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Book review: Is Modi the new midas?

THE ASIAN AGE. | ANAND K SAHAY
Published : Apr 14, 2017, 2:18 am IST
Updated : Apr 14, 2017, 2:18 am IST

The relationship with India’s neighbours, other than China and Pakistan, in the Modi era also needed to be placed under the microspcope.

Modi’s Midas Touch in Foreign Policy By Surendra Kumar Har-Anand Publications Pvt Ltd,  pp. 138, Rs 595
 Modi’s Midas Touch in Foreign Policy By Surendra Kumar Har-Anand Publications Pvt Ltd, pp. 138, Rs 595

This is a thin book, where India’s diplomatic story is thinly told. That’s a pity, considering that the author has substantial diplomatic experience. What’s more, possibly the most remarkable aspect of the almost flimsy volume is that there is little in it that lends strength to its title — the “Midas touch” of the present Indian Prime Minister in foreign policy.

Spread across almost the entire first half of the book is gushing praise for Modi (reinforced with many pages of coloured photos of the leader in various garbs), dedicated mainly to the so-called “rock-star” aspect of the Indian leader’s performance on the world stage, with negligible attention paid to the hard-core politics of international life that Modi sought to bend to his country’s advantage.

This is not to say that the book is without merits. The last chapter entitled “A Bird’s Eye View of India’s Foreign Policy” shows that the author is not without grasp of the nuances of India’s foreign relations. He may have held the reader’s interest better if this part of the writing had been brought forward to the front of the book with an elaboration of foreign affairs in Modi’s tenure. The relationship with India’s neighbours, other than China and Pakistan, in the Modi era also needed to be placed under the microspcope.

Our relations with the United States and China have hardly been explored though there are chapters related to ties with both these very important countries. This is surprising since, for the author, the America relationship is crucial for India. However, the tackling of relations with Pakistan is not without substance and not without a point of view, and the author is able to avoid the temptation of falling into the jingoism trap.

Along with the writing on Pakistan, the chapter in relation to Libya is strong. For the lay Indian reader, it has both information and insight. Overall, the writing on the Arab spring and Arab politics is well-constructed. The nuances of the concept of regime change have also been tackled, although the conclusion in favour of the idea in given circumstances deserved to be argued with greater clarity.

The author appears to have considerable diplomatic experience of Africa, and this shows in his treatment of Northern Africa. What a pity he hasn’t given us the benefit of his experiences for that continent as a whole. This would have been apposite, given India’s effort in recent years to take the engagement with all of Africa to a much higher plane, considering Africa’s economic and political importance and India’s ability or potential to meet its many requirements, especially in the areas of capacity-building and providing technical expertise.  

A publisher’s role is important in giving shape to a book, but in this case there appears to have been not the least effort to meet that responsibility. The editing is shoddy. The book is strewn with the spoken shorthand for common words, such as “gov” and “admin”. May be, the author left the publishers to their devices, and this speaks of an overall carelessness.

Tags: narendra modi, book review