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Professional Assessments

Vyjayanti Raghavan

Edited by Amar Nath Ram
Manohar Books,New Delhi, 2015, pp. 324, Rs. 895.00


Thanks, perhaps to the Himalayas, India has largely had a westwards ori-entation. Or to be a bit more accurate, the West has always looked towards India, from the time of Alexander the Great. Neither statement is fully true but it does tell us how India’s links with the East have never been quite as deep as with the region to the West of India. Historically the only link that India had with the East was through Buddhism. In a large measure, conquest has been the reason for this orientation. Countries to the East of India have never conquered India; countries to the West have, often. One would have expected this to change after 1947 when the British finally left India to its own devices. But that was not to be. For almost half a century after India became a modern sovereign state with its own foreign policy, India pretty much ignored the East. Even the dramatic economic and social development of that region did not sway India. It remained focussed on the West. Except for China, the rest of the region to India’s East was aligned with the US. This was an important reason why India ignored it. But in 1990, the USSR with which India had made common cause, collapsed. A year later, India’s economy almost collapsed. That same year, P.V. Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister. Being far more learned than any member of the ruling party then, he decided that the time had come for India to look eastwards too. And so India’s Look East policy was born. This volume of 20 essays—contributed by 16 retired officers of the Indian Foreign Service who have dealt with the region during their careers—seeks to assess the progress of the Look East policy. This is a sequel to, but in many ways an updated version of, the earlier volume brought out in 2012 by the same editor. These are professional assessments, written more as reports or discussion papers within the Ministry of External Affairs. There is hardly any attempt at what can be called rigorous academic analysis but there is a wealth of information that an academic would find very useful as evidence for theories that he or she might conjure up. For that reason alone, the volume must be read by specialists on the subject. However, a major drawback in the essays by the retired diplomats is ...

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