Noorani chacha speakhttp://www.frontline.in/stories/20111104282208100.htm
This work on Indian foreign policy is built on solid research and calm reflection with a unique sweep and insights that only a diplomat can provide.
DAVID M. MALONE belongs to an aristocracy of intellect some of whose members came to reside in New Delhi as envoys of their respective countries; men like Count Stanislas Ostrorog of France, Alva Myrdal of Sweden, John Kenneth Galbraith of the United States, Octavia Paz of Mexico and Escott Reid of Canada. David Malone's work reminds one of Reid's books Envoy to Nehru and Hungary and Suez. His book is a product of solid research and calm reflection. He had met very many Indian diplomats, especially when he was at the Centre on International Cooperation at New York University. As Canada's High Commissioner to India (2006-2008), he interacted with an amazingly wide range of Indian academics, diplomats and writers. Diligent research followed after retirement. This book has flashes of insights that only one who has served as a diplomat in India and is himself cerebral can provide. He is currently president of Canada's International Development Research Centre.
The book makes a timely appearance now that both India's economy and diplomacy are reaching what Rostow called the “take-off” stage. “The year 1991 was a significant turning point in Indian politics, economic orientation, and foreign policy. It coincided with the collapse of the post-Second World War world order….”
India's policies became more pragmatic and its pronouncements less doctrine. “The manner in which India's international relations evolved assisted India in creating higher levels of economic growth and earning greater global influence. However, India still grapples with a number of important security and political challenges at home, in its region, and globally. On the domestic front, while the opening up of the political space to new social groups has deepened democracy in India, it has also led to severe political fragmentation and often creates obstacles to effective policymaking. India's region is fraught with security threats arising out of unstable, often weak states such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Afghanistan, a near-neighbour in which India is much invested. Further afield, India could serve as a pivot in a new triangle (much promoted by geo-strategic commentators) involving the USA, China and India. Beyond the sphere of enjoyable geostrategic speculation, India has in recent times benefited from cooperation with the USA, while it grapples with perennial potential security threats emanating from China. India's regional and global security concerns are reflected in its policies relevant to military modernisation, maritime security, and nuclear policy. But domestic security concerns overwhelmingly predominate.” They are just the ones which remain unaddressed not least because of a volatile public opinion shaped by unscrupulous politicians and a self-righteous, ignorant media, bar a few honourable exceptions.
Comments on Afghanistan bear quotation in extenso. “Aside from similar nations such as Bhutan and the Maldives, perhaps the one country in the region where India's involvement has not played against it – to the Pakistani establishment's distress – is Afghanistan. Indians tend to see Delhi's policy as altruistic, in the words of a recent editorial: ‘Delhi's partnership with Kabul has thrived because Delhi has neither geographic access to Afghanistan nor a political agenda of its own. What India wants is a moderate and stable Afghanistan that is in harmony with its neighbours.'
The work covers the whole gamut of India's relations with the U.S., Russia, the European Union, Japan, the Gulf States, Iran and South-east Asia, besides the neighbours. “India's policy was appreciated with much more moderate enthusiasm by the West, which, with overweening superiority, and the assumption that any democracy worthy of the concept should align on it, indulged quite frequently in bullying tactics towards Delhi (while also assisting it economically, particularly with food aid). The Western, particularly U.S., tactics viewed with hindsight today were distasteful, and, in any event, proved consistently counter productive in compelling India's compliance.
“Russia was eventually able to acquire India as an ally, virtually by default, through a more relaxed projection towards India of its ideological posture, through patience with Indian rhetorical flourishes, and a realist appreciation that India mattered in the balance of power in Asia. Indian needling of the West, particularly of the USA, the fruit of its anti-imperialist sentiment, and the high-minded nature of much Indian speech-making at the U.N. and elsewhere, was congruent with its eventual alliance with Moscow, but the latter was unable to assist India much with several of its pressing needs.” This is a fair assessment of the policies.
So is this one on India's conduct of its foreign policy, its diplomacy. “Indians are mostly brilliant, hard-working, loquacious, fluent, and creative. They generally cleave to engagement with others, and this works wonders at the bilateral level, where the parameters of national interests are perhaps most clearly defined on both sides. In bilateral diplomacy, India has made many friends. Multilaterally, however, while generating for itself a reputation as a country that always needs to be contended with, India has achieved less to date, with its financial diplomacy an honourable exception. The perceived need to outflank all potential or actual rivals and impress all comers sometimes leads Indian practitioners to monopolise attention through rhetorical brilliance and to spend as much time on impressing the gallery as on tending effectively to Indian interests.
Its author's appraisals are balanced and sound. “At the strategic level, India is not yet a particularly significant player beyond its own neighbourhood. International experts view only the Indian navy as having developed both a strategy and the political support and resources to implement it in expanding India's global reach…. Time and history are on India's side as it struggles to recover from several centuries of foreign domination and its consequences. Its re-emergence, particularly if it manages its significant domestic challenges with success, will be one of the major shifts of the twenty-first century. It will have been hard won, and should gladden both students of history and of foreign affairs the world over. Twenty or thirty years from now, the tentative, contingent nature of many of my judgments today may well seem over-cautious. I certainly hope so.”
Over 40 years ago, Dorothy Woodman, another friend of India, wrote: “India today seems to be the victim of three traumas: Kashmir, the Aksai Chin, poverty. To try to resolve the first two by vast military expenditure can only direct her funds and energies from the struggle against poverty…. To settle for the present stalemate is to condone a militarily active frontier across Asia” ( Himalayan Frontiers, page 321). The situation in 2011 is not much more promising than it was in 1969.