Why Bharat Matters in Amrit Kaal: 11 Lessons in Diplomacy and Strategy from Ramayana

  • Dr Jaishankar uses important events from Ramayana as a primer to give perspective to his learning and understanding of geopolitics and international relations which is welcomingly unique as it will let the world know Bharat has a rich history of strategic thinking when it comes to geopolitics.
  • The book has been written from the ethical dimension of the Ramayana and Mahabharata and also epics of other cultures because the book in essence is about Bharat’s rich heritage and culture characterized by our own civilization identity.

Swami Vivekananda said that the world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong and in his new book ‘Why Bharat Matters‘, India’s Foreign Minister, Dr S Jaishshankar has elucidated India’s achievements in the global gymnasium and the challenges Bharat faces as it has to engage the United States, manage China on our terms, and walk the tightrope with Europe which is itself going through its political and social upheaval amid the diminishing US influence and political polarization. The book also delves into Prime Minster Narendra Modi government’s progress report of the last 9 years as his second term comes to an end in 2024.

The greatest challenge will be rebalancing the relative weight of players in the world order (Page 2 Chapter 1) writes the FM. This has led to some fine-tuning and strategizing as India has to maintain its traditional ties with Russia amid the Russia-Ukraine War while working on the Quad and I2U2 and developing relationships with like-minded nations while maintaining our distinct identity.

They say every disaster is an opportunity as throughout history it has been proven that a defining movement shows the true character of a nation. When Covid hit the world as Jaishshankar puts it in his book “fear took over that saw capabilities leveraged, commitments dishonored, supply chain blocked, logistics disrupted and shortages created (Page 58 Chapter 4).”

Unlike the US or the erstwhile Soviet Union or China which wants total domination, India is all for ‘Reformed Multilateralism” wherein the mantra of sabka saath sabka vikas not only applies to its people but the entire world.

But for India, COVID was the event that showcased India’s strength, resilience, and compassion as the Modi government worked tirelessly to not only ensure every Indian was vaccinated but did as a believer in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam India also selflessly supplied the lifesaving vaccine to other nations. This act proved to the world that India is a Vishwa Mitra that will work for the betterment of mankind and during disaster there will be no quid pro quo.

By providing Aarogya Setu an open source app free to all nations so they can use its contact tracing to record details of all the people you may have come in contact with as you go about your normal activities and vaccine maitri India proved that it is a responsible power. It must be noted that under the vaccine Maitri a humanitarian initiative India had delivered around 16.29 crore (162.9 million) doses of vaccines to 96 countries.

Unlike the US or the erstwhile Soviet Union or China which wants total domination, India is all for ‘Reformed Multilateralism” wherein the mantra of sabka saath sabka vikas not only applies to its people but the entire world. Gone are the days when India’s strategic autonomy when it came to foreign policy was to not come in the crosshairs of superpowers. Instead, India is now multi-aligned from being nonaligned. Now we get to pick and choose what we want on our terms.       

The book has been written “from the ethical dimension of the Ramayana and Mahabharata and also epics of other culture” (Page8 Chapter 1) because the book in essence is about Bharat’s rich heritage and culture characterized by our own civilization identity. The book also focuses on the increasing relevance of India’s foreign policy in a globalized world “in an era of more interdependence and interpenetration.” (Page 22 Chapter 2).

The world is now so closely intertwined effects of globalization, and the influence of new technologies now has a direct impact on all. For India as its power increases, it has now entered uncharted waters in its quest to become a leading power. However, the author also stresses that even as India becomes an influencer, it must contribute to the global good, particularly the Global South.

Dr Jaishankar's latest book draws from the actions and conduct of Maryada Purushottam Ram, Hanuman, and Bhagwan Shri Krishna who is unquestionably the best diplomat, strategist and counsellor which is deeply embedded in our collective consciousness.

India, as a rising power, is working on a win-win outcome for all its partners proving India is more than a powerful country but a civilizational state. In many ways if one would analyse India in the last ten years, it has learned from others but the acquired knowledge has been absorbed in our way and gone are the days we imitated the West.

In many ways that is why PM Modi was able to tell the warring West that now is not the time for war and the FM was able to finally let Europe know that its problems are no longer the world’s problem. India’s desire to become a leading power is now taken seriously. Gone are the days when we used to duck for cover now India’s diplomacy goes hand in hand with its national security and national development.

The last four essays in this book are what put things in perspective from dealing with China to new security challenges, past mistakes and in the end why Bharat matters. India is the only functioning democracy and civilizational state in Asia that believes in partnership, not overlordship, unlike China which wants control. With Bharat, the idea is to get along and not force people to go along.

The book is very Indic in nature as Jaishshankar has taken 11 stories from the Hindu epic, Ramayana. In every essay/chapter, he uses important events from Ramayana as a primer to give perspective to his learning and understanding of geopolitics and international relations which is welcomingly unique as it will let the world know Bharat has a rich history of strategic thinking when it comes to geopolitics.

The book draws heavily from the actions and conduct of Maryada Purushottam Ram, Hanuman, and Bhagwan Shri Krishna who is unquestionably the best diplomat, strategist and counsellor which is deeply embedded in our collective consciousness.

(The author is a freelance writer and has published articles on defence and strategic affairs and book reviews. He tweets @LaxmanShriram78. Excerpts from the book have been slightly paraphrased for the sake of continuity)

Book: Why Bharat Matters
Author: S Jaishshankar
Publishers: Rupa
Price: ₹ 545 (Hardcover)
SW Ratings: *****
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3 Comments

  • Vinay G

    Its a must read book to understand India’s traditional perspective of foreign policy and international affairs from our ancient texts. The review captures this in all required details

  • Shashi Bhushan M

    Detailed review and just as much is required for someone who is interested to buy the book. I will surely buy the book. Thanks for the review.

  • Rahul Nagar

    This is one the best reviews of Dr Jaishankar’s book I have read. Most reviews miss out the aspect of our puranas. Here the author has brilliantly captured the essence of the book.

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