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Through the Prism of Partition?

Wilson John

By Jayanta Kumar Ray
Routledge, New Delhi, 2011, pp.813, Rs. 1895.00


India's foreign policy has been, and continues to be, driven by a host of factors which are not easy to delineate. India's relations with the external world have often been driven by personalities-individual proclivities, orien-tations and worldview. History and geography have played their part in varying tones. Today economics, resource crunch and energy requirements shape the contours of foreign policy. Consistency has never been its hallmark. Long-term views have rarely been articulated. Impossibly high grounds of mor-ality and ethics have given way to hard-nosed pragmatism and a marked propensity to wilt under pressure. Discontinuities and discordant notes mark various phases of the journey India has undertaken as an independent nation. Any attempt to understand India's foreign policy, therefore, remains an incredibly comp-lex task. Jayanta Kumar Ray's volume is indeed a work of considerable magnitude spanning as it does the first six decades of India's Indepen-dence. By any measure, it is an ambitious pro-ject making Ray's analyses and opinions open to debate. Seeds of such a debate are sown in the first two paragraphs where Ray underlines two primary drivers of India's foreign policy-Partition and the Indian leadership. His argument that 'some of the most important and persistent problems of post-1947 foreign relations of India can be traced to Partition' at once confines the debate within the timeframe set by him (1947-2007). The fact that Partition has had a defining influence on India's world-view and external relationship is undeniable. But analysing India's foreign policy through the prism of Partition alone invites perils of oversimplification and prejudice. Ray, on his part, does agree that 'in order to appreciate the impact of Partition on India's foreign relations, one has to look before and after 1947. But he, then, effectively curtails the scope of such a study by limiting the inquiry to 'the actions and thought processes of the chief Indian architects of Partition'. Evidently, neither the historical events nor changes taking place in the international arena, both of which greatly influenced the leaders as well as events in India, have been examined by Ray in depth while reviewing the actions of the Indian leadership. The glaring absence of such a perspective, which runs throughout the volume, under-mines its ambitious scope and promise. This flaw is noticed in the Introduction itself where Ray has scrutinized the 'thoughts and actions' of leaders like Gandhi among others. Thus, it is not surprising that Ray has given short ...

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