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Sailing Lessons For Our Seas

Of immense value to researchers and practitioners of diplomacy.
India’s Foreign Policy: Coping With The Changing World
By Muchkund Dubey
Pearson | Pages: 320 | Rs. 699

Former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey condenses in this book his vast experience, including being at the helm at a critical time in 1990-91, his deep insights, and his thorough and informed analysis of the most salient points of Indian foreign policy. His piece de resistance is a self-contained first chapter laying out basic assumptions, strategies and upcoming challenges in a changing world. He then proceeds to expound in meticulous detail and historical context the state of relations with our neighbours, particularly Bangladesh, with its considerable promise, and with Indo-Pacific great powers US, Russia, China and Japan in a perspective of tectonic shifts.  His wise counsel seems to be against simplistic one-dimensional approaches, whether they are couched in realpolitik or toe the line given by people. Instead, in chapter after chapter, he brings out profound considerations backed by facts and observable trends that inspire an autonomous, principled, and dynamic policy geared to the self-interest of the nation.

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In his espousal of close relations with neighbours, Dubey suggests qualified non-reciprocity in the short and medium-term for long-term gains. India’s neighbourhood policy should be sensitive to psychological factors and responsive to the need for uninterrupted dialogue and people-to-people connectivity. He is unequivocal about safeguarding India’s basic interests, such as genuine security concerns about terrorism, subversive activities and migration. His narrative is emphatic on empathy with the interests of neighbours for broader policy-making and against dismissive branding of diverse groups in the neighbouring polity as pro- or anti-India.

The author makes an engaging study of China’s economic rise and its global strategic profile, with a sharp eye towards imperatives for India-China relations. It is incisive, fair and balanced, resists hasty verdicts on implications of China’s rise but reveals the troubling issues coming to the fore in China’s global economic relations. He compares the economic policies of India and China in Africa, remarking that Indian companies in Africa are “principally guided by the profit motive”, while Chinese firms “are essentially under government control and work...in pursuit of geostrategic interests”. Tracing the evolution of the Chinese economy since the onset of reforms in 1978, he points out that “China regarded its accession to WTO (2001) as a means of riding the crest of globalisation and emerging as a major player in the international trading system”. Since 2006, however, China has displayed no enthusiasm for liberalisation, its engagement characterised by insistence on reciprocity, greater bargaining strength and domestic compulsions. While Chinese strategy pursues a liberal economic tryst with globalisation, it is largely conservative in the political arena of human rights, non-proliferation or climate change.

This book analyses the balance sheet of Indo-US relations in the past six decades, definitive shift in mutual perceptions since 2000 and the ensuing rapid gains, with the nuclear deal being most salient. In a reasoned critique of the nuclear deal and its strategic implications, its positive role in acceleration of bilateral relations and for energy security, Dubey does not buy all arguments in its favour, but also opposes the Left’s dogged opposition to an Indo-US strategic partnership. He recommends nurturing close partnerships with the brics nations too. On the whole, this book is of immense value to researchers and practitioners of diplomacy.

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