The Department of Political Science organized a lecture by Dr. C. Raja Mohan on the topic, “Contours of India’s Foreign Policy: Changes and Challenges” on Wednesday, 29 January 2014. The title of his lecture was also the title of the book edited by Prof. Badrul Alam, Head Department of Political Science, JMI that was released prior to the lecture by Dr. Mohan.
Dr. Mohan is a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation Delhi, a foreign policy columnist at the Indian Express and has several books to his credit which include: ‘Crossing the Rubicon: The Shaping of India’s New Foreign Policy’ (2004), ‘Impossible Allies: Nuclear India, United States and the Global Order’ (2006) and ‘Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific’ (2012).
The lecture focussed on the broad legacy Manmohan Singh inherited when he took over the reins of the government in 2004, the structural problems that emerged in the context of India’s foreign policy in the last 10 years and where it should go on from here.
“Manmohan Singh inherited in 2004 a pretty good picture both domestically and externally. The story that India is on rise was beginning to emerge. India’s growth was beginning to peak, growing close to 9%. Internationally, you had a period of general expansion of India’s engagement with the rest of the world. But at the end of ten years, India’s rising story is somewhat shaky today,” the foreign policy expert said.
Nuclear diplomacy, significant expansion of India’s relations with major powers, idea of a wider sphere of India’s interest, more active role in multilateral engagements and initiatives for problem solving with Pakistan and China, Dr. Mohan commented, were the five major initiatives of Vajpayee-led government that Dr. Manmohan Singh inherited. “Manmohan Singh in a sense tried to build on every initiative that Vajpayee took, so there was a sense of continuity of policies”, he stated.
He went on to talk of the dramatic expansion of India’s diplomatic activity around 2004-05 with India’s top three relationships – Pakistan, China, USA – on the verge of a breakthrough, historically path-breaking. “However, what followed was like a heart attack happened to India. There was a serious domestic problem on how to take this forward. Relatively simple solutions became politically gigantic problems. Where there was a moment to act on three critical fronts, you got into trouble.”
Attributing this to the structural constraints in India’s ability, Dr. Mohan stated that the issues included a problem with figuring out what exactly the country’s ideology was, the inability to come to terms with the fact that India was different now and the structure of economy had changed, the weakening of the role of Prime Minister as well as weakening of the bureaucratic structure.
He then proceeded to talk of how the need today was to realise that “central basis for a successful foreign policy is economy. Everything else is secondary. Central to the achievement of any goals is economic advancement.” Towards the conclusion of his lecture, Dr. Mohan stressed on the need to strengthen the prime ministers authority, to reclaim the authority of the Centre with due respect to states, to find a way to transform relations with neighbours and the need for someone who can lead public opinion and can take risks and political responsibility.