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Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  487 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published November 25th 2016 by Penguin Random House India (first published November 2016)
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Himanshu Khurana
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Choices -‘Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy’ authored by former Foreign Secretary and subsequently NSA Shivshankar Menon is a simple and lucid analysis of the challenges that faced Indian foreign policy, the particular circumstances the decision makers found themselves in, the choices which were subsequently made and the wide-ranging ramifications of these decisions. Particularly, the author with strong theoretical underpinnings, elucidates and analyses five significant foreign policy ...more
Kaustubh Kirti
Choices is a compact and a fast paced book riding on the back of the knowledge and experience of the author in the External Affairs Ministry. It is not a Natwar Singh memoir but more of Shashi Tharoor memoirs plus story. There is more story rather than behind the scenes discussions which was expected of the author. However the story build up in the five instances mentioned is good.

Book starts the tale with five instances wherein the Indian Diplomacy has been questions and the author discusses t
...more
Harsh Parashar
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shivshankar Menon, retired IFS officer and NSA, wrote this book to describe the constrained environment in which Indian diplomats have to make choice of the course of action. He picks up five most important such cases :
1. Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA), 1993 with China at a time when 1962 war wounds were still not healed, India was opening up and Kashmir militancy was peaking. He reasons that it was transformative, but also disincentivized the solution to boundary problem
2. C
...more
Ashutosh
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had many reasons to pick this title by former Indian foreign secretary Mr.Shivshankar Menon. And I am glad that it fulfilled almost all of them.
There seems to be a deliberate attempt to keep the book focused and easy-to-read so that an average reader like myself with limited foreign policy 'vocabulary' can understand the process and the logic behind five important 'choices', the author was involved in. The five ''choices'' discussed are, the Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement with China, t
...more
Saurabh Pandey
Jul 04, 2020 rated it liked it
The author who has been part of Indian foreign service has, in brief, shared his experience in this book where he emphasizes the importance of choice making and how the choice of national leader can change the course of foreign policy. This book has been divided into 5 chapter where each chapter covers major happening in terms of foreign relations which include Border Agreement with China, Nuclear deal with the USA, Aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka, relations with Pakistan after the attac ...more
Hari Sankar
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Tl.Dr :
An absolute feast for Foreign Policy aficionados to devour. A gripping account of India’s recent foreign policy choices and the rationale for the same.

Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, is an exemplary book written by one of the most revered diplomats, Mr. Shivashankar Menon, who retired as the Foreign Secretary of India. It is an invaluable book that shines light into the esoteric art of Foreign Policy decision making and about the ‘Choices’ made during the pursuit o
...more
Venkatarangan Thirumalai
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
As an Indian citizen, often I wonder whether successive Indian Governments from Nehru to Modi have a strategic foreign policy to engage with the world at large, secure our interests from adverse neighbours around and do more. Post independence for many decades India championed Non-Alignment. As (then) a poor country, it would've been logical for it to place itself under the security umbrella of either of the superpower - the Soviet Union and the United States of America, and benefit from the rel ...more
Virat hooda
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: indian-authors
True Wonderer
"There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interests. This is a bitter truth." ~Chanakya. This is perhaps more true for Diplomacy than for anything else. One of the best things about this book other than its core theme was it's author, there is no one better to tell you about the Choices India made in her most diplomatically charged phase, than the diplomat who helped her make them.

Mr.Menon had been personally involved in all the 4 issu
...more
Gaurav Andhansare
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Foreign policy for any country is incredibly complicated by a number of factors - both internal and external. It is even more true for India due to its strategic location and its decision to tread with caution yet show strategic boldness, furthering its interests one step at a time.

The author describes five of India's arguably most strategic choices in its independent history and analyses the alternatives along with their rationale.

Much of the era speaks about a UPA led government interspersed w
...more
Akshat Upadhyay
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
A take on India's foreign policy making process by an insider, this book lets you down due to the generality of the discussion. The choices are presented in the form of 5 case studies and apart from the US nuclear deal, rest of the 4 are just clippings from a newspaper. Also, the writer writes not for a layman but for someone who is already well versed with the basic terminologies of the subjects under discussion. This filters the reading population to a very narrow band. Overall an average book ...more
Aditya Kulkarni
A good read. Perhaps the best book on India's foreign policy as far as beginners are concerned. Written in simple and lucid style, the book covers those aspects in the recent past where former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon was directly or indirectly involved. In the book, Menon analyses the "choices" that were available to India at the time and how the present and the future are shaped by the "choices" that were made back then. Overall, a very good book, especially if you are a beg ...more
Saahithi Reddy
Mar 04, 2020 rated it liked it
The book gives one useful insights into the considerations that go into framing a foreign policy decision and arriving at it. It concentrates mostly on decisions taken in the last 2 decades and their implications on India now and in the future. It also discusses on the lessons Indian diplomats have learnt over the process and their shortcomings and way forward.
Though it was an interesting read and offered some new insights, it felt more repetitive in its ideas towards the end.
Nitin Baid
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it
A must-read. Could have been more interesting...
Vijay Ivaturi
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
"Choices - Inside the Making of India's Foreign Policy" had so much that could have gone in its favor. Shivshankar Menon, its author, is a career diplomat. He was one of the Top 5 people who managed India's foreign policy and internal security for 10 years (between 2004 and 2014). He just could have got so many things right in a book with such impacting title. But then, there is a difference between an author and diplomat. As an author, Mr Shivshankar Menon disappoints us immensely in this book. ...more
Saurabh Goyal
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Choices is a sober analysis of Indian Foreign policy. The book ruminates on five key choices Indian foreign policy made- No first use of Nuclear policy, Restraint in face of 26/11 attacks, Limited involvement in the last phase of Sri Lanka- LTTE conflict, Civil Nuclear Agreement with the USA, and Boundary negotiations with China.

Through this five choices, the book aims to go deep into drivers of Indian foreign policy. Those looking for some grand theoretical framework will be disappointed. The b
...more
Anmol Jain
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Insight by the Inside Man. A must read for the students and scholars of conflict resolution, foreign policy, political science, and international relations.

"Initiative and risk taking must be strategic, not tactical, at India's present level of power, to avoid the fate of powers in history whose rise was thwarted. History is replete with examples of rising powers that prematurely thought their time had come, that mistook influence and weight for real power. Their rise, like that of Wilhelmine G
...more
Abhishek Maheshwari
I have only just started studying geopolitics and foreign policy. And since this was only my second book after Shebonti Ray Dadwal's Geopolitics of Gas (IDSA), my review might seem a little too appreciative of the author as I haven't read the contrarian views.

Now coming to the book, I loved the structure in which it was presented. It was rich in knowledge and guided the reader well through the build ups which led to certain important decisions.
The chapters discussed all those issues which I have
...more
Akshay Ratan
A comprehensive account of India's foreign policy outlook post the cold war by an acclaimed diplomat, the book talks about an Indian way of policymaking because of the unique geo-strategic challenges the country faces. The author reflects on five key engagements he was involved in as a key policymaker - border dispute with China, civil nuclear deal with the United States, policy outlook towards Pakistan in the wake of 26/11 attacks, India's role during Sri Lankan Civil War and dealing with LTTE, ...more
Vandita
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Yet another Indian Foreign Policy Book by yet another Former Foreign Secretary of India but so worth it as it is written by ShivShankar Menon, an articulate and one of the most well respected Indian diplomats. He expertly lays out the ‘Choices’ in the making of Indian Foreign Policy through 5 knotty issues (China border; Civil Nuclear Initiative partnership with the US; Restraint or riposte in relation to Cross border terrorism from Pakistan; Dealing with Sri Lanka’s LTTE saga and India’s pledge ...more
Akshay
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon takes us on a master-class of Indian foreign policy thinking, in a very readable and concise book. He explains India's strategic dilemmas, foreign policy history and wonders about Indian strategic culture through the lens of 5 "choices" exercised by India in the post-Cold War world, namely:

1. The India-China Border Agreement of the 1990s
2. The India-USA nuclear agreement of the 2000s
3. Why India didn't strike Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attacks
4. In
...more
Mihir Parekh
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Book describes options available and possible outcome of different choices during five important Indian foreign policy decisions in which author was actively involved. Indian choices and decisions during Indo-China Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement of 1993, Indo-US Civil Nuclear deal initiated in 2005, Indian response of 26/11 Mumbai attack, cleansing of LTTE by Sri Lankan government in 2009 and Indian doctrine of no first use of nuclear weapons are analyzed. Book throws light on wisdom of ...more
Harshil Mehta
Feb 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Suppose you're the Prime Minister of India, or a diplomat. You have to take decisions regarding Indian Foreign Policy. Which factors will you consider?

First, obviously competitive politics. Second, electoral obligations. Third, India's strategic interests. Fourth, interests of allies. And the list goes on.

The point is: to decide foreign policy is a complicated and complex task. The author, a former top diplomat, explains that, albeit differently, in this book.

This six-chaptered book discusses a
...more
Shubham Bansal
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall a very good book. This is not a book on overall analysis on Indian foreign Policy. The book focuses on certain selected select events/phases of which the author was personally part of. However, I would have enjoyed the book even more if more analysis at decision making at policy level was elaborated upon.
As the book itself points out that this is a practitioners account and not that of a theorist. So you would not find references to political theories, but emphasis on role of opposition
...more
Piyush Yadav
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
The author has presented a rigorous analysis of all the circumstances and situations, cleverly picked for their lessons and insights, and choices India faced in the last three decades or so. In a fairly concise manner with a lot of nitty-gritty of policy-making in between the story proceeds, comes to climax in the fourth chapter - "Force Works". The undercurrents of the book now take broader turns and encompass wider thoughts and ideas, from diverse streams.
Finally, the book always kind of maint
...more
Sandeep Bhat
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book is one of the best I have read on the decision making in foreign policies. In a highly globalised world, foreign policy is a tightrope which diplomats needs to walk on to ensure win win situation for the counterparties involved. The book discusses 5 issues on length, where India took decisions; author goes in length describing the various choices available and thought process by various governments on deciding on their choices. The book is Rich in context and details about 1993 Border P ...more
Bhaskar kumar
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This certainly wasn't meant to be a tell-all-tale by any means considering the author's proclivity of not spilling beans. 'Choices' concisely underlines the process and background of certain policy decisions. The essays are informative and interesting, the language behoves that of a former Foreign secretary. The chapter on India's nuclear policy and the last chapter are rich in values of statecraft and realism and allegories pointing towards the path that suit the National interest best.

What is
...more
Santhoshi Srilaya
I'd give five stars, but I sensed some partisanship in the writing. It's not something I disagree with, I love MMS too - but it just felt right to give four stars.

This is a rather simple book to get started on Indian Foreign Policy. It has insights on China, US, Pakistan, Sri Lanka with a pinch of defense - the key foreign policy points that raise debate on domestic level. Foreign Policy making is some amazing 64-d chess. It's always implicity known but to read insider accounts realizing this fa
...more
Rohit
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Author ws NSA security adviser during upa govt.. The author list 5 foreign policy choices that India face under upa govt and wat ws india's response to it... Wat were the reasons behind that response n long term effects of it to India... In layman language beautifully explains geo political situation of that time... Though it is supposed to be an unbiased inside account but author has clearly sidestepped from criticising any actions of upa govt... Wud have loved to hear if govt shelved some good ...more
Dishant Boora
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful.. As the title aptly describes..Shivshankar Menon gives 4 cases about how Indian Foreign Policy makes difficult choices.Sinho-India Border, American-Indian Civil Nuclear Treaty,Reaction of Mumbai terror Attak, Sri Lankan civil war and LTTE ,and India's No First use of Nuclear Weapons Policy.
About India's calculative but courageous strategic cases under strong leaders.
He also points out problems in the institution of ExternalAffairs Management.
Readers get enlightened insight from former
...more
Shariq
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very balanced and comprehensive look at India's foreign policy, which is to be expected of a top diplomat! The significance of the book can be summarised as follows:

"Future governments may not respond in the same way as previous ones had to the same circumstances"

"the better we know our past, the better prepared we are for our future"

These are probably the two statements which in conjunction explain the whole significance of the book.
...more
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