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Dynamics of Decision-making


Happymon Jacob

STATE AND FOREIGN POLICY IN SOUTH ASIA
Edited by Jivanta Schotti and Siegfried O.Wolf
Samskriti, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 353, Rs.595.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 8-9 August-September 2011

The book under review is a refreshing volume rich with brilliant theoretical insights, first-rate empirical analysis and bold academic arguments which would not only be useful for students of South Asian international politics but also policy makers of the region. However, the book also suffers from a number of shortcomings. First of all, state and foreign policy in South Asia is not an easy theme to deal with; the contents of the volume do not do adequate justice to the title as the primary analytical preoccupation of the book is Indian, not South Asian foreign policy. While it is true that the foreign policy of India occupies centre-stage in the politics of the South Asian region, there are over half a dozen countries in the region. Thus the authors of the volume should have been more modest in defining the scope of their volume. Secondly, while the year of publication of the book under review is 2010, most of the arguments presented in the book are oblivious to the politics of South Asia post-2006-2007. While that would be acceptable if the book primarily aimed to make theoretical arguments, it loses its relevance when it aims to make data-based policy prescriptions. However, even though the volume per se may not add much value to the literature on 'South Asian studies', some of the individual chapters are exceptionally useful to students of Indian foreign and security policy behaviour towards the South Asian region. The theoretical chapter by Subrata Mitra makes a number of much-needed bold theoretical arguments about the state of India's relations with Pakistan using the normative insights of the constructivist approach. This is welcome but the chapter seems to be making use of unproblematized counter-narratives. The author, for instance, uses the constructivist theoretical approach to understand the ideational aspects of India-Pakistan relations without adequately addressing the 'negative norms' so deeply entrenched in the enemy images that a lot of people in India and Pakistan have of the other country. While the constructivists do make important theoretical and methodological contributions in understanding conflicts which have bases beyond the material level, what a large number of constructivists do is to merely focus on the so-called 'good norms' and conveniently ignore the 'negative norms'. Mitra's constructivist argument suffers from such selection bias. For example he says, 'The fact that domestic politics in South Asia offer evidence of tolerance, accommodation, and dialogue across cultural ...


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