World in a Nutshell: CUTS’ Essays in Honour of Sanjaya Baru
| Devendra Nath Tiwari - Spl Correspondent, IOP - Nagpur - 31 Jul 2019

BOOK REVIEW

World in a Nutshell: CUTS’ Essays in Honour of Sanjaya Baru

BY ONKARESHWAR PANDEY

New Delhi, July 31, 2019: Sanjaya Baru, the most talked-about media person in Lutyens' Delhi, is back in the media headlines once again. Although he may not like to be dubbed as Lutyens' media personality, he is always in news for his serious works in the socio-economic-political sphere.

Baru, who was PM Manmohan Singh's media advisor and chief spokesperson, came in the news after writing, ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ in 2014, again came in the limelight in January this year, when a film released of the same name based on Baru's book, in which he is portrayed by Akshay Khanna.

I am not talking about his brief tenure as Secretary-General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) from September 2017, until his resignation in April 2018.

Now, Baru, one of India’s most respected economic and political analysts is in news, because of a new book - “World in a Nutshell: Essays in Honour of Sanjaya Baru”.

Baru has been Chief Editor of major financial newspapers, a professor at important universities and think tanks in New Delhi and Singapore, author of best-selling books, including Strategic Consequences of India’s Economic Performance (Academic Foundation, 2006) and others. Till recently he was Director for Geoeconomics and Strategy, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London and also was a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board.

“World in a Nutshell: Essays in Honour of Sanjaya Baru” edited by Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International and Abhishek Kumar, Director, CUTS International was launched in New Delhi on July 27, 2019.

“You cannot be an important economy today unless you engage with the US,” said Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri while delivering the keynote address at the launch of the book at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), New Delhi.

Focusing on how public discourse in India is still dominated by a very strong subjective streak, he said, “We must respect the fact that robust political systems choose their own leaders. But you decide your relations with other countries based on your vision for the country. Name of the game is not to take highly subjective value-loaded positions. Your job is for the system that you are serving…Several people have risen above the political alignments and did what is best for their country.”

“What we are witnessing today is a world where the so-called Western/Washington consensus had to take a backseat. People are sceptical of trade and wealth has been distributed unequally. So, people take strong positions. We need to get down to basic core facts,” he added.

Speaking on India-US relations on which a panel discussion followed, he said, “The world of 1992 was different. It was divided between people who had an understanding of the world and who were in their own cobweb. It was important to engage the US in multilateralism.” While doing so, Puri also pointed out that India had to deal with the interventionist urge of the US and the fact that the US wanted to cap India’s nuclear programme.

Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International, termed the book “a perfect intellectual tribute to Sanjaya’s contributions”.  Moderating the panel discussion, he put forth the question of whether larger trends can be separated from immediate ones in the context of India-US relations under President Donald Trump.

Puri responded to the question saying that he would not worry too much about what the persona of Trump says. “He is the head of the state and you have to deal with US per se. He is questioning many of the systemic things that we have taken for granted. His tweets are part of a pattern. Not many countries have come to terms with the rise of China… and the president of the US has decided that he is going to rework that relationship, he added.

“India needs to accept the fact that two giant economies are flexing their muscles and trying to realign the global order. India will not be able to hold its own (in this global scenario) if it does not tackle its poverty” and is able to lift the living standards of below-poverty population which is more than of least-developing countries put together.

Bhaswati Mukherjee, the former diplomat, said, “Trump has consistently questioned the rise of China.”  Speaking about the recent press conference of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Trump where the latter spoke about his willingness to mediate in Kashmir, she said, “Trump’s urge to be a dealmaker took over his pragmatism.”

Suhasini Haider, National Editor, and Diplomatic Affairs Editor, The Hindu said, “To completely disregard Trump would be to not understand the relations. Good friendships are not made from diplomacy, they are made from honesty. India bogged down by the 'all is well' problem.”

Sanjaya Baru observed, “It is a complete waste of time looking at Trump’s tweets. I do not think there is a serious difference between Republicans and Democrats on the rise of China and how America sees its own decline. The challenge is over the next decade. We have to rethink our relationship with the US. The strategy we have post-liberalization is no longer relevant.”

Mehta intervened and asked if he thinks the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) can act as a counter. To this, Baru replied that the world is full of clubs and ASEAN plus 6 is the only grouping we should look at. “For India, there is no option but to deal with the powers individually,” he added.

Shakti Sinha, Director, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library pointed out, “Trump’s way of negotiation is not something the world is familiar with. It has to come to terms with that.”

Responding to the question on strategic autonomy, Haider said, “When it comes to multi-alignment it presupposes that you are given a choice. But happens when the US says if we are to do trials with a Chinese company, we won’t be able to enter into security arrangements with the US? With Trump, the a la carte option is no longer in the menu.”

Giving his perspective, Sinha said. “When you are dealing with a behemoth like the US, things are not easy. In this world, no one is equal – the more you grow economically, the greater are your options for negotiations. Big powers have the ability to trample on the small powers in the real world.”

Mukherjee opined that India is moving away from non-alignment to issue-based alignment. “What the US is doing is not good for India. How we deal with it is important,” she added.

 

Here is an overview of the Book

The world in a Nutshell: Essays in Honour of Sanjaya Baru

Aptly called, World in a Nutshell, this festschrift is divided into five sections. The first section contains essays on broader concepts of Globalisation and the New World Order; the second section has essays that deal particularly with the subject of Indo-Pacific; the third part focusses on India’s bilateral relationships with the US, Japan, and Pakistan in the context of overarching global developments; the fourth section is dedicated to Trade and the fifth section is a miscellany containing a set of four relatively disconnected yet important themes.

It is embellished with essays from twenty-one authors on topics that relate mainly to Geo-politics and Geo-economics and cover areas like Globalisation, Indo-Pacific, Trade, Economic Diplomacy, Bi-lateral Relations, and Regional Security, amongst others.

1        Globalisation and the New World Order

This section begins with an essay titled In Praise of Globalisation by noted economist Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati. The author deconstructs the concept of globalization and brings out its various dimensions. The essay ends with a note that the debate on globalization is far from over and is here to stay.

Building on that thought is the essay by Mr. Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary of India, who mainly comments on the decline of internationalism and argues that a new kind of internationalism is needed to enable equitable sharing of benefits of globalization and mitigating its negative fallout. He notes that this will be essential to ensure relative peace and prosperity. The author articulates this thought in the backdrop of an elemental dilemma being confronted by the global community. This dilemma, he says, is characterized by a tilt in the nationalist direction at a time when the world needs much stronger institutions and processes to deal with a completely new set of challenges.

Another Foreign Secretary of India, Mr.S. Jaishankar’s piece is next in order and lays out the overview of global challenges and disruptions that are defining the new world order. He begins his essay with a tribute to Sanjaya Baru and his distinct ability to connect the larger global picture with the national context. His essay can be well described as a succinct brief for foreign policy experts to help them navigate India’s position vis-à-vis her relationship with key geographies like the US, China, Japan, Europe, and India’s neighborhood. In all these spheres, the author highly recommends visiting the scholarly work of Sanjaya Baru for better policymaking.

2        In the context of Indo-Pacific

In the ‘Indo-Pacific’ section, in his essay on Changing Security Dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, former civil servant, and scholar, Mr. Shakti Sinha gives a brilliant historical account of developments having a bearing on the Indo-Pacific region. He argues that it will be unfair to write the obituary of the U. S. as the principal global player just as it will be wrong to ordain China as a new hegemon.

Robert Blackwill, former US Ambassador to India, weighs in on the geo-economic dimension in the Indo-Pacific. He presents compelling arguments for the consideration of U.S. foreign policy establishment and offers a ‘four feature’ framework for American strategists.

Russian scholar, Mr. S. Karaganov while enunciating a historical account of the balance of power between the West and East lays emphasis on the military dimension of geo-economics.

Continuing with the security dimension is strategic studies scholar, Rahul Roy-Choudhury’s piece which delves into the details about the two Indian Ocean groupings namely the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).

3        India’s key bilateral relations in the context of the New World Order

This section focusses on some of the key relationships that India must build upon in the context of present global flux. These include relations with the US, Japan and in a refreshingly different note, relationship with Pakistan.

-         India-US relations

The essay by Mr. Frédéric Grare examines the evolution of US-India relations since the early 1990s. He argues that previous US administrations had carefully calibrated their relations with China, allowing India to engage China, while simultaneously developing an increasingly stronger partnership with the United States. But, Trump’s narrowly defined transactional policies vis-à-vis India and aggressiveness with China are making things more difficult to handle, paradoxically pushing India to seek some degree of accommodation with China while needing more than ever to strengthen its partnership with the United States.

The author adds, the more India demonstrates its willingness to share the burden of regional security with the US, the more likely it is to convince Washington of its strategic worth.

Continuing on this thought is an essay by the noted Indian strategic affairs scholar, Dr. C. Raja Mohan who argues that given the depth of change in the international environment, the shift towards burden-sharing might be irreversible this time around and prescribes eight measures that could facilitate the emergence of a credible framework of burden-sharing between India and the United States over the coming years.

The author lauds the effort of Prime Minister Modi, whose biggest contribution, he says, is to get the Indian establishment past the fixation with non-alignment and strategic autonomy. He argues that these concepts can severely limit India’s ability to cope with the growing challenges of China’s rise.

Mr. Abhishek Kumar, one of the two editors of this volume, in his essay touches on a more specific issue related to defence relations between the two countries. He argues that one area where the future of this relationship will significantly hinge is ‘Defence’ because greater defence collaboration between India and the US can help accomplish several goals.

India-Japan relations

In the India-Japan relations section, essay by Japanese scholar, Mr Michitsuna Watanabe takes a look at regional factors that can cement this relationship further. The author delves into concerns regarding Pakistan and China, and how their growing relations catalyzed by China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can be upsetting for regional equilibrium.

Indian economic journalist, Mr. M K Venu in his piece looks closer home and makes a strong appeal to India and Pakistan to pay heed to ground realities reflecting a desire for prosperity and development in the region. He bases his arguments on the fact that in spite of a history of war and bitterness, trade between the two went up nearly ten times from 2001-02 to 2017-18. In the same breath, he adds the example of Indo-China trade, which too has been growing at a rapid pace despite historical baggage of disputes.

Venu invokes the experience of Germany and France who fought numerous wars before becoming part of a larger European Union, and leaves the reader with a thought-provoking question: Can India and Pakistan similarly play catalyst to form a truly robust economic union in South Asia?

4        Trade

Sanjaya Baru has often advocated that multilateralism in trade is of strategic importance to India. By implication, this means that India has a strategic case in the reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The joint essay by Mr. Pascal Lamy, former DG, WTO and Mr. Pradeep Mehta, SG, CUTS, one of the two editors of this volume and a leading consumer activist, is a very pertinent piece in this context. The duo argues that no other country has damaged the credibility of the WTO as much as the United States has in the recent past.

Former Indian diplomat with much experience of international trade, Mr. Mohan Kumar expounds on India’s role and suggests that the key challenge for India is if it can shape the external environment in a way that will enable it to grow at over eight percent per annum for the next decade or so?

Building further on domestic trade strategy is an essay by another trade honcho and former Deputy Director-General of the WTO, Dr. Harsha Vardhana Singh who provides a simple and useful framework to analyze the prevailing trade policy approach of the Indian Government, and the conditions which are likely to constrain or change such an approach.

To ensure that adequate return accrues from trade policy measures, there is a dire need to increase capacity in economic diplomacy. This is one of the key points underscored by Dr. Sachin Chaturvedi, DG, RIS in his essay.  The author argues that Indian missions abroad should serve as the focal points for India’s outreach to the global community.  The author adds that Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) along with other Ministries such as Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), should establish an internal ‘Frontline/Overseas Trade and Investment Promotion Division’ which should be tasked with specific goals and targets linked to the Trade and Investment Policy.

5        Miscellaneous

There are four essays in this miscellany. The first is an essay on India and the International Monetary Fund, 1944-2017written by a civil servant, V Srinivas. It provides a historical account of India’s relations with the IMF, particularly through the programme years of 1966, 1981 and 1991 when India needed the IMF assistance.

The second is a deeply educative and informative piece by Dr. Y.V. Reddy on his alma mater, Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The essay traces the history of the RBI and the crucial role it played at key milestones in India’s economic history. It takes into account the challenges that lie ahead and identifies that chief among them will be to ensure RBI’s institutional identity as a full-service central bank that serves the nation as a whole i.e. both the Union and the State Governments in equal measure.

The third essay is by Dr. Partha Mukopadhay, Senior Fellow at CPR, on urban India. The essay argues that the most vibrant, people-driven process of urbanisation is occurring outside the large metropolises which dominate popular imagination. It is not directed by the state nor developed by the private sector, rather, it is the result of decisions about livelihood and residence made by thousands of individuals that coalesce to transform a ‘village’ into a census town. The essay provides valuable insights to urban planners.

The fourth and last essay is on a different yet important note by journalist, Mr. Ravi Velloor. In this piece, the author links the celluloid response to geostrategic developments. In other words, the essay revolves around how geo-strategy is affecting popular culture. The author suggests that Hollywood, based in California, is a world away from Washington D.C. - the citadel of American Presidency and politics, yet, he argues, it is not immune to the strategic winds that blow from and upon Washington. The author through examples establishes that popular media, including films, have begun to reflect the prevailing prejudices and fears.

Eminently readable, these essays cover issues that are close to Sanjaya’s heart and his body of work thus far. We, therefore, think it is a befitting tribute to his ongoing contribution to strategic thinking in India and around the globe.

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INDIAN OBSERVER POST (IOP) is a Class, Creative, and Constructive News platform which publishes ONLY exclusive and Special News / Views / Interviews / Research Articles / Analysis / Columns / Features and Opinions on the national and international issues, politics, security, energy, innovation, infrastructure, rural, health, education, women, and entertainment. Email – editor@indianobserverpost.com


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