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Indian Diplomacy at Work


Rajendra Abhyankar


Edited by Krishna V. Rajan
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 330, Rs. 599.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 9 SEPTEMBER 2012

The attempt in The Ambassadors’ Club by Krishna Rajan to put down varied narratives from former Indian diplomats not just as memoires but a grassroots view of Indian foreign policy is most commendable and long overdue. I hope it is followed up. The accounts go to show that in the practice of diplomacy situations which put your government’s policy on the line can arise in any country. In some it may be because of the status that your country commands, in others because you may end up becoming a ‘collateral participant’, and in yet others, because you may be ‘the right man at the wrong place’. The life of a Head of Mission is a lonely one; more often than not you have to rely on your own instincts and most times are left to your own devices. Mercifully as John Galbraith has said in his Ambassador’s Journal ‘the Foreign Service is the only profession where you get promoted for your failures!’ The contents of the book are naturally very heavily weighted in favour of South Asia and Indian concerns and not so much on India performing in the world at large. P.N. Haksar and K.N. Bakshi give us their perspectives on two important junctures in India-Pakistan relations, particularly a view from the working levels of the Indian delegation during the Shimla Agreement. With the see-sawing of our relations even impromptu meetings between the two Heads of State/Government become memorable events. The current somewhat tranquil phase in our relations is entirely due to India’s rescinding on its core concerns on the Mumbai attack and terrorism. With the infiltration season in full swing it is moot whether it will last. Rajan on Nepal and Lakhan Mehrotra on Sri Lanka tell us of their important roles in steering our relations with dexterity with two prickly neighbours at either end of the democracy spectrum. In hindsight we should call them the halcyon days looking at the situation today. While Nepal’s experiment with democracy, without any monarchy, in the post-Prachanda phase is foundering, India’s manoeuvring margin appears to have reduced. In Sri Lanka, on the other hand, an authoritarian Rajapakshe has thrown the vexed issue of Tamil rights to the winds further corrupting the character of the country’s majoritarian democracy. There is more despair than hope that rules today. A.N. Ram vividly details his ...


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