Shivshankar Menon is a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution. Ambassador Menon previously held various positions with the Indian Foreign Service and served as India’s National Security Advisor from 2010 to 2014.
Your book “Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy” has just been published. Would you tell us a little bit about it?
It is a book about five major foreign policy choices that the government of India made in the recent past, and what they say about India’s present and future behavior as a great power. The choices include the first border-related agreement on pacifying the border with China, the civil nuclear negotiations with the U.S. which helped transform the India-U.S. relationship, and the decision not to use overt force against Pakistan after the Mumbai terrorist attack.
What are a couple key takeaways that you hope will resonate with policymakers?
This is really a practitioner’s account. It reflects the reality that governments make national security and foreign policy choices in the fog of events, and that there are seldom black or white, true and false, right and wrong, choices. Instead much of the time we are trying to maximise gain and minimise harm. The book also reflects the reality (that IR [International Relations] theory sometimes underestimates, and crime fiction overestimates) that personalities matter in decision making. Policymakers might find it reassuring to know how others dealt with some of the dilemmas that they face.
The views are of the author(s) and discussants(s). Brookings India does not have any institutional views.