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‘Indian diplomacy is like the love making of an elephant; it is conducted at a very high level, accompanied by much bellowing, and the results are not known for two years’. – Shashi Tharoor in Pax Indica
Foreign policy is a niche subject of study. Pax Indica offers an apt opportunity to gauge its intricacies. Shashi Tharoor takes the reader on a foreign journey by compiling and crafting 11 essays with reference to India’s foreign policy. The book is academic and demanding to read, though rewarding too.
The book is a contemporary masterpiece. It probes into the various relationships of India, the drawbacks and positives of our foreign policy. The author discusses how the Indian policy was driven from ‘Non-Alignment’ based on the foundation of morals and principles. The need for a malleable policy towards ‘Multi Alignment’ is the call of the hour. There are dedicated chapters delineating policy changes from the Nehruvian era but largely focused on introspection. There are independent essays underpinned to India-Pakistan, India-China and India-U.S to promulgate the delicate nuances of the relationships. The book is largely factual.
The author demonstrates immaculate scholarship to present the vivid and livid intercourse of India’s foreign entourage. The complexities revolving around the tumultuous relationship with Pakistan post the 26/11 fiasco or the competitive and the delicate footing with China are worth mentioning. India’s geopolitical agenda in South East Asia along with its investment in Africa and Europe have been diligently portrayed. The mountains and valleys in the Indo-US graph over the years also have been neatly sketched.
The author has been frankly critical of certain policies. The bureaucratic resistance to change has been strongly criticized. Policy paralysis, stagnation of staff, procedural delays in promotions, all these have been mentioned as negatives of the current system.
The image of India on the global canvas has been fastidiously painted. The role of U.N and its future with reference to India is opined critically keeping in view India’s interests. Though an MP himself, Tharoor has been fairly unprejudiced.
Luckily, the book is full of facetious anecdotes that keeps the reader’s interest alive. For example, ‘The heady days of Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai, the slogan coined by Nehruvian India to welcome Chou En Lai in 1955, gave way to a new slogan ‘Hindi—Chini bye bye’ post the 1962 Indo China border war’. ‘Indian diplomacy is like the love making of an elephant; it is conducted at a very high level, accompanied by much bellowing, and the results are not known for two years’.
The content of the book is crisp, concise and concrete. However, the language is pedantic. If you are a fiction reader, you may find this book very stressful to read. One has to do mental acrobatics to understand each essay. I must have gulped umpteen cups of coffee to fully digest the textual nature of this book. The book is meant for mature readers who tend to read the newspaper every day. Mind you, this is an expensive book. So if you are not into non-fiction reading, then look for something more elementary. I would strongly recommend this book for IAS aspirants, journalists, military strategists, political scientist, politicians and every person who has the acumen and the perspicacity to learn about geopolitics and foreign policy.