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Beyond the Beaten Track

P.R. Chari

Edited by P.R. Kumaraswamy
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 281, Rs. 340.00


It is a daunting task for an academic to set about collecting and publishing an edited volume of essays. Especially if other academics are involved in the exercise. For one, there is the predicament of locating suitable persons who have the credentials and are not otherwise busy. For another, the problem remains of ensuring that they deliver on time, that their papers should be of publishable quality, break new ground and not be a rehash of the academic’s earlier writings. This is the most onerous task of all, and all editors must often have asked themselves if it was not easier to write out the entire book themselves.   Appreciating these problems in an edited volume enterprise, Kumaraswamy has acquitted himself admirably by putting together an interesting collection of essays to honour K. Subrahmanyam (KS), the doyen of strategic thinkers in India. He notes, “This volume is a celebration of his (KS) eventful and distinguished life in public service and his role in promoting national security consciousness in India.” One must concur with this judgement. Subrahmanyam’s greatest contribution has been to bring about some transparency regarding the processes of defence and national security decision-making, which was earlier the preserve of small coteries with a vested interest in secrecy. It was only after India’s debacle in the Sino-Indian border conflict of 1962 that the Government of India decided to educate people on national security issues and get their support for the defence effort. This led to the establishment of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, headed for long years by KS.   The editor’s title for his book, Security Beyond Survival, needs an explanation. He believes that India’s quest for great power status “is not just of survival but to play a pre-eminent role in global politics. However, India is not yet ready to play such a role. It lacks institutional cohesion in the sense that the various branches of the government, the academia, and the public do not share a common vision or strategy to realize that vision.” He supports this severe indictment by noticing India’s unwillingness to take risks in its foreign policy decision-making and “hence slipping into an all too familiar pattern of vacillation and no decision.” Survival, indeed, has become the leitmotif of Indian security.   A heartening feature of this collection of essays is the judicious mix of younger scholars (Shyam Babu, Rajesh ...

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