18 May, 2021

Stomach For A Bigger Slice

India’s foreign policy—from Nehru’s multi-faceted non-alignment to today’s global ambition—is analysed through the prism of heritage and key individuals

Photograph by PTI
Stomach For A Bigger Slice

It is probably impossible to und­erstand the foreign policy of any country unless you have an app­reciation of its national culture. With India that is a complex thing, since the India we know is one that was shaped by the colonial experience. Indeed, the salience of English in its intellectual discourse, especially that related to foreign and security policy, is a manifestation of this.

Yet, the frequent references to Kautilya (another name for Chanakya) whose ideas are seen as quintessentially Indian, indicate that there is a deeper yearning among Indians to reach deep into their culture to understand themselves. Of course, as Pande points out, a culture as rich as ours has multiple inf­luences, not in the least those emerging from Buddhism and Jainism.

Indian exceptionalism manifested its­elf early in the republic when Jawaharlal Nehru, a keen student of history, sought the status of a Great Nation for his country, rather than participate in the politics that were shaping the Great Powers of the time. This search for the high ground in global...

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