Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Soft Power Status!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor, Penguin/Allen Lane, 449 pp; Rs799 (Hardback)
Shashi Tharoor’s Pax Indica is formally written with the three different angels of a career diplomat, an articulate writer and finally a politician, who entered the political fray through the Lok Sabha, despite serving in alien foreign lands for over three decades. Rich in details and with Tharoor’s natural mastership on international affairs, this book inquisite India’s position in the new world order, where it gives the balanced picture of established and newly found strengths and weaknesses that finally shapes the design of India’s foreign policy. The richness of this book lies in the insights and information it exudes for the readers about the nature of Indian diplomacy and its institutional establishments.

Pax Indica, as the name suggests confirms India as a super soft power, which only has to work more meticulously with ‘grand strategy’ to make its presence felt on the world stage. The rational execution of ‘grand strategy’ will be needed a thorough synergizing exercise in the Indian foreign policy; international relationships that have been remain a cornstone needs to be reviewed now. At some front, India must think to amend its outdated policies-certainly the ‘non-alignment’ is one of those core issues, where India should act in favour of its interest, instead only responding for moralistic baggage.

In present global strategic scenario, ‘multi-alignment’ would be in favour of India, both as an individual nation and leader of the developing nations, where its leadership has all acceptance and prominence. Aptly quoted in the beginning of the book from Nehru’s ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech that ‘Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world’ justifies India’s broad stake in the global policy making. The fundamental facts support India to rise up to the high rank, it deserves-since the first Asian Relations Conference in Delhi, India presented its ethical aspirations to the world as a young patient nation but with a strong civilisational history.

Tharoor’s idea behind the Pax Indica is progressively constituted and doesn’t support the ‘idea of global or regional domination along the lines of a Pax Romana or a Pax Britannica but a ‘Pax’ for the twenty-first century, a peace system which will help promote and maintain a period of cooperative coexistence in its region and across the world’. Atleast notionally, India has been maintaining its independent standing in international relations and there is no reason, why it should not continue its conventional stand with spontaneous adaptability to the changes.

Remarkably, some key historical developments since1947, which are important for knowing the basics of India’s foreign policy have generously covered by the author in course of finding the new vision for future. A famous quote of Tharoor, used in the jacket of this book as well perfectly sums up the diplomatic process of India as: ‘Indian diplomacy is like the love-making of an elephant: it is conducted at a very high level, accompanied by much bellowing, and the results are not known for two years’. This way, India will never fulfill the global responsibilities, which its domestic transformations happened over the decades easily allow.

The point of view, even which is being formed in the collective imaginations that the many ‘non-issues’ like, better line and staff management inside the establishment is the need of hour and at any cost, those concern should not be surpassed now. India needs specialists and generalists to run its diplomatic corpses, not alone the tailor-made bureaucratic crowd will really usher it to the prominently crucial position in global policy making. What India also urgently need is the new way of looking on ‘near abroad’ or ‘distant abroad’-revisiting of policies, not maintaining the ‘status quo’ will be the true progressivism here.

Initiatives and reciprocations are very essential qualities that a growing power like India should always follow. In recent past, India has ceased to demonstrate both these qualities on crucial occasions-Nepal could be a case in sight, where the radicals have major reservations against India’s asymmetric diplomatic engagement with their country. It really surprises, why Indian mission in Kathmandu not push for more engaged diplomatic collaboration with New Delhi, when this inertia is causing grave strain in relations between hitherto two most friendly nations. In the same way, India should work with new strategy of engagements with the Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri lanka for promoting the peace and co-operation in south Asia.

Working on the obvious and going beyond the obvious-both should be the prime action in foreign policy agenda. Since 1991, world has changed with the end of cold war and collapse of alternative power block, USSR-in the meantime, India has chosen the market reform that finally has given to a mammoth impression in its side, so now is time to working with fresh approaches. Mr. Tharoor has focussed on some of the path-breaking issues, which normally ignored in mega-observations of self styled foreign policy experts. Writing from a political position and with so many new observations are not lesser than a brave job, which Shashi Tharoor has done it again, following his own track records with more than a dozen of books and numerous articles.

Not necessarily, change should be always taken as ‘unconventional’; especially a rising soft power like, India must be more receptive with the dynamicism of new global political order, which is working covertly though needs proactive response and on the real time basis. This book has written on time and its specific suggestions should appeal the ruling UPA government, as the reality checks pointed by Mr. Tharoor are easy to reckon. The idea of Pax Indica is not timid, despite it’s written by a full time politician, probably a ‘writer’s virtue’ has succeeded here!
Atul Kumar Thakur
October 20, 2012, Saturday
(Published in The Kashmir Monitor,dated on October21,2012)

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