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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

Touring The Decades

Neither subtle nor flashy, a hard-nosed look at foreign policy

Touring The Decades
Touring The Decades
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
DIPLOMATS, like generals, when they retire usually fade away. Or at least that is what their colleagues, erstwhile political masters and assorted journalists, think-tankers, academics hope they will do! Indian diplomats have taken this wish too seriously. Most of them have gracefully faded away to enjoy retired life and to appear at a somnolent seminar or two at the India International Centre.

J.N. Dixit is that breed of diplomat who has not chosen "vanaprastha" and we should be grateful for that. He continues to advise the Indian government, he is a regular at seminars and not just at the IIC, he speaks but most importantly he writes his mind—and with verve, candour and bluntness. Across Borders is his latest book. It is redolent of his seminar interventions and his previous writings, touching on themes, ideas, predilections, prescriptions, incidents and periods that one associates with this most public of former foreign secretaries. However, this is not a repackaging of his earlier books which dealt with his term in Sri Lanka and on relations with Pakistan. It is a descriptive and analytical survey of Indian foreign policy since Independence, and therefore sits somewhere between a superior if fact-ridden textbook and a more rigorous, critical weighing of the formulation, direction, successes and failures of India's relations with the world.

Survey writings contain much that is well known. In addition, this is a massive tome. If time is a concern, read chapter 14, which pulls together the basic arguments of the entire survey. Four or five big things catch the eye though and these are worth highlighting in a review. First, on balance, India's foreign policy has been a success. The basically Nehruvian principles and vision that have undergirded, with some inflections and adaptations, our relations with the rest of the world have...

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