This book in memory of the late Prof. M.L. Sondhi is a compilation of essays by intellectuals who have studied the political situation over the ages with deep interest and able scholarship.
Prof. Arthur Waldron points out that had India showed the required flexibility and foresight, it could have been a great power long ago. Praising M.L. Sondhi for his foresight, Waldron says that whether it was the question of Tibet or China or the need for development of maritime capabilities of India or reappraising the East-West relations beyond the prism of the Cold War, Sondhi sketched the historical processes that, starting in 1989, swept away the communism that had been imposed from outside when he said that it was India'spolitical strength and will-power that would determine the possibilities of ?controlling the recklessness of Chinese leaders and ensuring peace in Asia and the world.?
Sondhi wanted acquisition of nuclear weapons as he believed that ?how could China take seriously a country that professed pacifism, had shown up poorly in 1962, and so forth?? That China is India'sprincipal competitor for power and influence in Asia is argued by most of the contributors in this volume. The tussle for Asian leadership between democratic India and communist China became clearly discernible at Bandung, where ?anything that diminishes Indian leadership tends to strengthen the Chinese imagination.?
When Tibet was annexed by China and the Sino-India equation underwent a profound change, relations between India and China changed. Waldron criticises Nehru'spolicy on China and supports the Dalai Lama'sdream of making Tibet a zone of peace, free of nuclear weapons. This way ?genuine trust can begin to develop between India and China.?
But, according to Professor Premen Addy, this is highly unlikely. He draws attention to the fact that the Dalai Lama'sfive-point peace plan put forward in European Parliament calling for demilitarisation of Tibet was dismissed by China. Professor Addy maintains that China's?view of its sovereignty over Tibet is not limited to basic jurisdiction and political requirements, but reflects an ambitious foreign policy whose parameters include the dominance of China in Asia and the wider world.?
Professor Ashok Kapoor argues in his essay that China will never be comfortable with India. He makes the case that China has actively promoted the balkanisation of India.
Dr Rajaram Panda emphasises that India and Japan ?are never likely to seek for competitive influence in Asia.?
Ashley J. Tellis, the Indian-American strategic thinker, says that a strong India-US relationship is the need of the hour.
Presenting papers on ?Global Environment?, Paul Wilkinson, one of the participants, says that the international community has viewed the Kashmir imbroglio in a manner that provides oxygen to the terrorists.
Professor Riaz Punjabi argues that though India should continue to encourage and act on the recent peace proposals on Kashmir, ?the stability in Afghanistan and peace in Wazirstan in Pakistan would (also) be a factor to be taken care of.?
Under the section ?Nuclear Powers?, the contributors have highlighted India'sstruggle to come out of the mindset conditioned by Nehruvian framework. Nehru did not take the nuclear plunge in 1958 on the advice of Homi J. Bhabha, and despite the nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998, India did not show the guts to say, ?Yes, we have crossed the brink and produced the nuclear weapon.?
The last section consists of essays that reflect India'srelations with select countries like Israel, Taiwan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
Harsh B. Pant analyses the complicated scenario created by USA pressuring India to go slow on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas line where he argues that ?Indian foreign policy can neither be pro-Iran nor pro-USA, but should be geared towards preserving and enhancing Indian strategic interests.?
In all, this compilation of well-researched and dispassionately analysed essays presents valuable information on critical aspects of India'sgeopolitics at a time when the country is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary of Independence.
(Lancer Publishers, 2/42 (B), Sarvapriya Vihar, New Delhi-110016.)