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Changing Perspectives in a Globalized World

Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy

By S.D. Muni
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2009, pp. vii + 178, Rs. 495.00

By Rajiv Sikri
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2009, pp. xx + 317, Rs. 595.00


S.D. Muni, an esteemed academic known for his expertise on South Asia, exam-ines the democratic dimension of India’s foreign policy in the book under review. Despite India’s own success with democracy, India does not seem to promote democracy in a significant way. In examing why this is so the most pertinent question that arises is: How have strategic interests influenced India’s foreign policy in relation to its support for democracy and its interest in pluralistic, participative governments prevailing in and among the nations of the world? The promotion of democracy plays only a marginal role in Indian foreign policy. Since the 1950s, the principle of non-interference has dominated foreign policy debates in India. For this reason, Indian politicians do not view India’s democracy as an export model. Muni underlines that the democracy dimension has been of low priority in the formulation of foreign policy. In the new millennium, however, while India aspires to be a great power, democracy has assumed a salient space in India’s foreign policy discourse. Muni begins with the theoretical parameters behind democracy and asserts that democratic theory does not offer much help in understanding the role of democracy in foreign policy of a given country. Notwithstanding this gap, he provides a historical review of the phases where the democratic preferences were salient in India’s foreign policy. Muni highlights that India did not pursue democracy in the years following independence as the principal objective of foreign policy in the Asian neighbourhood because democracy is an agenda of internal political transformation that could come only with political independence. Therefore, from India’s perspective, the priority was to support anti-colonial and anti-imperial struggles, both actively and tacitly. He identifies three phases in the evolution of Indian foreign policy. The first phase encompassed the Nehru years, during which the newly independent India supported the anti-colonial movement and avoided the two Cold War alignments. India’s defence and security imperatives obliged it to conduct bilateral relations without overemphasizing the significance of democratic values. During the Cold War, India did not give precedence to the idea that democracy should be an organizing principle of international affairs. It attached more weight to the anti-western criterion than the internal democratic credentials of its Eastern and Third World friends. The two main aspects regarding India’s responses to democracy related turbulence in the neighbourhood are spelt out. First ...

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