The book this week (Week #29) was “Pax Indica” by “Shashi Tharoor“.
Pax Indica is the latest book by Shashi Tharoor. If you remember I read/reviewed another of his book earlier, called “The Great Indian Novel” which was excellent. So considering the last book and the way I know Mr. Tharoor and his writing (have followed him and his writings in the press very closely) I was expecting nothing short of brilliance.
And he didn’t disappoint at all. The book is essentially (as I would view it) an essay on India’s Foreign Policy and how India is placed in the 21st Century.
The book is nothing short of sheer brilliance and class. I have never read a complete book on Foreign Policy but a few articles here and there and some editorials but the way the author explains the Foreign Policy and its nuances is brilliant. I could never have thought that Foreign Policy could be presented in such an interesting manner.
The book starts with introduction on how Foreign Policy was in Nehruvian era and what was Nehru’s vision for India post Independence. It touches on how Foreign Policy making is so different from the yester years of Nehru and Indira Gandhi (where she indirectly headed the MEA) yet it is so much similar. He touches on the increasing clout of India and its role in the world politics in the 21st Century.
Then the book goes on to explore India’s relationship with its “Enemy Brother” Pakistan which the author says is going to remain more or less the same until there is a strong civilian government in place or till the time when the Pakistani army (which almost runs all the civilian governments indirectly) realizes that it is in their interest to have good relationship with India.
The next section is dedicated to India’s relationship with its other neighbors i.e. Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives. The author stresses there is a greater need for India to strengthen its ties with the subcontinent countries SAARC as much as it stresses on its relationship with other Western nations. India should conduct herself in a manner of regional power and trade and commerce should be increased, new land and sea routes explored and exploited to increase the flow of goods and services between its neighbors.
India’s complicated relationship with China, where on one hand India still bears the scars of 1962 humiliating defeat by China, it’s continuing border disputes with her and on the other hand the need to cooperate with her and work with China for betterment of both nations. As China and India both are currently world’s fastest growing economy and Asian regional powers, it is important that disputes are resolved amicably and trade and cooperation increases. Nevertheless the author says the trust deficit between the two nations is huge and it will take a lot of time and effort to bridge that gap. Also with China having a communist government and its previous record we can’t blindly rely on peace. If one wants peace it has to be ready for war.
The relations with Arab world is explored where the author stresses that India has good relations with Arab world and millions of Indian expatriates stay in countries like UAE, Bahrain, Dubai, etc. and India’s import is mostly of Oil. India has maintained a calm and continuous relationship with the Arab world but it needs to strengthen it. India has a good relationship with Iran as well as Syria. Also with countries like Turkey the relationship is being pushed ahead.
India has a good relationship with Palestine and earlier the distant relationship with Israel is turning into a strong bond with Israel helping India in defense arms procurement and other intelligence sharing.
The book also touches on good (now) relations with Unites States and how post the reforms and since Bush-era India has figured a lot in US foreign policy and now US realizes the importance of India as a global economic and regional power (which could soon become a global power). Some issues with US are dealt with.
India’s changing relationship with Russia and European Union is discussed, where the author stresses the Russia had a close relationship with India which is slowly dwindling nevertheless there is no love lost and Russia still supports India. With EU the relations are not that great partly due to EU policies and partly due to India’s. It stresses it is easier to deal with Individual nations in Europe (such as France, Britain) then with EU.
African continent has figured very much lately in India’s Foreign Policy and India has supported both economically and politically the countries of this continent. India has already given support of more than $5 billion to Africa and is consistently working with African countries to help them settle down and place themselves on the world arena.
The last parts of the books deals with India’s Foreign Policy challenges, challenges and issues within the MEA such as under staffing and under training and that an overhaul is required in the MEA, etc. The need and importance of a stronger United Nations and revamped Security Council is stressed, the author himself has worked for 3 decades in UN, he narrates his experiences and how the UN needs to change to reflect the new world order.
All in all the book deals with most of the challenges of the 21st Century for India’s Foreign Policy and how India should conduct herself and what all we need to do to place ourselves as a Global Power (which is not only economic or military but soft powers as well).
The author is erudite and vastly experienced in the matters of Foreign Policy and World Politics, it clearly reflects in the book. It’s a must read for anyone interested in the Foreign Policy or even someone interested in India’s role in 21st Century. Although it gets a tad bit boring to read about he MEA issues at times, nevertheless other than that at no point you will find it dragging or uninteresting.
A great book all in all. Once again great work Mr. Tharoor, looking forward to other works of yours in near future.
PS: As I completed this book, it coincided with Mr. Shashi Tharoor getting re-inducted in the government of India, this time as Minister of State for Human Resource Development (earlier he was MoS for MEA), which is excellent news. Now HRD department can benefit from his knowledge and experience.