Book Discussion: “Flying Blind: India’s Quest for Global Leadership”

By Sri Krishna

Book Review

New Delhi: Unlike most books on foreign policy, this one “Flying Blind: India’s Quest for Global Leadership” is off the routine and as the author Mohammed Zeeshan put it “I didn’t mean it to be an academic dissertation and the book is partly a travelogue and my reflection of a country I perceive India to be.”

Zeeshan who is a policy analyst and Editor-in-Chief of the Freedom Gazette, a policy advocacy site based in India, is a regular writer on international affairs and his key areas of interest are Indian foreign policy, international political economy and economic development.

The book of about 200 pages discusses the importance and the need to make the common man and the layman aware of country’s foreign policy and as he said “it is important that foreign policy objectives are taken to the farmers and other sections of society as they too need to develop a perception of the country’s foreign policy. The onus is on ordinary Indian citizen and so there is need to get more people interested in international affairs outside the academics.”

The book also focusses on the changes that the United Nations is undergoing and that he had the good fortune of working with India’s Permanent Representative in the UN Akbaruddin.

Participating in the discussion moderated by journalist Smita Sharma, veteran diplomat Anil Trigunayat hoped that the UN functioning is taken in the right stride and that despite all the talk of expansion of the UN Security Council and several Permanent Members too talking of the need to expand but the P5 as the Permanent Members are known “don’t want expansion.”

As the Ambassador put it that “there is only one hyper power and others are only trying to balance it and no other country except China can counter and so India’s criticality is very important and we need to play our own cards.”

He said that foreign policy is done on hard core interests and that India is seen as a benign power but now India has started taking interest in international affairs like taking the initiative for Solar Alliance with about 160 countries participating in it as also the International Yoga Day for which India had taken the initiative and now about 177 countries observe Yoga Day.

Trigunayat said that trends even in Middle East are changing and India is seen as a strategic partner and nearly every country wants India to play a bigger role while Russia too wants to work with India.

“We have a bigger problem in our neighbourhood. Pakistan policy is only India centric,” and that if India is going to be a global power, this needs to be tackled.

Praising the book, Professor Chintamani Mahapatra, Rector and Pro Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) said “Zeeshan has written a lot of things that needs to be done. The message is of a young scholar dreaming of India being a truly big influence in the world.”

He said the book is different from what academics write in that he has done it after interacting with many and that is where the book’s strength also lies.

Prof Mahapatra felt the book’s central hypothesis is that India needs to be an important global player but it has not done so. But, the book has left what India needs to do and this has not been clearly brought out.