In their section focusing on how India conducts its WTO diplomacy, Hurrell and Narlikar begin with the perception which Shamnad referred to at the end of his post, by noting:
"Along with Brazil, India is a country that has long been seen as among the most proficient in WTO diplomacy. Indian commitment to Third World-ist coalitions of resistance in the WTO has continued even after it began its programme of economic liberalization in 1991 and despite frequent instances of complete isolation even after other coalition members have defected. The unbroken proficiency and leadership of the Indian delegation in Geneva has invited acknowledgement from many other developing country delegations; in the words of one African country, 'India is the voice of the voiceless in the WTO'."
Hurrell and Narlikar then go on to making some critical observations about how WTO policy is actually made within India. They note that despite India's democratic credentials, which would lead to the belief that the decision-making process is transparent and enables consultations with interested groups, the actual policy-making process is very insular. They note that the process is Geneva-based, rather than closely connected with the capital, even though the delegation is dominated by members from the Ministry of Commerce. They then make this important observation about the "serious lack of awareness of WTO issues" within India in general:
"Even while Indian universities have produced some of the leading economists in the world, very few universities focus on international economics and international political economy, let alone international trade law or WTO law. A few think-tanks and specialized institutes in economics (such as Indian Institute of Foreign Trade - IIFT and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations - ICRIER) conduct studies on some specialized sectors - some of them commissioned by the government - but these are few and scarcely provide the knowledge necessary to keep an active check on the negotiation process. In the case of NGOs, the picture is even gloomier. Few are able to engage proactively and constructively in debates relating directly to the technical issues covered by WTO negotiations (with some notable exceptions such as the Consumer Unity and Trust Society- CUTS). The Ministry of Commerce holds occasional seminars to engage with civil society, but chooses whom to invite in these forums and whom to exclude."
This strikes me as being very true, and I believe this aspect needs to be emphasised. India's reputation for WTO diplomacy should not prevent resources being poured into this vital area.
Later on in the paper, Hurrell and Narlikar comment upon how India's trade policy and foreign policy often seem at odds with each other, and explore the influence of the two establishments being manned by people from differing backgrounds - the IAS and the IFS respectively. There are many other interesting insights, including their assertion that despite having adopted policies of liberalisation, "there continues to be a general suspicion of liberalisation" within India.
In this important paper, Hurrell and Narlikar offer telling glimpses into an area which is largely shut from the public domain. Those with an interest in these issues will, I am sure, benefit from a reading of this paper, even if they disagree with particulars of their argument or with its orientation.