It has been written by well-known Russian experts on India FelixN. Yurlov and Evgeniya S. Yurlova, who played their hearts out to do a meticulous and accurate coverage of the milestones of the 20th century Indian history. (Moscow, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2010, 920 p.).
The monograph “A History of India: The Twentieth Century” is an outstanding work embracing the eventful period of Indian history, from political processes in colonial India to India’s path of development today. In this major work, the authors present a thorough, in-depth analysis of the crucial socio-political and economic processes taking place in contemporary India.
The monograph offers readers a definitive, multifaceted study. The first part of the work reviews key political processes in colonial India and the history of the country’s struggle for independence, in which Mahatma Gandhi played a major role. The second part analyses the formation and implementation of socio-political and economic policy in India since independence. The third part explores the fundamental priorities of the foreign policy in independent India, as well as its military doctrine and the build-up of its armed forces.
The work investigates the activities of India’s key political parties, above all the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as achievements and failures of left-wing and regional parties. A study of the role of religions and religious castes constitutes an integral part of the study of India’s domestic political processes.
Some chapters address specific aspects of the formation and implementation of economic strategy in modern India that can be traced to the time when the governments of both Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and parties opposing the Congress Party were in power. The review of India’s economic reforms of the 1990s emphasises that, despite its focus on economic liberalisation, India did not renounce its previous achievements, specifically national economic planning. The market economy can and must be used as a measure of the exigencies and requirements of the people.
The work stresses the positive role of the Indian diaspora, numbering over 25 million people. Remittances from emigres make a significant contribution to the country’s balance of payments. By the same token, Indians living abroad are proactively and successfully lobbying for India’s interests in relation to the commerce, economies and political lines of their countries of residence. Furthermore, they even helped India secure the right to use the know-how they had accumulated to develop and upgrade its own economy.
India’s social development experience since independence has demonstrated that its progress resulted from a national focus in the social, economic, and political development model. India’s search for development options has been based largely on its own historical traditions. In its political practices, as well as in building its political and social systems, India has been relying on methods rooted in the specifics of Indian society. This, however, has not implied creation or pursuit of any autarchic model. Indians have localised the best achievements of other nations (for instance, the democratic system of governance) and cautiously, without ever forcing them on society, built them into their system of values, lending them a national hue.
Meanwhile, India’s spiritual and political elite has never given up the further search for solutions to outstanding problems and new challenges. The key criterion in this search has been the capacity of a particular model to solve problems rather than a commitment to a certain ideology.
The section of the book that provides an overview of the foreign policy of independent India, including its contribution to the Non-Aligned Movement and the nature of its relations with its major international partners: the Soviet Union (succeeded by Russia), the United States of America and China, deserves separate mention. It deals largely with a study of India’s policies in South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, armed conflicts and wars with China and Pakistan.
The monograph emphasises that at all stages of India’s independent development and its foreign policy have served as a major tool for securing its national interests based on equality, justice, and democratisation of both economic and political international relations. Simultaneously, India has always sought to respond flexibly to global changes by making tactical adjustments, yet remaining adamantly committed to consistently observing the fundamentals of its foreign policy that go back to the first years of its independence.
India’s evolution into a nuclear superpower is discussed in this work separately. The monograph highlights the role of India’s confrontation with Pakistan, specifically the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, and the armed conflict with China in 1962, in India’s emergence on the nuclear arena.
Still, India’s way of securing an independent nuclear position cannot be called easy or, still less, rash. The book discusses why India, which had repeatedly promoted moves to create a nuclear-free world, nevertheless refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1970). In 1974, the country tested a nuclear device as a warning to its rivals on the international arena and demonstrating India’s scientific and technological potential. And finally, 24 years later, in May 1998, it test-fired a nuclear weapon. After the breakup of the USSR and the end of the bipolar world, India was faced with reinforcing its national security in the new environment, including through use of nuclear weapons.
The monograph is a fundamental work, building its conclusions on a broad reference base. This book’s clear advantage is that, alongside official documents, works by Russian and foreign India-scholars and researchers engaged in broader studies, as well as press publications from all over the world, it features personal observations and assessments by its authors formed resulting from many years spent working in India.
The wealth of information and the unconventional assessments and conclusions this book features make it an interesting reading not only for specialists in Oriental studies, but also a wider readership.
(G.I. Chufrin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “India: A Century of Struggle and the Rise of a Superpower” // Asia and Africa Today, 2011, No. 11, p. 76-77).
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