The past year has been one of the best years for commentators and
who have acutely followed Indian Diplomacy.David Malone's Can the
Elephant Dance?,NAM 2.0 and now Shashi Tharoors latest Pax Indica have delighted commentators and students alike.
Yet there is a fundamental difference in the way "Pax Indica" has been written.Moving away from the usual moorings of discussion of Foreign Policy ,Tharoor has infused a certain reflective style in the workings of this book.And it is this fact that makes this book an interesting and scholarly read.Tharoor immensely benefited from his stint in UN and MEA has quoted numerous incident from his own experiences that have added to its ingenuity.
The book opens with a reflection about where India stands today and its rich historical legacy.Its quite compelling and sets the mood for the rest of the book.Indeed immediately after that the chapter on Pakistan makes for an interesting read.Tharoor takes a line that is distinctly clear and conclusive. Moving away from chest thumping nationalism and unrealistic Aman Ki Ashaism Tharoor has tried to view Pakistan the way is it as a Foreign Policy predicament.He argues in the end that we have no choice but to engage with Pakistan.In between his own anecdotes about how his interaction with a particular Pakistani TV boss revealed why they have upped their anti India diatribe ,makes for some deep thinking for our hysterical media as well.
With regard to China Tharoor has been even more clear.Usually commentators in India are keen to compare themselves with China in every field .Such a form of removed sense of delusional nationalism has been the joke of foreign commentators.Tharoor brings a new discourse in this field.He clearly argues that in dollar terms or in many other metrics we cannot compete with China.Instead of indulging in a hopeless case of India versus China Tharoor views a world where India and China works more on cooperation. In-fact he echoes David Malone in saying that India's relationship with China will be a mix of economic interests and security disturbances.In recent times this has been one of the most informed comments on Indo-China relations coming from an Indian commentator.
The rest of the chapters on Indo China relations,South East Asia,Latin America ,Africa Europe and Russia are pretty well balanced.While most of these chapters present a picture of what is already known and perceived in academic circles ,his injection of personal anecdotes to highlight failures of Indian Diplomacy in some places are enlightening.Timor Leste a newly independent country with tremendous natural resources and willingness to partner India is one such starking example.Tharoor laments that while even neighboring Pakistan has started working on an embassy in Dili the capital of Timor Leste ,Indian authorities have not woken up from their slumber yet.Such incidents show the typical lack of foresightedness of the MEA which Tharoor however rightly attributes majorly to lack of manpower .Other examples of an Indian expatriate facilitating the opening of Chinese embassy in Monrovia makes for fascinating reading.
When however he moves away from country centric relations to what constitutes foreign policy is when Tharoor is at his explosive best.His penchant for engaging the public to foreign policy and various means to do it not only makes for fabulous reading but also should be noted by the mandarins of the South Block.He also leaves no stone unturned to target the failings of the South Block itself including recruitment procedure for IFS officers and suggests measures to improve it.The expert-bureaucratic dichotomy and the need to engage "experts" couldn't have been explained any better.Further the discourses on "public diplomacy","global governance" etc are particularly engaging.
In the end Tharoor truly romps off home in style by explaining his vision of "Pax Indica".His ending truly reflects why Tharoor is one of the best minds available in matters of foreign policy discourses in the country today.He should be engaged effectively much more by the Indian government for he truly reflects a vision .A vision whose key is rise of India to global prominence.