This book is meant for the reader who wants to understand how the foreign policy of India evolved, what its basic motivations and governing ideas were, the principles on which it was founded, the political milieu in which it was developed with various prime ministers facing the challenges and the directions it took before evolving into India'sforeign policy.
The foreign policy of a nation is determined by the times in which it is conducted and is influenced by its history and geographical position. The book begins with the Nehru era when Nehru himself admitted that India'sforeign policy was rooted in India'scivilisation and tradition, struggle for freedom, geographical position and quest for peace, security and development. Primarily two approaches defined India'sforeign policy? the awareness of existing weaknesses and the belief in India as a potentially great power. Regarding this Nehru had said in March 1947: ?If we had been some odd little nation in Asia or Europe, it would not have mattered much, but because we counted and because we?re going to count more and more in the future, everything we do becomes a matter of comment and many people do not like our counting so much. It is not a question of our viewpoint or of attaching ourselves to this or that bloc; it is merely a fact that we are potentially a great nation and a big power and possibly it is not liked by some people that anything should happen to strengthen us.?
The two approaches led to remaining in the Commonwealth while keeping intact India'seconomic links with the West and the other was non-alignment. The principal element in India'sforeign policy was India'scommitment to the struggle against imperialism and colonialism and to the unity of the struggling nations of the world. Here the book focuses its attention on the war with China in which the Chinese wanted ?to teach India a lesson?, undermine Nehru'simage and India'snon-alignment and demonstrate to the world as to who was the stronger power, says the author. Nehru knew that China was a strong nation and India ?did not have the military strength to send its troops and fight China? and so he sought a peaceful solution to various border problems with China. This continues to be the policy of every Indian leader who has come to power since then.
The book describes Indira Gandhi'sforeign policy and the tough times she had to pass through with the Bangladesh liberation war, relations with the US, Nepal, China and Sri Lanka. The author says, ?Mrs Gandhi'shandling of foreign policy was firm, realistic and dignified. She made a few mistakes?Mrs Gandhi kept the flag of Independence afloat in foreign policy. She combined flexibility with firmness, determination and resilience.?
Talking of Rajiv Gandhi, the author says, ?Rajiv Gandhi'sworldview did not turn out to be very different from his grandfather?s. He displayed a similar touch of idealism coupled with great sense of realism in foreign policy.? Whatever were his ?occasional flip-flops internally, in foreign policy he displayed surefootedness that was remarkable.?
The author discusses India'sforeign policy as followed by Narasimha Rao, Satish Gujral and Atal Behari Vajpayee. He praises Vajpayee for taking ?some bold steps to break the logjam with Pakistan? and push through a process of reconciliation, but is not happy when ?Vajpayee, Advani and Jaswant Singh were keen on acceding to US request for dispatch of Indian troops to Iraq?But public opinion was strongly opposed to it and the Opposition put up a stiff resistance that obliged Vajpayee to drop the idea.?
Referring to Manmohan Singh'sforeign policy, the author says that there is ?a marked continuity under Manmohan Singh – especially in relation to important neighbours like China and Pakistan and a big power like the USA.? He praises Singh for skipping the UN session and attending the NAM summit at Havana in September 2006, because ?NAM, flabby as it has become, might have lost some steam and could do with some blood transfusion; but for India, the founder member, to disdain an organisation of 118 members, could be described as the height of folly.?
The author sums up foreign policy as neither ?a zero sum-game nor one-upmanship game; it is a serious business and no game at all. It is a business of engagement?engagement with neighbours, engagement with world powers, engagement with as many countries of the world as possible, engagement for political reasons, engagement for economic reasons, engagement for security reasons, for peace and development and now engagement for energy consideration.? This is the sum and substance of foreign policy according to the author who is a former pro-Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University.
(National Book Trust, India, A-5 Green Park, New Delhi-110016.)