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A Micro-level View of Diplomacy


I.P. Khosla

STUFF HAPPENS: AN ANECDOTAL INSIGHT INTO INDIAN DIPLOMACY
By Rajendra Abhyankar
Har-Anand Publications, Delhi, 2013, pp. 348, Rs. 895.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 3 March 2014

A diplomat writes more than anyone in any other profession, apart from journalists, novelists and the like whose very calling is to write. It is not, as far as a diplomat is concerned; his calling is to represent his country abroad, persuading, negotiating, and, as Ernest Satow put it in his Guide to Diplomatic Practice, the application of intelligence and tact to the conduct of relations between nations.   Nowadays, however, foreign offices have increasingly taken hands-on charge of that conduct, leaving to diplomats abroad the more peripheral task of reporting. And so diplomats write, and they go on writing: reports on politics and economics, on history and society, on culture and traditions and values; speeches and draft speeches on all conceivable subjects; literary essays and other essays; draft resolutions for multilateral fora and exchanges of letters for bilateral fora. Among others.   They are, then, prolific also after retirement, no matter which country’s diplomatic service they have been in. In Europe this has been the norm for at least two centuries; in the US for about a century; and now it is catching on in India. Out of India’s first ten foreign secretaries, for instance, only two didn’t write memoirs covering at least part, more often the whole, of their diplomatic careers. As the years passed an increasing number of Indian diplomats penned their memoirs. Let it be said that all of them were useful, for budding diplomats wishing to learn the trade; for the academic and the historian, revealing insights which the records often conceal; to the layman, showing, if nothing else, that a diplomat’s life is often dangerous, difficult and demanding, and consists of very little alcohol, protocol or geritol.   Abhyankar’s memoirs are thus a welcome addition to this list, despite his insistence at the very outset that what we have here is not an autobiography, nor a memoir, but a recounting of how India’s foreign policy at the micro level could and did change on the basis of single events. This is done through the medium of the unusual. The inside cover highlights this as does the preface, while the contents are arranged according to the unusual: unusual encounters; unusual situations; unusual adventures, places and so on.   The book actually offers quite a lot more than this. The three encounters with which it opens are: a meeting with Premier Indira Gandhi soon ...


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