Shiv Shankar Menon’s book ‘Choices’ details his experiences as a diplomat and as a foreign secretary of India. He talks about his experiences in Chinese diplomacy, the Sri Lankan LTTE end game and the parleys that took place when he was at the helm, the Indo-US Nuclear deal negotiations under the Manmohan Singh government and India’s reaction (or was it restraint?) during the Mumbai terror attack.
We are treated to instances of statesmanship displayed by former Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee. The section where Menon says that whenever he spoke to Vajpayee, even when the latter was in the opposition, the latter had asked just one question -‘Is this good for India?’ – left me in tears. What statesmen have ruled us!
The section on the Sri Lankan episode when Menon says that all Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu were in agreement to the destruction of the LTTE exposes the double games played by the political parties in the state of Tamil Nadu.
There is a chapter devoted to why India opted for ‘No first use’ of nuclear weapons. What all aspects go into such a decision, the need for such an abdication and the deep calculations that are behind such a major policy are explained in detail.
Why India didn’t retaliate after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks is explained as well.
A fast paced memoir that touches on an ex-diplomat’s major assignments, ‘Choices’ could have been better written with more details on Sri Lanka and China.
Read this book for a helicopter view of the ‘Whys’ of India’s major foreign policy matters of the last 50 years,