Understanding The View From New Delhi

The typical Western view of India’s reluctance to slam Russia hard for its invasion of Ukraine is riddled with problems emanating from the lopsided understanding of India’s perspective of the world. The way New Delhi looks at the world — given its past non-aligned point of view — is a result of centuries of learning.

Policymakers in Washington could do well to quickly go through Robert D Kaplan’s The Revenge of Geography to understand and appreciate the basic foundations of Indian foreign policy and global engagement thinking. We are sharing two extracts from his book that are self-explanatory.

“But even as the Indian political class understands at a very intimate level America’s own historical and geographical situation, the American political class has no such understanding of India’s. Yet if Americans do not come to grasp India’s highly unstable geopolitics, especially as it concerns Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China, they will badly mishandle the relationship. India’s history and geography since early antiquity constitute the genetic code for how the world looks from New Delhi (p.228).

“When Indians look at their maps of the subcontinent they see Afghanistan and Pakistan in the northwest, just as they see Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh in the northeast, as all part of India’s immediate sphere of influence, with Iran, the Persian Gulf, the former Soviet Central Asian republics, and Burma as critical shadow zones. Not to view these places as such, is, from the vantage point of New Delhi, to ignore the lessons of history and geography (p.242)”

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