Tag: International Relations

India and the World

“India is a country harder to describe than to explain, and easier to explain than to understand and also India is a place for seeking, not concluding”

Anand Giridharadas (2009)

Review of Globalization of World Politics: This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read on international relations. This is a very thick book of more than 500 pages and looks quite heavy from outside. But if you are an IR geek, you will absolutely love this book and will not put it down till you finish reading it. And if you are preparing for civil services and your optional subject is ‘Political Science and International Relations’, this book will help you to cover the second part of this paper and also help in fetching good marks. Most importantly, this book helped me to build a strong understanding of IR concepts. This book is divided into five parts: The historical context, Theories of world politics, Structures and Processes, International issues, and Globalization in the future. My most favorites are ‘Theories of world politics’ and ‘International issues’ sections. Theories of world politics discuss realism, liberalism, neorealism, Marxism, post-colonialism, etc. in a very detailed manner and the beauty of international issues section is that it took one important issue and entwine its’ trajectory with international relations that help you to see these issues from a unique angle. For instance- culture in world affairs and terrorism & globalization.

Review of Global Politics: This book is very similar to the Globalization of world politics but the style of writing is very different as it’s written by Andrew Heywood. I would suggest reading both books because both give a very different perspective on same issues. This book is also very useful and insightful if you are an IR geek or preparing for civil services. I can bet that all those news articles related to foreign issues will make more sense if you have already read these books.

Review of Does the Elephant dance?: This is one of the best books I ever read on Indian Foreign Policy. David Malone served as the High Commissioner of Canada to India from 2006 to 2008. Though this book came out in 2010, it is still relevant because the author has deeply examined how the Indian history, culture, internal domestic politics has an important role to play in India’s relations with other countries. This book is quite comprehensive where the author has dealt with India’s relations with all its neighbors as well as the USA, China, West Asia, East Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and Russia. I really found the last chapter- “The Evolution of Indian Multilateral ism: From High Ground to High Table” of this book quite interesting where the author has written about India’s evolution from idealist moralizer to the often-pragmatic deal maker and how India’s soft power has an important role to play in the philosophy of Indian multilateralism.

“Indian diplomacy is like the love-making of an elephant: it is conducted at a very high level, accompanied by much bellowing, and the results are not known for two years”- A veteran diplomat

Review of Pax Indica: This book came in the year 2012 when I was in full preparation mode for civil services examination. And it also came just after David Malone’s book Does the Elephant dance? So it was a kind of continuation read on Indian Foreign Policy with all updated facts. Except for the last chapter, other chapters are the same thing as in other books on relation of India vis, a vis other countries, and obviously in a super-refined language of Shashi Tharoor. In the last chapter, he talks about ‘multi-alignment’ as a grand strategy for India in the 21st century. According to the author, the name of the book Pax Indica has no similarity to Pax Romana or Pax Britannica rather it must be built and sustained on the principles and norms that India holds dear at home and abroad.

Review of Challenge and Strategy: This was the first book I read on Indian foreign policy when I started preparing for Civil services examination. Rajiv Sikri was an Indian diplomat with more than 36 years with Indian Foreign Service and though this book is quite old and a lot of things have happened in Indian foreign policy since this book was written. However, as this book has been written by a seasoned diplomat, it gives you a lot of insights of India’s relations with other countries and especially focuses on policies and strategies that can be used by Indian diplomats and policymakers to make India a major player at the International level.

Miscellaneous Books/Reading Materials: And even if you read all books related to IR in the world and have not read IGNOUs booklets, then I would suggest stop reading this blog and go download all IGNOU materials right now. And one more very important thing, you need to read the history of India and the world before plunging into the field of International Relations because as someone said:

“Know the history of these countries before getting to know their relations.”

I will also suggest one nice strategy for everyone whoever is trying to understand any concept in totality, then must not stick to one book rather explore all kinds of books, articles, newspapers, magazines, etc. written on that topic. Please find some of the books/magazines/newspapers below I referred during my preparation:

  1. The Hindu ( follow Suhasini Haider) and it’s Foreign Affairs page
  2. Indian Express and it’s coverage on international issues
  3. World Focus magazines
  4. Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) policy briefs and articles are must-read to understand strategic perspective
  5. International Relations by Aneek Chaterjee: Only a few topics(Decision-making theory, Systems Theory) from this.

I always believed that India as a nation had something unique. As a birth-place of Buddha, Gandhi, and Ambedkar, India has shown and will always show the path of peace, harmony and also live up to the spirit of the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’. I will end with this beautiful quote by Mark Twain.

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most artistic materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!”

Mark Twain, writer, America

Please also read the posts below where I list the important books, I read on Modern India and Indian Government & Politics below:

If you gained something from this post, click the link below to buy me a coffee.

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Review of the book Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma

BreakoutNations_sharma

The economics has become the vehicle of growth, prosperity, and development of countries in the world in the era of globalization. In fact, the question here is why we are more worried about economic growth, economic development, and prosperity? What is the need to talk about emerging nations? Why should we care about “Breakout Nations”? And why will some countries be emerging as breakout nations, some will be frontier countries[i] and some will remain insignificant with respect to economic growth and development.

Ruchir Sharma, an investment banker and keen watcher of economic happenings around the world in this book takes us on a journey where he picks the countries who will be the next economic miracles of the world. Finding reasons, causes and set formulas for economic growth and subsequent economic development of the nations was a never-ending quest by the authors of various milieus because everyone wants to step up the ladder of the success of economic growth.

The author discusses his experiences and nuances of more than twenty countries in 280 pages of this book with stimulating details incorporating the flavor of colloquial language and examples. The most important argument of the author is that we need to understand and analyze the emerging markets as ‘individual nations’ and he is wary of the ‘idea of emerging nations as a group’. In this context, he is skeptical of the sustainability of the BRICS[ii] group because the countries have competing political interests and there are stark differences between these countries in terms of commodity importers (India and China) and commodity exporters (Russia and Brazil).

The author is more interested in studying the individual countries by traveling to those places and trying to understand, “whether the political regime gets the connection between good economics and good politics” than commenting as academicians without getting the feel of the ground reality. In the whole book, the author has come out with various “Rules of the Road” to recognize the potentiality of the real breakout nations.

The author also gives his insights regarding the great debate of the impact of the political system and institutions on the economic growth and development. In fact, his latest book, The Rise, and Fall of Nations: Ten Rules of Change in the Post-crisis world is a further development of the same idea where he tries to give ten rules which need to be considered to evaluate the rise and fall of the nations. He rubbishes the idea that political system or the institutions are responsible for growth and development of the economy and their subsequent achievement of prosperity and remaining poor. “It’s’ not the type of the system that matters, it is the stability of the system and, even more important, whether the leaders running it understand the basics of economic reform”, says Ruchir.

He compares the country of China which has surpassed all the growth expectation and emerged as the successful example of command-and-control capitalism with the economy of Vietnam, which is not growing despite being a command economy. As per the author, any particular system has an only fifty-fifty chance on its economic growth and successes. In this context, he criticizes the grand theories on the ground of their emphasis on one factor in terms of institutions, geography, or culture to explain the rise and fall of the nations. He also finds faults in their building of narratives with historical facts as well as giving long-term predictions about these countries as a foolish approach. In fact, the book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” [iii]by the authors Acemoglu and Robinson provide a comprehensive analysis of various hypothesis for the rise and fall of nations. In this book, they argue that the “institutions”- political as well as economical act as deciding factor in the growth and development of any country. However, Sharma does not agree with this hypothesis and focuses more on the role of political leadership which is responsible for steering the economy towards growth and prosperity and also towards disaster if they don’t get the basics right.

In this book, Sharma starts with China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, going to Eastern Europe, talking about Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, coming to Turkey for which he is bullish, shifting towards South-East Asian countries, Indonesia, Malaysia, and turning towards the African continent with billion opportunities and finally talking about gold-medalist countries of South Korea and Taiwan. He also gives an interesting perspective that breakout nations can also emerge in the Western world in the USA, Germany, Spain, and Ireland.

The whole narrative of the author is based on his personal travel experiences to these countries and anecdotal evidence but if we compare in general the views given by the author are very much similar to the book “Why Nations Fail”. This book says that institutions matter but Sharma says, “No, Individual leaders who are at the helm matter”. There is a question: Who came first: Institutions or Individuals? Individuals are part of the institutions or they are the one who created, sustaining and influencing the system of institutions. Both the books talk about Mexico, Russia, North Korea countries in a negative perspective because of their institutions and leaders respectively. In all the countries discussed by the author, he names the different leaders of the respective countries to emphasize their role in the economic growth and development.

In fact, if we deeply introspect, institutions as well as the leaders who are the decision makers both responsible for the growth, development, prosperity as well as bringing doom and poverty for any nations of the world. It is very complex and humanly impossible to factor all the causes and reasons behind the rise and fall of nations. In fact, many things are at play at the same time. It is a full bucket of things which will turn the nations towards prosperity as well as poverty.

Regarding his criticism of the BRICS grouping, now there is enough evidence to refute his proposition. For instance, these countries have announced “New Development Bank”[iv] in 2012 and other institutions which are going to challenge the erstwhile Bretton Woods System[v]. BRICS grouping led by China and India will emerge as a formidable force[vi] in the world in recent years. Though the countries of the group have different potentials, they can also find common grounds to collaborate with each other in the coming future.

This book was written in 2011 when there was lot of chaos in the Middle East due to ‘Arab Spring’[vii], In India, the India Against Corruption[vii] movement led by Anna Hazare was going on in the wake of spate of scams in the UPA II government, emergence of Turkey as a successful Muslim model for growth etc. Similarly, there were various other developments in other parts of the world. These things have influenced the writer in creating his perspective.

The author paints a bleak picture of China because of its heavy debt, increasing labor costs, and overcapacity in the infrastructure sector. He is also not bullish about India. In the last seven years, many things have changed in India. The new government came into power at Centre and they brought various radical and forward-looking changes to create a conducive climate for growth and development. So, we can’t judge the country just by looking the few days experiences and few years performances.

It is very complex and unimaginable to predict various economic parameters for any country and especially for a diverse country like India with a subcontinental dimension and federal structure where the states are also acting dynamically to attract investment in the spirit of cooperative and competitive federalism. However, he looks Turkey under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan[ix] as a breakout nation and a role model for the Muslim countries in the Middle East. However, in just seven years, things have changed much in Turkey after the emergence of ISIS[x] and the last year coup[xi] in Turkey. In fact, author himself agrees that it is very difficult to forecast for the future growth in these complex societies and these days things are changing very fast, which cannot be ignored in the context of providing an explanation for the future economic growth in various countries of the world.

However, the author conveys the economic concepts, nuances, and intricacies of the investment and forecasting in a very easy-going story-line to make his points that the nations need to be studied and analyzed on an individual basis and there should not be any grand narratives and club different states into same groups. The book was interesting in terms of knowing smallest details of various countries in terms of high charges of hotel rooms in Brazil as compared to the USA etc. and how they can be related to their economic fundamentals and future growth story.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontier_markets

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRICS

[iii] https://ritambharachaitanya.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/review-of-the-book-why-nations-fail/

[iv] http://www.ndb.int/

[v] https://www.thebalance.com/bretton-woods-system-and-1944-agreement-3306133

[vi] http://www.indrastra.com/2017/06/PAPER-The-Emerging-Role-of-BRICS-in-the-Changing-World-Order-003-06-2017-0054.html

[vii] https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Arab_Spring

[vii] http://www.indiaagainstcorruption.info/

[ix] https://www.theguardian.com/world/recep-tayyip-erdogan

[x] https://www.nytimes.com/topic/organization/islamic-state

[xi] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/turkey-failed-coup-attempt-161217032345594.html