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Looking Back: Diplomatic Tales

David M. Malone

By Krishnan Srinivasan
Manohar Publications, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 264, Rs. 750.00

By Kofi Annan and Nader Mousavizadeh
Allen Lane, 2012, pp. 512, Rs. 799.00

By Frederic Eckhard
Ruder Finn Press, Geneva, Geneva, Geneva, France, 2013, pp. 276, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 2-3 February/March 2013

Academic scholarship of Indian foreign policy within the country has too often been herd-driven (the number of Indian tomes on nonalignment, mostly with little value added in each individual case, accounts for too large a forest of trees that gave up their lives unproductively) and often unmediated by noticeable quality control or helpful peer review. But it has been improving by leaps and bounds recently. In India, a good deal of the source material is drawn not so much from archives—access to a key archive, that of the Nehru-Gandhi family is still, distressingly, managed by the family rather than a more disinterested arbiter—but from recollections of key actors in India’s foreign policy since Independence (the occasional politician, but, more often, leading lights of the Indian Foreign Service), a genre that has been fading from publishing lists in the West since the days of Harold Nicholson. Not all of these in India have been worth recording. But occasionally a gem materializes. The past year revived at least one startlingly vivid example. Its author, Krishnan Srinivasan, Foreign Secretary for just over a year, 1994-95, before moving on to seven years of distinguished service as Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, has written often on international relations, and also as author of several political thrillers and detective stories. Srinivasan’s essay ‘Retrospections’ kicks off a collection of occasional writing, brought together by Manohar Publishing house in a handsomely-produced, if expensive, volume. The rest would not quite have deserved re-publication (although his individual analyses which had previously appeared in the Indian media, are never less than lucid, original and beautifully crafted, notably several pages on India’s accursed past relationship with the USA). But ‘Retrospections’, which chronicles not so much Srinivasan’s life as Foreign Secretary but the year’s events in Indian foreign policy, augmented by sometimes acid portraits of those most involved (several of whom are no longer around to defend themselves, although they were when the piece first appeared in a slightly different form in 1996), is an exceptional stylistic achievement that also tosses off a number of interesting judgments. It represents, in less than fifty pages, a speeded up version of a busy year conveyed unsentimentally and sharply (in at least two senses of the word), in the type of economical prose that requires a great deal of honing. It reminded me of the 2012 film remake of Anna Karenina, ...

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