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Using a hoary template

books Updated: Oct 05, 2012 23:57 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

India’s Foreign Policy
Muchkund Dubey
Rs. 699 PP 306

Many mourn the demise of the Nehruvian consensus in Indian foreign policy. They now have an earnest defence of the more liberal internationalist elements of that early doctrine.

Muchkund Dubey, former foreign secretary, has penned a lengthy brief arguing for the continued relevance of the nonaligned movement, the G-77, universal disarmament, and even nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Dubey argues India’s national interest lies in pursuing an independent foreign policy.

The issue is how is this best pursued and what does this mean. Dubey is clear: “India’s national interests are best served in a world free from discrimination and arbitrary action, and one based on equity, justice and fair play.” And the diplomatic tools to reach this target are in the multilateral sphere – nonalignment, the UN and so on.

Unfortunately, these are flawed or marginal organisations today and Dubey is unable to make a convincing argument for their future relevance to India. He moans about the new groupings that sully the landscape, even declaring India’s G-20 membership to be a mistake. The trajectory of India-US relations is a source of grudging appraisal.

There is an excellent account of the importance of India coming to terms with its neighbours, with a dissection of Bangladesh relations in particular.

“A country is judged through the prism of its neighbour’s perceptions.” Dubey also undertands the importance of trade diplomacy more than most. But ultimately this is an attempt to use a hoary policy template on a changed world – and it doesn’t fit.