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  • India Emerging?
  • Sumit Ganguly (bio) and Rahul Mukherji (bio)

We deeply appreciate the thoughtful and informed assessments of our book, India Since 1980. In a spirit of intellectual engagement, we seek to respond to some of the salient aspects of the commentaries on our work. To that end, we will expand on some of the issues that the various respondents have highlighted, question some of their claims, and address the possible avenues of further research that they have outlined.

At the outset we agree with C. Raja Mohan's pertinent comment that "many traditional tendencies in India's worldview seem to be re-emerging." He correctly underscores the recent discussions that seek to resurrect the concept of nonalignment and the renewed emphasis on strategic autonomy. His assessment is certainly on the mark when he suggests that this attempt to resuscitate what is a moribund doctrine is clearly paradoxical at a time when India may be poised to assume a far greater standing in global affairs, a position that New Delhi has long sought.

That said, we feel compelled to quibble with at least two of Mohan's key assertions. First, we believe that India's economic transformation in the early 1990s cannot be separated from the Cold War's end. In the absence of the Soviet collapse, along with its model of state-led development, India's policymakers would have found it much harder to finally bid adieu to the state-led, autarchic model of economic development that had neither generated significant economic growth nor substantially reduced poverty. The two issues may be analytically separated, but as a practical matter, they took place in tandem. Second, contrary to Mohan's claim, we do not agree that India's decision to test nuclear weapons was "an assertion of Hindu nationalism." As one of the two authors, Sumit Ganguly, has argued in his other scholarship, a combination of long-term threats from the People's Republic of China (PRC), the emergence of Pakistan as a strategic surrogate for the PRC in South Asia in the late 1980s, and inexorable U.S. pressures on [End Page 127] India to accede to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), among other matters, led to the Indian nuclear weapons tests of 1998.1

Like Mohan, Teresita Schaffer emphasizes the significance of India's economic policies in the transformation of its foreign policy. We have, for the most part, little quarrel with Schaffer's assessment of our work, with the exception of her parting comment that, "at multiple points in the book, there are references that would be obscure to anyone but an India hand." We genuinely believe that we made every effort to avoid obscure references and have sought to make the book understandable to the curious but nonspecialist reader. In the absence of a specific example of such recondite references, we are at a loss to address this criticism.

We are grateful to Harsh Pant for his favorable discussion of the foreign policy section of our book. One issue that he focuses on deserves further comment. We agree that the "inability to think strategically remains India's foreign policy's major vulnerability." However, we also believe that this lack of careful strategic analysis cannot be separated from the many infirmities and shortcomings of India's institutional capacity. As early as 1981, in a rather vigorous (if somewhat overstated) critique of India's foreign policy choices under Indira Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor, who is currently a Congress member of Parliament, trenchantly argued that India had paid dearly for an under-institutionalized foreign policy. His critique, which was especially relevant to the period that he had examined, continues to dog India's foreign and security policymaking apparatus. The size of India's foreign policy bureaucracy remains woefully inadequate, the training imparted to the entrants into the Indian Foreign Service remains antiquated, and knowledge of specialized subjects and regions continues to be extremely limited. Given these striking institutional drawbacks, it is indeed remarkable that India was actually able to make significant adjustments in its foreign and security policies at the Cold War's end. However, without addressing these critical lacunae it remains unclear if the country can negotiate a...


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