Address by Shashi Tharoor, when he was the union minister of state of external affairs, at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University on 13 Aug 2009.
It is indeed a privilege to be addressing you on the subject of “Why Foreign Policy Matters”, and particularly to do so just a few days after our celebrations of the 62nd anniversary of our Independence. At that midnight hour when, in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s memorable words, India awoke to life and freedom, our country was deeply conscious of its international obligations. In his historic speech about India’s “tryst with destiny”, Nehruji, speaking of his country’s dreams, said: “Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.” These words are typical of that great nationalist that a time when the fires of Partition were blazing across the land, he thought not only of India, but of the world. In recalling that spirit 62 years later, I am pleased to see so many internationalist-minded young Indians here today.
We do have a handful of thinkers on international issues and a fistful of think-tanks, but in quantum and quality of expertise and range of output they all have a long way to go before they match the role played by, for example, their equivalents in the United States.
And what about the young people so well represented here today, who must shape the future orientation of India to the world? A young Indian scholar, Raja Karthikeya Gundu, recently wrote: “Few Indian students go beyond the West for study, and even if they wanted to, there are barely any scholarships or resources from government or private sector to do so. The average Indian has barely any understanding of foreign cultures, norms and worldviews, and satellite TV and Internet have not managed to change this. Hence, in the absence of global exposure, Indians continue to be an inward-looking nation burdened by prejudice. Thus, it is no surprise that when Indians travel abroad for the first time in their mature years, they are often culturally inadaptable and even mildly xenophobic.” This strikes me as somewhat overstated, and yet there is a kernel of truth in it.
Raja Karthikeya Gundu is the son of G Valliswar, senior journalist, former CPRO to the chief minister, AP and presently Editor of Andhra Pradesh magazine.
Raja Karthikeya has recently been sent to Afghanistan as an international observer for that country’s general elections held recently.