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Foreign Policy Vibes


Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

UNDER THE EMPIRE: INDIA'S NEW FOREIGN POLICY
By Ninan Koshy
Leftword, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 331, Rs. 450.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 2 February 2007

It is common to hear from both extreme left and right that contemporary Indian foreign policy is adrift of its moorings. Ninan Koshy’s book attempts to put forward the left basis for this claim. He believes a desire among India’s foreign policy establishment to attach itself to the coattails of the United States is the main cause of India’s heresy. This is not an original theme. But Koshy’s greater sin is to make a shoddy job of presenting his case. Koshy places nonalignment – ‘in essence…the principle of independence in thought and action in foreign policy’ – on a pedestal and tries to show how Indian foreign policy under both the National Democratic Alliance and United Progressive Alliance governments have turned their back on this deity.   He argues that ‘two factors were mainly responsible for the paradigmatic shift in India’s policy: nuclear weaponisation and the US War on Terror.’   The 1998 Pokhran II nuclear tests were, in particular, the root of all evil. The NDA government carried out the tests because it sought ‘ a place for India in the nuclear order presided over by the US.’ Following the tests, India and the US then negotiated a deal which come to fruition after 9/11. Under this agreement ‘the US gave de facto recognition to India…as a nuclear weapon state and made it a military ally in the war against terrorism.’ In return, ‘India accepted the nuclear lordship of the US, endorsing America’s reshaping of the global nuclear order.’   This is a nice-sounding theory. Unfortunately it has little to do with the actual events and motives that have driven Indian foreign policy in the past 15 years.   Well before 1998, the P.V. Narasimha Rao government had tried to carry out nuclear tests. The reason why both the BJP and the Congress felt it necessary to walk down this path was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. India’s foreign policy leadership, including Third Front leader I.K. Gujral, believed that India’s nuclear deterrent would not be credible without another round of tests. They also believed that the CTBT, even if India did not sign, would foreclose the option of such tests forever.   Far from cutting a ‘deal’ to allow India into the nuclear club, the then Clinton administration fought tooth and nail against any such concession. Clintonites remained among the last holdouts against the present Indo-US nuclear deal. Even ...


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