Subcontinental Drift: Domestic politics and India’s Foreign Policy (South Asia in World Affairs)
The labyrinthine image in the book implicitly conveys the meaning of the complexity of South Asian politics. How and why India’s desire to be a super or at least a regional power is restricted by some factors.
Once the supercontinent, Pangea, was broken into many parts and continents and the splinter land masses moved or drifted into the ocean bed like boats in the water.
Basrur uses this analogy why India is rather unsuccessful in pursuing its goal to be a world power. The historical links and proximity to its immediate neighbors who also have their interests and motives may try to maneuvers the regional and global politics for themselves as well.
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Basing his viewpoint on Neo-classical realism, Basrur analyzed these drifts in Indian foreign policy.
Thus, a departure from Kenneth Waltz’s Neorealism or Structural realism which see conflicts, tussles, and competition in International relations as an unending part of the International System, Neo-classical realism of Gideon Rose dissects the International System by analyzing the power capabilities and its differences among states in a particular situation and period, the cognitive variable, that is how they view, analyses, interpret, and response to a particular situation in that particular period, and how the domestic actors or variables like state institutions, elites, and society take and give their response on it.
Basrur takes the four cases of the US-India Strategic partnership, India-Sri Lanka relations, India nuclear strategy, and cross-border terrorism. He elaborates why India failed to take a solid stance hobbling capacity to act and behave like an emerging world power. The reason for the US India’s deep strategic involvement and a looming shift in India’s foreign policy is their bilateral trade volume. Their mutual trade in 2022-2021 was a staggering figure of $120 billion. In such a booming trade it would be a definite choice for New Delhi to opt out and turn to Washington. The 123 Agreement or the US-India Nuclear Deal of 2007 guarantees India to be given full technical assistance and cooperation for the peaceful use of nuclear energy for civilian use. Thus, again making an involuntarily magnetic subcontinental drift to Washington for its benefits!
While taking Sri Lanka and cross-border terrorism, for which always India blames Pakistan, is the voluntary choice of New Delhi to turn to the other side. The bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka have a shadow of their past. The Indian Army intervened in Sri Lanka as a peacekeeping force which then moved beyond the agreed limits between the two countries. Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by LTTE, the Sri Lankan government blamed RAW, the secret service of India, for infringing the 2015 Presidential elections and in 2018 President Sirisena blamed RAW for plotting his murder. Despite these crises, the bilateral trade volume between India and Sri Lanka for the financial year 2020-21 was $ 5.5 billion.
The last obstacle that prevents India’s flight as a super or at least as a regional power is the heated and warlike relations with its neighbor, Pakistan. The two nuclear sides blame each other for their proxy wars against the other.
The author uses and analyses the neoclassical realist prism to refine and introduce some of the theoretical diameters of Indian foreign policy. The 268 pages book is part of South Asia in the World Affairs series. A best and to some point compelling read for the decision makers and intelligentsia involved in foreign policy and dynamics for knowing about the theoretical and analytical pros and cons of a policy shift in a particular scenario.
Murtaza Kaleem an educator, freelance writer, movie-watcher, melodious music listener and an avid reader about International Relations and World Politics with a decade long experience of education and teaching to students of different sociological and economic backgrounds. My social links are;