Book Review: Why Bharat Matters

By: Vineet Malik | May 31st, 2024

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Figure 1: Why Bharat Matters is written by India’s Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar.

The eventful decade has much to witness and assess amidst imminent geopolitical shifts. India’s Foreign Minister, S. Jaishankar, has started the year 2024 by releasing a new book. The book discusses the challenges and achievements of the Modi government over the past decade. It explores nationalistic viewpoints and the government’s adherence to populist and neoliberal norms. He tries to see the global dynamics through practical diplomatic cum academic experience. Even he underscored a clear direction and path needed for New Delhi to survive amidst future dilemmas cum tilting global balance of power. Seeing Sustainable development becoming a new discussion trend, the new government has promoted various schemes such as “Digital India,” Aatmanirbhar Bharat,” and “Make in India” globally. The aim of the new government is to ensure transparency, robustness in supply chains, and self-reliance in manufacturing goods. Achieving such feats is key to societal development and fostering inclusivity and welfare.

Contemporarily, multiple challenges have created numerous policies, making adjustments that need to be made and implemented.  Seeing India specifically, innumerable alterations, as well as adjustments, have been witnessed in her strategic calculus throughout this decade, ranging from the ongoing Ukraine conflict, the Sino-India border standoff, and the Covid-19 pandemic, whose recovery cum mitigation process, according to the Foreign Minister, maybe a compelling lesson in order to view the global picture realistically, adapting to new regional cum global dynamics. A mindset of ‘Isolationism and Pessimism’ cannot stay indefinitely, as seen in the eyes of the FM, who highlighted the need for New Delhi to foster far-sightedness and flexibility in the global scenario. Moreover, Networking and getting linked, competing in a free cum open market have become an essential part and parcel of globalization and information.

In the realm of power politics, the author further iterates regarding foreign policy witnessing a resurgence in these times and its linkages to our daily lifestyle, coming to impacts of any global event affecting our intellectual, social, or economic dealings. Multiple dilemmas make it imperative to always prepare for the worst and act in pursuance of strategic planning vis-à-vis multifaceted threats and adversarial belligerence, where New Delhi is undertaking a more pragmatic cum broader strategic overture towards the great powers in the midst of evolving global politics.

The author further posits New Delhi’s strategic autonomy initiatives as being beneficial in enhancing her lost global stature, paving the way to numerous options cum backup at times when a stakeholder’s posture becomes muscular or skeptical, witnessed in the Indian periphery through multiple hard instances. Coming to 2023, a period when New Delhi was receiving numerous applauses for her G-20 leadership and a positive image of an emerging global power in the name of a Viswa Mitra, at a time when some players were passive and neutral during this event, observed through some even having a security dilemma vis-à-vis India’s rising global stature.

Moreover, the September Summit seemed to conclude successfully after the African Union was made a part of the grouping, making this a milestone for the Global South, whose voices remained unheard and ignored because of a partial cum selfish attitude of the developed world towards peripheral and semi-peripheral players. Seemingly, global responses regarding exemplary welfare initiatives such as the Vaccine Maitri and Operation Ganga have also been lauded in the book. The tools of healthcare and pharmaceutical aid have been useful in achieving opportunities to win over the Global South in view of risks coming from global geopolitics, along with a goal of maintaining the status quo in the widened Indo-Pacific.

Contextually, past experiences have had massive bearings on our strategic thought and planning, making it necessary for a broad awareness of strategic approach. Amidst eventful decades of global re-posturing and evolving dynamics, countries initially wary of New Delhi’s peculiar strategic thought have drifted away from these and now have ushered in multiple ways, furthering cooperation in mitigating disaster management, climatic issues along with building a resilience global supply chain and thwarting numerous non-traditional security threats. The aforementioned issues have underscored diplomatic openness and fostering international dialogue, which are key to achieving essential security objectives in maintaining multi-alignment.

Further, the dominant role and expansionism being carried out by Beijing in the periphery must be noted and assessed, incorporating lessons from the PLAs past adventurism and strategic overtures in the Himalayan region. Looking at Beijing’s passive chess game and her technological cum defense prowess, these smart cum sharp diplomatic maneuvers have incentivized New Delhi to further her defense cum technological capabilities so that she is prepared in response to Beijing’s offensive in the near future. 

Henceforth, in terms of needing a pragmatic strategic calculus, PM Modi’s approach to India’s Neighbourhood has been based on realist calculations rather than a soft idealistic approach, observing Beijing’s irredentist cum notorious image.

Past lessons of internationalism, leaving out realistic views of power politics, hidden selfish political interests have a lot of impact on our present policy frameworks and perceptions on China, where emotional cum idealistic impulse led to weaker stances and policies being  adopted towards an aggressive neighbour A lot of adaptions maybe needed in order to survive in a world of self-help, coming to Beijing’s encirclement strategies and past misperceiving tactics, where the responses of the incumbent government must be lauded for its broader strategic manoeuvres.

Contemporarily, new soft power tools linked with past cultural exchanges and values may be a constructive way to create bridges in a multipolar geopolitical environment. The dots the author connected in the book with the ancient strategy outlined in Hindu texts must be seen as a key relic in Indian strategic circles. Observing FM Jaishankar’s discussion and reflection on the Ramayana, friendships, planning, and loyalty may be seen as keys to diplomatic statecraft where collective effort proved essential in achieving positive strategic outcomes. Hanuman, Lakshman, Angad, and Sugriva were key protagonists in giving wise consular advice and mobilising a large army as a collective security measure in achieving a common goal of bringing peace through annihilation of evil.

The author could have pointed out lacunas in New Delhi’s naval, air power and technological capabilities, where various stakeholders are completely dependent on for strategic action cum planning, quick offensives-defensive responses to adversarial intent. The gaps which need to be filled include what leaders of different parties and ideologies must do to achieve a balanced foreign policy which is in sync with contemporary challenges.

Concludingly, the book seems to be more of an eye-opener regarding New Delhi’s dealings with aforementioned adversarial events and global political impasse, which have compelled her to pave the way towards becoming a global power player through winning minds, creating perceptions, and continuous consensus building among various stakeholders. Amidst an election period, the best ideas and norms should be reflected and looked upon to foster welfare and growth for all, not through a one-sided approach but through a liberal and communitarian one. In a diverse country with conflicting ideologies, it is essential to find a common ground to achieve goals, paving the way to the title of an ideal state.

Author Bio: Vineet Malik is a member of the Consortium of Indo-Pacific Researchers. He has completed his Master’s in International Relations from O.P Jindal Global University, India. Disclaimer: Views are personal.