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New India's New Foreign Policy

Harish Khare

Edited by Rajen Harshe and K.M. Seethi
Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 492, Rs. 750.00

R.R. Sharma
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 331, Rs. 640.00


In February 1949, Jawaharlal Nehru addressed a gathering of informa tion ministers from the provinces in New Delhi. As was his wont he soon digressed into the foreign policy arena. He said: “One of my old colleagues loudly protested and said that when I went to England no one knew what sort of secret agreements I had made and that those agreements had aligned India to certain countries and so she was bound to be on their side in case of war in the world.” Nehru was referring to the socialist leader, Asoka Mehta’s criticism of India’s decision to remain as a member of the Commonwealth, even after becoming a republic. Those were early days but the habits of wild accusations were already being cultivated. More than fifty-five years later Dr. Manmohan Singh has faced similar criticism of having made some secret deals with the United States, selling out India’s interests.   From Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh, the domestic discourse over foreign policy has always been overlaced, on the one hand, with a peculiar self-righteousness which outsiders find often exasperatingly inexplicable, and, on the other, with a strange distrust of the leaders’ capacity to do the right thing. In the same 1949 speech, Nehru noted this proclivity: “We should neither exaggerate India’s importance merely to please ourselves nor minimize it. We should understand the realities. We have some influence in the world and it is increasing, but this influence is not such that we can do whatever we like. If we take right steps, especially by making our country strong internally, then our influence in the world will also increase. Loud and passionate speeches or threats or passing of any resolutions and challenging the world do not have any effect on other countries. All this is useless and strong people do not do such things. Ultimately it is the internal strength of a country which is reflected in our activities outside. If we are weak internally, the world can see it and evaluate it and then our words becomes useless.”   Nehru’s plea for a measured foreign policy discourse has largely remained unheeded, as also remains unappreciated his linkage between internal strength and external clout. Recent controversies reveal the disconnect. The July 2005 India-US civilian nuclear joint statement, India’s vote against Iran at Geneva, the massive anti-Bush protests, the American President’s March 2006 trip, the Bush-Manmohan agreement, etc. ...

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