

Most of the essayists assume that India has "ambitions" to become or be seen as a "great power"; while that may dominate some parts of the media, according to more authoritative sources, the jury is still out.

Arundhati Ghose is a former diplomat

The Indian Express, 1 June 2013

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
China is yet to reciprocate to India’s territorial concerns on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor'
 
read-more
The possibility of a Taliban attack targeting Emirati officials is not going down well with analysts writes Monish Gulati
 
read-more
Since late 2015, cultural and political issues have strained relations between the two countries with anti-Indian sentiment growing amongst the government and people of Nepal, writes Dr. Binodkumar Singh for South Asia Monitor.  
 
read-more
A bunch of years ago, the problem was a declining state. Across swathes of social, economic and security interventions, the state was in retreat.  
 
read-more
spotlight image

It will also feature glimpses of Indian traditional, folk and tribal art such as Gond, Madhubani and Pattachitra paintings.

 
read-more
spotlight image So the lady’s not for turning. Well, we knew that, didn’t we? Brexit means Brexit, no “partial membership”, no “half-in, half-out”. This was the section of Theresa May’s speech most heavily briefed in advance – but still gloriously welcome to the hard Brexiteers when she finally uttered t
 
read-more
spotlight image It is unfortunate that Taiwan has a neighbor across the Taiwan Strait that wants to annex it, but, even more frustrating, Taiwanese also have to put up with people who echo China’s rhetoric and intended to intimidate Taiwanese into obedience.
 
read-more
Read the transcriipt of UN Secretary-General's End-of-Year Press Conference, held in New York on December 16, here...
 
read-more
spotlight image It is wrong to look only at Israel while fighting rages across the Middle East, writes the former Shin Bet chief.
 
read-more
When is a scam not a scam? The short answer obviously would be, when it is approved by the Government in power. But then, the question arises: Is that necessarily true?  
 
read-more
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Column-image

Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
Column-image

An aching sense of love, loss and yearning permeate this work of fiction which, however, reads like a personal narrative set in an intensely disruptive period of Indian history, and adds to the genre of partition literature, writes Ni...

 
Column-image

This is a path-breaking work on India's foreign policy since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in May 2014 and surprised everyone by taking virtual charge of the external affairs portfolio. A man who had been denied visa by some count...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive