Mahabharata of a multi-polar world and India
It’s not every day that you get the chance to pick a brain as seasoned as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar; his latest book offers this window. “The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World” is not a memoir; it is the next best thing—a practitioner’s perspective to foreign policy and diplomacy.
Jaishankar is a serving Foreign Minister who was also a career diplomat, and Ambassador to the United States and China. These two countries are central to the present global scenario. He also has a family legacy in strategic thinking and diplomacy. In his own words, he is someone who has witnessed “change beyond imagination in the course of a long career”.
The ‘India Way’ in the title of the book indicates an attempt to trace contours of foreign policy with a distinct Indian outlook. From the dilemmas of Mahabharata to principles of Arthashastra, Nehru’s Panchsheel to Gujral Doctrine or Vajpayee’s Neighbours First—an India Way has always existed. Jaishankar contemporises and invigorates it.
The book is divided into eight chapters. Change within and outside is the dominant backdrop against which the India Way is explored. The preface opens with the rumination—does change means that what went before was wrong? The sentiment resonates acutely with readers who are often grappling to reach an understanding of change.
The first chapter evokes the 1977 Satyajit Ray film ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’. The lesson Jaishankar wants us to remember is that strategic complacency is not an option anymore, we cannot be oblivious to change. Among the most central changes that he repeatedly alludes to through the course of the book is the full-blown arrival of China, and the US retrenchment. The implications of this for India, as for the rest of the world, are huge.