The Foreign Hands

S. D. Muni, erstwhile colleague at the JNU was once India's ambassador to Laos. At JNU he was in the School of International Studies, and his expertise is on India’s relations with our neighbours- Nepal and China in particular, and on which he has written extensively.

In his new book, India’s Foreign Policy: The Democracy Dimension Muni concedes that democratic norms are given a low weightage in the formulation of foreign policy. Yet “the democracy dimension,” as his nuanced and well-ordered analysis brings out, does have a salience in India’s relations with its neighbours, besides enhancing its image as an Asian power with a global appeal. After outlining the theory behind democracy as an ideological undertow in diplomacy, he gives a historical review marking the phases where democratic preference stood out as the leitmotif of India’s foreign policy. The section where he discusses democratic values, in different degrees, as the drivers of its relations with the neighbouring countries in changing contexts is perhaps the most valuable part of the book. (A Madhavan, reviewing the book in this week's Hindu Book Review.)

In the new millennium, India has joined global initiatives like the Community of Democracies (2000) and the UN Democracy Fund (2005) for promoting democracy. This marks a significant shift in India 's foreign policy as never earlier had India claimed or committed itself to playing a proactive role in promoting and protecting democracy in other countries. India has always remained engaged with the democracy question, particularly in its immediate neighbourhood.

India's Foreign Policy: the Democracy Dimension is a study of India 's responses to the challenge of democracy in other countries before and after its participation in the global democratic initiatives. India 's similar responses in the past have been dictated and defined by its perceived vital strategic and political interests, and this continues to be so. The newly acquired obligations for promoting democracy may have tempered its foreign policy rhetoric and style on the democracy question but it has not, and will not, override India's critical strategic concerns and interests.

From Foundation Books, in our Strategic Affairs section, in hardcover, 178 pages, Rs 495. ISBN: 9788175967137