‘Baggage made Indian foreign policy struggle harder’

The baggage of India’s foreign policy made the country “struggle mightily” to gain influence that “could have come so much more easily earlier”, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar writes in a seminal book to be released on Thursday.

“India’s foreign policy carries three major burdens from its past. One is the 1947 Partition, which reduced the nation both demographically and politically. An unintended consequence was to give China more strategic space in Asia.

“Another is the delayed economic reforms that were undertaken a decade and a half after those of China… the 15-year gap continues to put India at a great disadvantage.

“The third is the prolonged exercise of the nuclear option. As a result, India has had to struggle mightily to gain influence in a domain that could have come so much more easily earlier…,” Jaishankar writes in “The India Way — Strategies For An Uncertain World” (HarperCollins).

“I have had a ringside view of recent global changes. Above all, interacting with our own leadership over many years at different levels of hierarchy had a value that is difficult to put in words. From that, the big takeaways were the importance of defining strategic goals, recognizing optimal outcomes and appreciating the interplay of politics and policy,” Jaishankar writes.

The book comes in the backdrop of the decade from the 2008 global financial crisis to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic that has seen a real transformation world order. The very nature of international relations and its rules is changing before our eyes.

For India, this means optimal relationships with all the major powers to best advance its goals. It also requires a bolder and non-reciprocal approach to the immediate and extended neighbourhood. A global footprint is now in the making that leverages India’s greater capability and relevance, as well as its unique diaspora. This era of global upheaval entails greater expectations from India, putting it on the path to becoming a leading power.

In “The India Way”, Jaishankar analyses these challenges and spells out possible policy responses. In doing so, he is very conscious of balancing India’s national interest with international responsibilities. He places this thinking in the context of history and tradition, appropriate for a civilisational power that seeks to reclaim its place on the world stage.

“As India rises in the world order, it should not only visualize its interests with great clarity but also communicate them effectively. This book is an effort to contribute to that endeavour, encouraging an honest conversation among Indians, without discouraging the world from eavesdropping. International relations may be mostly about other nations, but neither unfamiliarity nor indifference lessens its consequences. So, rather than allow events to come upon us, these are better anticipated and analysed,” the blurb of the book says.

“In a transformed world order where the old rules no longer apply, how can India make its way in a manner that best suits its interests and stature? We are delighted to publish S. Jaishankar’s exceptional work that brings clarity to a complicated scenario and indicates the path forward,” HarperCollins Publisher Krishan Chopra said.