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Atul Mishra

SHAPING THE EMERGING WORLD: INDIA AND THE MULTILATERAL ORDER
Edited by Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu , Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Bruce Jones
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2014, pp. 358, Rs. 895.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 2 February 2015

The established wisdom in international relations is that a major state seeking to secure its interests in world affairs has essentially three options to choose from. If it is powerful enough, it can play the geopolitical game of balance of power. If it is large but relatively weak, it can take recourse to rhetoric and lecture the world on universal values like peace and justice. But if the state is in that curious position of being strong but not strong enough, its interests are best served by participating in the processes of building a rule-based institutional global order, in other words, through multilateralism. The three options are associated with realism, idealism and liberalism respectively.  This volume offers a liberal take on India’s international relations and posits that economics drives politics in international affairs. And like American liberalism, it also contains strong elements of realism. The military dimensions of power and the salience of strategy and geopolitical interests are never lost sight of. Indeed, these inform almost all the chapters. The fundamental insight that this book offers is that the growth of the Indian economy has been the basis for India’s gradual ascendance in international affairs, and in order to secure this growth as well as overcome its limitations, India must help shape a liberal world order as a major liberal power. This requires it to adopt the path of multilateralism—create norms, write rules and build institutions of the emerging world.  From the liberal standpoint, the soundness of this argument is undeniable for four reasons. Firstly, the web of interdependence is thickening and expanding as a consequence of capitalist globalization and staying away from this process is not an option. India must leave a strong imprint on the emerging network of global norms, rules and institutions. Secondly, strengthened and smart multilateralism would build upon one of the pillars of India’s foreign policy, since the conception of international politics as a collaborative and cooperative exercise among states and other actors has been central to it. Thirdly, it would cause India to rethink its role as a normative actor on the world stage. Elements of its traditional self-image as a provider of values have been rendered less important. And even though the crass morality-mongering of the early decades has stopped, its ghost will not vanish unless an image more sophisticated—one more befitting a trustee of 17 percent of the ...


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