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[ 202 ] asia policy Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy Rajiv Sikri Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 2009 • 336 pages author’s executive summary Based on an examination of India’s current and looming foreign policy challenges, this book suggests a reappraisal of India’s foreign policy approach. main argument As an aspiring major global player, India must follow a flexible and independent foreign policy, maintain its strategic autonomy, and work with other rising powers. Asia should be the principal focus of India’s diplomacy. Above all, India needs a change of mind-set among its leaders and its people. If India aspires to become a great power, it will have to behave like one. Piggybacking strategies or short cuts will not work. India must have a clear grand design—based on an objective evaluation of the country’s resources and comparative advantages—and must work purposefully to build the required institutional structures and public support to sustain its ambitions. policy implications • At the global level, even as it builds closer relations with the U.S., India must not downgrade its traditional strategic partnership with Russia and must remain vigilant about security threats from China. • The highest priority for India should be to ensure harmonious and cooperative relations with its immediate neighbors in South Asia, who should be given a stake in India’s growth and prosperity. • In its wider strategic neighborhood, India should intensify its interaction with the countries of East and Southeast Asia while continuing to play a central role in efforts to build an Asian community; be more proactive in the Gulf region, especially on security issues; try to become an equal player in the evolving new Great Game in Central Asia, including Afghanistan; and give special attention to building a blue water navy that would strengthen India’s presence in the Indian Ocean. [ 203 ] book reviews India’s Diplomacy: Many Challenges but Where’s the Strategy? David J. Karl A review of Sikri’s Challenge and Strategy If one of the measures of a rising global power is the number of publications devoted to its strategic prospects, then there is no denying that India has moved to the world’s front ranks. What distinguishes Rajiv Sikri’s new volume, Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy, from the ongoing proliferation of books about India’s ascendance is that the author is a former high-ranking denizen of South Block, the massive British-era edifice in New Delhi that houses important government offices, including the Ministry of External Affairs. Having served a four-decade-long career in the Indian Foreign Service, Sikri retired in late 2006 after being superseded for foreign secretary, the senior-most foreign service post. His book thus offers a reflection on the concerns that grip the upper reaches of the Indian foreign policy bureaucracy as well as a glimpse into the debates that take place in the closed councils of New Delhi. At the start, Sikri informs the reader that the book is intended neither as an academic text nor a diplomatic memoir filled with colorful vignettes but rather is written with the aim of stimulating informed public debate on India’s foreign policy. The author also promises to eschew offering definitive solutions. Although policy advice is dispensed throughout the book on diverse issues, Sikri is sparse in offering a guiding philosophy for India’s growing role on the world stage. Only toward the end of the book do some fundamental themes emerge, and even then they are only cursorily developed. Rather, much of the volume constitutes a rather prosaic assessment of India’s diplomatic and security agenda, presented largely as discrete topic points. How Sikri’s individual observations fit together is left unexplained. The absence of a syncretic lens gives the overall discussion a disjointed texture, vitiating whatever imprint the author hoped to leave on the public debate. The first third of the book comprises an examination of India’s relations with the adjoining states of South Asia. At a time when policy elites in New Delhi are increasingly focused on extraregional ambitions, the author notably urges a change of approach in the home region. New Delhi, david j. karl is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2960
Print ISSN
1559-0968
Pages
p. 202
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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