Why India is not a Great Power (Yet).

Author:Dorschner, Jon P.
Position:Book review

Why India is not a Great Power (Yet) by Bharat Karnad, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, India, 2015, ISBN 978-0-19-945922-3, 552 pp., $59.95 (Hardcover).

Bharat Karnad is a substantive Indian intellectual with a strong pedigree. He is a professional analyst with the prestigious Indian think tank the Centre for Policy Research, who specializes in military/security affairs, particularly nuclear weapons policy. The Indian government and military frequently relies on Karnad to provide lucid policy recommendations. His two previous books concentrated on nuclear arms policy. His current work goes a step further.

In Why India is not a Great Power (Yet), Karnad presents a specific research thesis. He first makes the case that while India has for some time possessed the potential to become a great power, it has to date failed to do so. He then provides a number of reasons for this failure, and concludes with a list of specific policy recommendations to end this impasse.

Karnad is an unabashed and self-proclaimed conservative, who is proud to assert his right wing credentials. As such, he is a strong believer in traditional International Relations principles and has little patience for left of center IR scholars trying to break out of the traditional matrix and devise a new paradigm. This well-written and well-documented work resembles the classic IR books of Henry Kissinger and Karnad shares Kissinger's ideological orientation. For Karnad, 19th Century realism has lost none of its ideological and explanatory power, and remains the only viable international relations system. The book is valuable because Karnad systematically applies these principals to his thesis, opening up a serious topic for debate.

Karnad is a committed Indian nationalist. As such, he is suspicious of the United States. He does not want to see India allied with the U.S., which he characterizes as a duplicitous and self-interested power that is inherently unreliable. Instead, India should assert its independence and become one of the poles in an emerging multipolar world. He asserts that India "cannot afford to be detached from the international system which is tending towards bipolarity--after the short interregnum of U.S. dominance--with China the other pole. To make sure the international system trends towards multipolarity instead and India is not swamped by China in Asia, New Delhi will have to utilize its hard power more strenuously." (1)

As a doctrinaire realist, Karnad sees no reason why liberal concerns such as the environment and human rights should play a role in Indian policy formulation. Therefore, while...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP