Get Involved

Changed Foreign Policy Stems from Bharat’s Cohesive Leadership

Why Bharat matters’ is a wonderful and compact rendition of the dynamic policy matrix by S. Jaishankar while being in corner office!

Dr Amritpal Kaur

When the realist External affairs Minister present a clinical picture of the world affairs in a compact book, it should be read with all the care. It’s because the analysis of a career diplomat is palpable and it also gives a sense of the minds that work at the helm, in the control room, assiduously at work of foreign policy making and execution.

As the book unfolds, it reveals to the reader nuances of International relations from contemporary Indian vantage point from the actors end to the influencers arena, to general people who more often than not, are at the receiving end.

Broadly, the book deals with various stakeholders of Indian Foreign Policy, past and present. It discusses the government’s account of international issues as well as the take of people sitting inside the power corridors or outside it. Sardar Patel, Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Dr. B R Ambedkar’s views on foreign policy issues which were not mainstreamed by the then Government of India are discussed.

The point that Jaishankar is driving home in this book and his earlier publication, The India Way is that many problems of today have their roots in yesteryear’s regimes. These issues have over the years become soar points for India, territorial disputes and strategic-tactical missteps taken by Indian dispensation are the glaring examples.

Why Sardar Patel or Mookerjee matter today, in part, is because they tried to warn about these mistakes and had the Government taken their suggestions on board, the picture might have been different today. There is also a shift in the approach to International relations within Indian government since the last decade and this shift comes through the book as well Nationalist foreign policy, in place of third world internationalism, open ended multipolar world order with greater role for countries like India. Jaishankar calling out the double standards that dominant powers use for similar situations are some of the examples of this shift.

 In many ways, Why Bharat Matters is a book that announces to the world that India has arrived, again! It goes beyond the usual standard academic analysis, into the fields of real time variables with direct impact on contours of policy making. For example, how Government of India responded to crises like COVID 19, Ukraine war, Afghanistan crisis are some issues dealt with in the book on a first person account basis.

What also contribute to its salience is that Jaishankar has a deep and detailed knowledge about International relations and the games that nations play and it is this knowledge which peeps through the book. As much as it is a written word, it is also a policy statement of Government of India, its approach and stakes in international relations. In that sense, it is not a dated analysis, rather an up-to-date, in-the-moment picture of the events that have happened in the past decade and are transpiring as we write and read.

What sets this analysis apart is not just frankness of Jaishankar in offering his perspective on issues, but the cool matter-of-fact assertion of strategic elbow room that India is claiming in foreign relations under mounting pressure from various parties. That India needs to take into account its own unique predicaments and opportunities to accomplish its own national goals are according to Jaishankar its raison d’etat. Though the world is still coming to terms with this changed attitude on the Indian side, but the change itself came about with the cohesive leadership under the present dispensation. Interestingly, for Jaishankar India’s arrival is not a new-kid-on-the-block phenomenon, rather it was coming for a long time. India’s rise in the past decade is the central argument of the book.

There are certain fixtures of Indian foreign policy, which has remained constant in the analysis too, that is, centrality of Prime Minister in terms of Foreign Policy making, the neighbourhood policy emanating from Gujral Doctrine and the impact of foreign policy on general public.

A chapter dedicated to Prime Minister Modi, his world-view and approach to foreign policy is a telling example of how Prime Ministers keep foreign policy as their own prerogative domain. It can be argued that centrality of Prime Minister in foreign policy formulation emanates from the fact that as the leader of the country, he or she has a direct hand in how the world sees us and how should the world be dealt with.

Jaishankar argues in the book that on all occasions, it has been crystal clear vision of Prime Minister Modi that led the way for clearer formulations in foreign policy. That the book declares India’s arrival on the world stage as a  fait accompli, not as a third world country, but as a frontline state with increasing stakes in the outcomes of international politics can also be attributed to confidence of leadership in standing up and owning responsibility in precarious situations. The book is a telling story of how the shift in confidence of leadership impacts the policy outcomes and Prime Minister as the prime example of this evolution.

Dr. S Jaishankar’s experience as a seasoned Diplomat is palpable in the book he put together. The depth and crux of issues pertaining to India’s international relations are visible in his analysis. In certain ways, his style reminds one of Henry Kissinger, with crisp, assertive language and a punch in the end. However, the problem with the work is that it reads more like a diplomat’s manual than a foreign policy analysis.

For an amateur reader, with no background in the foreign policy analysis the book is somewhat difficult to follow due to the insufficient information given. For example, in discussing the Afghan crisis and its outcome for USA, an indepth analysis would have been a more impactful. Issues that the book raises are pertinent in their own right, their salience could be accentuated by additional information given like in the case of India’s economic rise, trade data, depth and width of Indian capabilities across sectors.

What has been said is definitely important. But, what has not been said may be even more important. For example, there is no discussion on India’s advances in frontier technologies including Space technologies and how they contribute to Bharat’s rise, the link between Modi regime and the multipolar world order that India promotes. Dr. Jaishankar’s views on these key issues may contribute to pursuing a realist approach to international relations.

Merit of this work also stems from the foreign policy formulation that he leads assiduously and international relations that are dynamic and in continuum. Jaishankar’s stoic analysis helps in making sense of situations as they rise and the stance that India takes keeping her national interest in focus.

(Author is an Assistant Professor in Political Sciences, Dayal Singh College, University of Delhi)

Share this:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *