In Service of Emergent India: A Call to Honor

In Service of Emergent India: A Call to Honor

In Service of Emergent India: A Call to Honor

In Service of Emergent India: A Call to Honor

Synopsis

In Service of Emergent India is an evocative insider's account of a crucial period in India's history. It provides an in-depth look at events that changed the way the world perceived India, and a unique view of Indian statecraft. As Minister of External Affairs, Defense, and Finance in the BJP-led governments of 1996 and 1998-2004, Jaswant Singh was the main foreign policy spokesman for the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, the hijacking to Kandahar, Afghanistan, of Indian Airlines flight IC 814, and the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan, as well as other key events. In an account that is part memoir, part analysis of India's past and future prospects, Singh reflects on his childhood in rural Rajasthan at the end of the colonial period, his schooling and military training, and memories of Indian Independence and the Partition of India and Pakistan. He analyzes the first four decades of Indian nationhood under Congress Party rule, ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, Sino-Indian relations, and post-9/11 U.S.-Indian relations.

Excerpt

by Strobe Talbott

This book deserves international attention because of what it tells us about the author’s country, his time in its leadership, and the man himself. Jaswant Singh is a remarkable figure in the annals of diplomacy—someone of exceptional intellect, integrity, erudition, breadth of experience, and force of personality.

It is not just a cliché but an important fact of our era that India is “the world’s largest democracy.” It is on its way to becoming the world’s largest country as well, since its population, already over 1.1 billion, will, in the coming decades, surpass that of its neighbor China.

Moreover, as the title of this book asserts, India is indeed “emergent.” Not very long ago, it was a big country with big problems and a big chip on its shoulder. Its statist economy was largely closed to the world, and it prided itself on its prominent place in the Nonaligned Movement, an anachronism after the end of the Cold War. India’s relationship with the United States was frequently described as one of “estrangement.”

That changed in the 1990s, first with the opening of the economy (thanks largely to the reformist policies of the then finance minister, now prime minister Manmohan Singh) and then with the adoption of a more assertive foreign and defense policy. a defining moment came in May of 1998, when India—to the surprise and acute displeasure of the United States and much of the rest of the world—conducted a nuclear weapons test in the desert of Rajasthan, blasting its way into a club from which it had previously been excluded. That club consisted of the five countries that also happened to be permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. India was putting the world on notice that it intended to be not just a regional power but a global power as well.

Jaswant Singh was, at that time, an influential figure in the bjp, the principal party in the National Democratic Alliance, which governed India for six years, from 1998 to 2004. It was during that period that I came to know him. President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee assigned us the task of engaging in a “dialogue” that was . . .

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