This account of India’s exceptionalism – its ability to exercise influence without coercive power – is a narrative that has underpinned India’s foreign policy discourse for the last six decades. Many recent discussions of Indian foreign policy, however, either ignore or dismiss this normative element of Indian foreign policy discourse. Indeed, a common assertion in recent studies of Indian foreign policy is that the shift in India’s economic and political power is being accompanied by a shift from a foreign policy driven in part by ‘idealism’ to a foreign policy more narrowly anchored in ‘realism’. Few of these studies,

however, provide a considered theorization of Indian foreign policy, which would entail an examination of what ‘idealism’ and ‘realism’ mean in an Indian context or assess the relevance of these models of foreign policy analysis. Raja Mohan (2003: xix), for instance, argues that until the 1990s India viewed international and regional security issues through ‘the prism of the Third World and anti-imperialism’. The end of the Cold War, however, forced it to ‘not remain just a protesting leader of the Third World trade union’ but to take an interest in managing the international system (Mohan 2003: xx-xxi). Underlying Mohan’s analysis is the assumption that self-interested power politics is the natural and normal mode of behaviour for states. He writes of India’s nuclear tests in 1998:

For good or bad, and whether the world liked it or not, India decided to cross the nuclear Rubicon. Fifty years after Independence, India now wanted to become a normal nation – placing considerations of Realpolitik and national security above its recently dominant focus on liberal internationalism, morality and normative approaches to international politics.