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Why Bharat Matters: Navigating Global Challenges and India's Rise on the World Stage. Book Review of Dr S. Jaishankar's latest

Why Bharat Matters

Author: Dr. S Jaishankar

Published by Rupa Publications

Genre: Non Fiction

Pages: 226

MRP: Rs. 695/-


Why Bharat Matters is the latest book by Dr S. Jaishankar, India's External Affairs Minister and a veteran diplomat. In this book, he presents his views on the changing global landscape, India's rise as a major power, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. He also shares his insights on the foreign policy of the Modi government, the role of culture and values in shaping India's outlook, and the lessons that can be drawn from India's epics and heritage.


The book is a collection of 11 essays, each covering a different aspect of India's engagement with the world. The first essay, 'Presenting a World View', sets the tone by analysing the five phenomena that have dominated international relations in the last quarter of a century: globalization, rebalancing, multipolarity, impact of technology, and the games that nations play. He argues that India needs to read global trends well, anticipate their implications, and respond nimbly and effectively. He also stresses the importance of having a vision, an architecture, and objectives for India's foreign policy, based on its convictions and culture.


The second essay, 'Foreign Policy and You', explains how foreign policy works for the benefit of the common people, by meeting their everyday needs, ensuring their security, facilitating their aspirations, and projecting their image. He gives examples of how the Modi government's foreign policy has made a difference in the lives of Indians, such as the Vaccine Maitri initiative, the first responder operations, the evacuation missions, and the G20 presidency. He also urges the readers to appreciate the complexities and dilemmas of decision-making in a turbulent world, and to draw inspiration from India's sagas and values.


The third essay, 'The State of the World', provides a detailed assessment of the current global situation, marked by volatility, upheaval, and unpredictability. He identifies the key drivers and actors of the global order, and how they are affecting India's interests and prospects. He discusses the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic, the Ukraine conflict, the West Asia turmoil, the China factor, the US posture, the European dynamics, the African potential, and the Indo-Pacific reality. He also highlights the opportunities for India to leverage its strengths, partnerships, and initiatives, and to shape the global agenda.


The fourth essay, 'Back to the Future', traces the historical evolution of India's foreign policy, from the ancient times to the present day. He shows how India's civilizational ethos, geographical location, and political experience have influenced its worldview and behaviour. He also examines the key phases and milestones of India's modern diplomacy, such as the freedom struggle, the non-alignment, the Cold War, the economic reforms, the nuclear tests, the Look East policy, the Neighbourhood First policy, and the Act East policy. He argues that India's foreign policy has always been adaptive and pragmatic, but also rooted in its values and identity.


The fifth essay, 'A Transformational Decade', focuses on the foreign policy of the Modi government, and how it has brought about a paradigm shift in India's global engagement. He lists the various achievements and innovations of the Modi diplomacy, such as the Neighbourhood First policy, the SAGAR vision, the Quad grouping, the I2U2 and IMEC initiatives, the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, the International Solar Alliance, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, the Voice of the Global South Summit, and the Ram Rajya model. He also explains the rationale and the outcomes of some of the bold and decisive steps taken by the Modi government, such as the surgical strikes, the Balakot air strike, the Article 370 move, the RCEP decision, and the border deployment.


The sixth essay, 'Making Friends, Influencing People', delves into the details of India's key relationships and partnerships with various countries and regions. He discusses the strategic, economic, cultural, and people-to-people dimensions of India's ties with the US, Russia, China, Japan, Europe, Africa, West Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and Latin America. He also elaborates on the challenges and opportunities that India faces in each of these relationships, and how it has managed to balance its interests and values. He emphasizes the importance of building trust, credibility, and chemistry with the leaders and the publics of the partner countries.


The seventh essay, 'Quad: A Grouping Foretold', traces the origin, evolution, and significance of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, comprising India, the US, Japan, and Australia. He argues that the Quad is a natural and inevitable outcome of the changing geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region, and that it is not a military alliance, but a platform for cooperation on a range of issues, such as maritime security, connectivity, infrastructure, trade, technology, health, climate, and disaster relief. He also dispels some of the myths and misconceptions about the Quad, and asserts that it is not directed against any country, but rather in favour of a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.


The eighth essay, 'Dealing with China', deals with one of the most complex and consequential aspects of India's foreign policy, namely, its relationship with China. He provides a candid and comprehensive account of the various facets of the India-China ties, such as the boundary dispute, the trade imbalance, the connectivity projects, the regional and global issues, and the people-to-people exchanges. He also analyses the causes and consequences of the recent developments on the border, and how they have impacted the overall relationship. He stresses the need for a realistic and balanced approach towards China, based on mutual respect, mutual sensitivity, and mutual interests.


The ninth essay, 'Re-Imagining Security', explores the changing nature and scope of security in the contemporary world, and how India is adapting to it. He argues that security is no longer limited to the traditional domains of land, sea, and air, but has expanded to new domains, such as space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum. He also contends that security is not only about defending against threats, but also about creating opportunities and enhancing capabilities. He gives examples of how India is pursuing a comprehensive and cooperative security strategy, by developing its own defence industry, participating in multilateral forums, and forging partnerships with like-minded countries.


The tenth essay, 'The Roads Not Taken', reflects on some of the counterfactual scenarios and alternative paths that India could have taken in its foreign policy, and how they would have affected its destiny. He examines some of the hypothetical questions, such as what if India had joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty, what if India had accepted the UN Security Council seat, what if India had joined the US-led coalition in Iraq, what if India had signed the CTBT, what if India had joined the RCEP, and what if India had not responded to the Uri and Pulwama attacks. He argues that these questions are not merely academic, but useful in understanding the logic and the consequences of India's choices.


The eleventh and the final essay, 'Why Bharat Matters', sums up the main arguments and messages of the book, and makes a case for why India, or Bharat, matters to the world and to itself. He asserts that India matters to the world because of its size, its potential, its values, its culture, and its contributions. He also asserts that India matters to itself because of its aspirations, its challenges, its opportunities, and its responsibilities. He concludes by saying that India can only rise when it is truly Bharat, and that it must define its own interests, articulate its own positions, find its own solutions, and advance its own model⁴[4].


Why Bharat Matters is a must-read book for anyone interested in India's foreign policy and its role in the world. It is written in a lucid and engaging style, with a blend of facts, analysis, anecdotes, and insights. It is not a conventional academic treatise, but a practitioner's perspective, based on the author's long and rich experience as a diplomat and a minister. It is not a defensive or apologetic account, but a confident and assertive one, based on the author's conviction and vision. It is not a narrow or parochial narrative, but a broad and inclusive one, based on the author's appreciation and respect for the diversity and complexity of the world. It is a book that reflects the India way of thinking, acting, and engaging with the world.

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