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India and Asian Geopolitics

The Past, Present

Shivshankar Menon
Release Date: April 20, 2021

A clear-eyed look at modern India’s role in Asia’s and the broader world

One of India’s most distinguished foreign policy thinkers addresses the many questions facing India as it seeks to find its way in the increasingly complex world of Asian geopolitics. A former Indian foreign secretary and national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon traces India’s approach to the shifting regional landscape since its independence in 1947. From its leading role in the “nonaligned” movement during the cold war to its current status as a perceived counterweight to China, India often has been an after-thought for global leaders—until they realize how much they needed it.

Examining India’s own policy choices throughout its history, Menon focuses in particular on India’s responses to the rise of China, as well as other regional powers. Menon also looks to the future and analyzes how India’s policies are likely to evolve in response to current and new challenges.

As India grows economically and gains new stature across the globe, both its domestic preoccupations and international choices become more significant. India itself will become more affected by what happens in the world around it. Menon makes a powerful geopolitical case for an India increasingly and positively engaged in Asia and the broader world in pursuit of a pluralistic, open, and inclusive world order.

Praise of India and Asian Geopolitics

“In this brilliant examination of India’s recent past as an Asian power, the distinguished Indian diplomat Shivshankar Menon gives us much to consider about its future as well. His evocation of India as central to Asia’s geopolitics and yet also set apart from it is a major contribution to our understanding of this great, rising power in this Asian century.”
—Nicholas Burns, former U.S. under secretary of state; professor, Harvard University

“This book is a tour de force by one of today’s most perceptive strategic thinkers. Menon deftly surveys how India has navigated its geopolitical environment in the past, while illuminating the international landscape and challenges it faces today. Anyone interested in Asia’s future should read this book.”
—M. Taylor Fravel, Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science, and director, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“An important work that restores India into the Asian story, and a timely reminder that active engagement with Asia and the world will not just be a choice, but also a necessity for New Delhi.”
—Tanvi Madan, senior fellow and director of the India Project, the Brookings Institution

“Shivshankar Menon is one of the most distinguished diplomats in the world. In his latest book, he has brilliantly laid out the stages of India from independence to the rise of Modi. When he looks to history, he focuses on Asian geopolitics. But when he turns to the future, he opens the aperture to the global trend of illiberality. He believes India, with no existential outside threat and a vast diversity in its populace, can afford expansive rights of all its citizens.”
—Strobe Talbott, distinguished fellow, the Brookings Institution; U.S. deputy secretary of state (1994–2001)

India and Asian Geopolitics: The past, present by Shivshankar Menon (Brookings Institution Press, Washington DC, 2021) may, at first glance, appear to be primarily on India. But it is about Asia as a whole, its past, present and future in the context of global developments.”
Eurasia Review


Shivshankar Menon is a former Foreign Secretary of India and was National Security Advisor to prime minister Manmohan Singh. He is the author of Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy (Brookings, 2016).

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Book Review: India and Asian Geopolitics