Monday, May 26, 2003
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Stating that "the possibility of a South Asian Union was very real,'' he also referred to "wider engagements'' with China besides development of closer relationships with Central Asian countries and of "the initiatives with Pakistan.''
Mr. Sinha was speaking at a panel discussion on C. Raja Mohan's new book, Crossing the Rubicon: The Shaping of India's New Foreign Policy.
However, differing from the author's propositions, he remarked that India had not "abandoned'' its Non-Aligned policy. Instead, it had acknowledged that it was "different'' and hence more relevant.
He argued that India would continue its engagement with the Third World.
Describing the book as "comprehensive and very readable,'' he remarked that the new economic policy of the 1990s had announced a new phase in India's foreign policy, which had resulted in a greater engagement with the West, in particular the United States. India had "stepped into the waters'' and the nuclear tests were a natural collorary.
This, he said, could be equated with "crossing the Rubicon.''
Stating that the nuclear programme had been placed at the "kernel'' of the book, the eminent columnist, Inder Malhotra, complimented the author for writing about contemporary foreign policy as also projecting it into the future.
However, he criticised the present tendency of blaming the Nehruvian era for everything that went wrong. "It is an open season on Jawaharlal Nehru. But we must remember that Nehru's policies were a response to a particular period,'' he said, citing the example of the Non-Aligned Movement which even in the face of tremendous criticism today was perhaps the best possible way to safeguard national interest in a world frozen into hostile blocs.
Arguing on the same lines, the former diplomat, A.K. Damodaran, agreed that the importance of NAM and Third World-ism could not be ignored within an alliance. Discussing the book chapter by chapter, he said its limitation was that it looked at foreign policy and not diplomacy, which "was also the weakness of the present Government.''
He added that the book tended to study India's foreign policy in a vacuum, which was a failing as the environment kept changing.
Chairing the discussion, the former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, N.N. Vohra, said that the book "takes us through the evolution of what has been seen as the genesis of activism in foreign policy, which was absent in earlier times.''
The last word in the discussion, however, belonged to the author, who remarked that "every book is rightly criticised for what it does not say, rather than for what it does.'' Acknowledging that certain aspects, such as India's relationship with European countries, had been ignored in the book, he remarked that it was necessary to prioritise.
Also, since "the story was changing,'' such as the shift from discussions on apartheid to oil issues in Afro-Indian relations, it was more relevant to address the core issues.
The outgoing American Ambassador, Robert Blackwill, was present at the discussion. However, despite several comments on the Indo-U.S. relations, he did not address the panel. But he did say that he "had read the book and strongly recommended it.''
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