gfiles magazine

March 18, 2013

The quiet innovator

the 1990s prabhakar menon
The quiet innovator
Foreign policy under PV Narasimha Rao reflected the growing realisation
in India of its own capabilities or lack of them
India’s foreign policy formulation and practice in the late 1980s/early 1990s was more attuned to domestic and external realities, and obliged the country to temper its idealist-visionary view of international relations into something more down-to-earth. One astute practitioner of the down-to-earth - ‘pragmatic’, as some termed it- foreign policy mentioned above was Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. He had earlier served as Indira Gandhi’s minister for external affairs, a job for which he had no proven background, but which Mrs Gandhi seemed to have entrusted to him with uncanny prescience. Rao was able to bring to his subsequent prime ministership an earnest, cogitative and analytical view of India’s place in world affairs; moreover a place that did not ignore India’s identity as a struggling developing nation which nonetheless possessed intrinsic, unique and potential worth for the extant world order.
He was the first Indian prime minister to give some coherence to what the home media called his ‘Look East’ policy, that is, India’s renewed interest in strengthening ties with South-East Asian countries. Abandoning the hitherto episodic nature of India’s contacts with these countries, he worked on defining the increasing political, strategic, economic and cultural convergences between India and the region; and on the timeliness of cooperation in various fields for an evolving Asian architecture that, in jettisoning the ramshackle, often mutually adversarial, pattern of previous decades – aggravated by the hostile camps into which the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict had split the regional solidarity...Read More

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