Zorawar Daulet Singh, Power and Diplomacy: India’s Foreign Policies During the Cold War

Published date01 April 2020
Date01 April 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Review
Zorawar Daulet Singh, Power and Diplomacy: India’s Foreign Policies
During the Cold War (New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press,
2019), 380 pp., `995. ISBN:9780199489640.
Emerging India has seen its foreign policy becoming a major area of interest, with
an increasing number of practitioners and scholars producing a series of interesting
new volumes of work. Of course, there remains far too much focus on celebrating
post-Cold War India becoming both assertive as well as pragmatic, shedding its
idealist leanings of the yore. There have been a few studies examining those early
founding years of India’s foreign policy. Even here, Jawaharlal Nehru—who
almost singularly directed India’s worldview starting from the Brussels Conference
of 1928 till his death in 1964—has remained their preoccupation, with most of
these being partly inspired by a stream of publications of Nehru’s own writings or
other related biographical works and archival materials.
This is where Power and Diplomacy grounds itself in newly accessible archival
records and juxtaposes Nehru against his daughter, Indira Gandhi, to elucidate
how realpolitik reflexes of India were not any nobility of the post-Cold War
period. Based on extensive archival research and interviews with foreign policy
practitioners, it explores Nehru way beyond the debacle of the China–India war as
also beyond his vision of non-alignment. It digs deep to flag various triggers of
major changes in India’s worldview and strategies as India’s leadership moved
from Nehru to Indira. Using six cases of crisis (three each of these two leaders)
that presented their major foreign policy engagements, the author brings forth the
impact of the formative years on the leaders’ own visions and India’s changing
power equations together determining policymakers’ choices in the face of
evolving regional and global politics of their times.
For instance, marked by the backdrop of India’s long freedom struggle, two
world wars and the formation of United Nations, Nehru’s imagination of India
was presented as an extra-regional peacemaker in Asia. But against the backdrop
of China’s war with India in 1962, followed by the death of Nehru, China’s atomic
test in 1964 and then the India–Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, Indira Gandhi’s
leadership was to face a set of growing impulses questioning various assumptions
underlying the Nehruvian paradigm. Indira’s imagination of India’s role, therefore,
was to shrink to the subcontinent and to a security seeker role, where non-
alignment drifted closer to the former Soviet Union, though core values guiding
India’s vision were not shed altogether.
This contrast between father and daughter remains the central thread to the
author, who highlights the evolution of India’s foreign policy during those Cold
War years. While Nehru is shown presenting an alternate philosophy for inter-state
International Studies
57(2) 186–197, 2020
2020 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0020881720917279
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