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Chronicling Change

An astute analysis of the history and future of India‘s external relations

Book: India‘s Foreign Policy: Coping with the Changing World

Author: Muchkund Dubey

Publisher: Pearson Education

Price: Rs. 699

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Pages:320

India’s former Foreign Secretary Muchkund Dubey has been a prolific writer on a breathtaking range of regional and international political and economic issues. Over the past 25 years and more,Dubey has written articles in journals and newspapers,presented erudite papers at international seminars and conferences and edited a number of books dealing with contemporary challenges. However,these contributions have not made the impact they should have because they constitute only snapshots of his overall thinking,thinking which has also evolved over the years through careful reflection and deepening experience. The publication of India’s Foreign Policy — Coping with the Changing World,which is his first in a series of volumes planned for publication by Pearson,is a most welcome introduction to a broad sweep analysis of India’s external relations which is being undertaken by Dubey.

While this volume has selected a number of contemporary themes on which Dubey has written extensively,the opening chapter “Underlying Principles,Strategies and Challenges” is the most significant with its clear and cogent enunciation of the wellsprings of India’s strategic thinking. The chapter provides a reasoned perspective on India’s policy of Non-Alignment and how it served India’s interests in the early years after independence. There is an eloquent articulation of the manner in which India’s external environment has undergone and is still undergoing a transformation since the end of the Cold War. The process of globalisation has made this transformation more complex. Dubey rightly emphasises the interplay of domestic and external factors which sometimes limits the role of diplomacy. As he points out: “Thus,in the ultimate analysis,the battle for carving out the rightful place for India in the comity of nations will be won or lost on the domestic front,and not so much on the diplomatic front”.

The rest of the volume deals with several topical themes. Dubey has been one of the strongest proponents of regional cooperation in the Indian sub-continent. In the chapter “Dealing with Neighbours”,he has made a well-argued case for giving the utmost priority to our immediate periphery. Having served as one of our most successful envoys to Dhaka,his two perceptive chapters on Bangladesh merit close attention. A powerful case has been made for investing in a broad-based and cooperative partnership with this key neighbour to the East. One would have wished that this volume had also covered India’s relations with some other key neighbours,Pakistan,

Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Dubey has focused on India’s relations with key major powers and one cannot but agree with several of his insights concerning the recent evolution of our links with the US,China and Russia. On China,he rightly argues for a strategy of deepening engagement even while maintaining a robust security posture.

Having been involved in negotiating the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement,I was particularly interested in the chapter “The Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal”. Dubey’s critique is comprehensive and well-balanced,but on some of the reservations expressed on US policy towards India I have a different view. Since the deal has been concluded,the US has largely dismantled its technology denial regimes against India. The almost positive US reaction to India’s recent Agni-V test flight would indicate some rethinking on the traditional America policy to restrain India’s strategic programme.

Coming from an astute diplomatic practitioner and an internationally acclaimed economic thinker,this volume will be a most useful reference for those interested in India’s diplomatic history,its current challenges and the possible road ahead. We look forward to the promised subsequent volumes in the series.

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Shyam Saran is a former Foreign Secretary. He is currently Chairman,RIS and Senior Fellow,Centre for Policy Research,New Delhi

First published on: 22-09-2012 at 02:18:54 am
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