Recent Books – Indian Foreign Policy

Ian Hall (ed.) – The Engagement of India: This nifty volumes looks at how other countries and major powers have engaged India over the past few decades since it has effectively ‘risen’ in the international order. It argues that India’s rise is a story that has external factors as much as it does internal, basically reforms and the nuclear tests that proclaimed India’s newfound rise in the international system. One of the external factors is the engagement of India by other major powers that has, as the book demonstrates through various chapters on a series of bilateral relations, led to India’s incipient rise since the 1990s. It defines engagement as any strategy that employs ‘positive inducements’ to influence the behaviour of states. And this comes either through exchange strategies or quid pro quod or catalytic ones, that aim to elicit more transformative changes in the relationship. Despite its clear objective, the edited volume makes one big analytical assumption that effectively colours ensuing chapters. By temporising the background scene and context that of early 1990s, it places a cleavage between two eras of foreign policy, before 91 and after 91, which negates us from looking at the continuities between those two eras.

Latha Varadharajan – The Domestic Abroad: This books attempts to make sense of the rise of the Indian diaspora by anchoring it within the context of the Indian state and its policies toward the diaspora or the ‘domestic abroad.’ Varadharajan argues that the ‘production’ of this domestic abroad constituency rests on several contingent conditions – neoliberal restructuring and the recent opening of Indian markets, the embrace of liberalisation and the success of the global Indian entrepreneur, whose time had purportedly arrived. The key conceptual and empirical difference in the argument is the notion that the Indian state was heavily behind the rise of the diaspora and had facilitated its prominence in order to propel the ongoing economic transformation at home. Within IR theory, the book enquires on the relationship between the nation and the state that precipitates different forms of transnational elements which serve to buttress the interests of the state. And this is done with relevance to the global capitalism and the opportunities and constraints it imposes on all states.

Henry Nau and Deepa Olapally (eds,) – Worldviews of Aspiring Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China, India, Iran, Japan and Russia: This edited volume looks at how domestic policy debates in these rising powers have contributed to its foreign policy. It also has a chapter on India, which I describe in brief. The chapter commences by looking at Indian conceptions of grand strategy and focuses on how Indian policymakers view her foreign policy choices and the structural conditions that underpin them. The authors distinguish between four different schools of foreign policy in India – Nationalists, Realists, Liberal Globalists and Leftists. Through analysis, they claim that the nationalists and leftists have less clout whereas the realists and liberal globalists have gained strength since the 1990s. These groups that all hold different principles regarding power and principles in international system agree and disagree to a certain degree on core issues like major power relations, use of force, international institutions and other issues. Sadly, these labels do not provide us a robust understanding of the foreign policy scene in India and the various groups because they are not empirically founded. Without adequate empirical support, they cannot be substantiated as authoritative view held by anyone in Delhi. Moreover, many of these labels and the concepts undergirding them often blur (e.g. autonomy can be an objective for many groups and not just the preserve of various nationalist splinters) and this is not considered either by the authors.


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