(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) If the purpose of a book cover is to draw readers' attention, the recent document on Indian foreign policy was a huge success.
Entitled NonAlignment 2.0 " a principle during the early Cold War that most sensible commentators deemed moribund " has shaken up observers of Indian diplomacy. The great merit of the study is its highlighting of a distressing feature of the current discussions of Indian foreign and security policies: the tendency to deal with pressing issues in broad generalities.
Written by former officials, scholars and analysts, the report was presented by the Centre for Policy Research. Through the use of a popular buzzword, "strategic autonomy," the authors seek to infuse new life into this corpus. But in practical terms, such a policy may not prove beneficial to India. Has the putative lack of such autonomy hurt key American allies such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia or South Korea? The UK and Japan may well face structural economic woes, largely of their own making, yet their close ties with the United States certainly have not diminished their global standing.
The authors provide no clear-cut explanation on the great value that can be attributed to this quest for "strategic autonomy." Instead they take refuge in such shibboleths that India "not define its national interest to world politics in terms of ideologies and goals that had been set elsewhere" and that it retain "maximum strategic autonomy to pursue its own developmental goals." Sadly, neither of these two propositions offers much concrete guidance to policymakers: They are, in effect, counsels of perfection.
Other elements of the document depict a degree of self-absorption and self-congratulation.
Yet it would be churlish and unjust to dismiss the significance of this document in its entirety. Despite its odd and inexplicable adherence to an archaic concept and its anodyne characterisations of India's desired role in global affairs, it contains viable ideas and policy options. Interestingly, in its discussion of India's bilateral relations with the People's Republic of China, the authors display remarkable verve and imagination. Unlike much political commentary in India, which either lurches toward hysterical fear-mongering or comes laden with ideological baggage, the authors display a remarkable perspicacity in their discussion of India's relationship with this emerging Asian behemoth. It suggests that India display firmness on its disputed northern border with China while steadily enhancing its extant maritime capabilities in the south where it currently enjoys a slight edge.
The document also takes cognizance of the paucity of individuals within India's diplomatic and foreign policy communities who possess adequate training to negotiate a pathway through the complex thicket of internal legal norms and frameworks. Such a frank recognition of the country's critical shortcomings is clearly desirable.
These tiresome features aside, the document has its merits. However, it does not succeed in outlining a coherent grand strategy for a country that has the potential for emerging as a global power and one with a keen interest in shaping the evolving global order.
Instead thanks to its unevenness, its odd policy prescriptions and its sweeping exhortations, the document falls short in its attempt to provide a novel and practical blueprint for India's policymakers as they seek to navigate new shoals and currents in the international arena. Their failure to provide a more cogent and feasible set of policy prescriptions for the challenges confronting the country represents a lost opportunity. Indeed the report's proclivity in many areas to resurrect tired and tiresome ideas, such as the compelling need for global nuclear disarmament, is a disturbing commentary of how unready India's foreign and security policy communities remain in dealing with the vital challenges of a state that seeks to claim what it deems to be its rightful place in the global order.
Sumit Ganguly holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilisations at Indiana University, Bloomington, and is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia
2012 Yale Center for the Study of Globalisation