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Diplomacy as Mythology

I.P. Khosla

Edited by Divya S. Iyer
Wisdom Tree, Delhi, 2014, pp. 311, price not stated.


This is a collection of forty-nine ar­ticles, transcripts of speeches and lec­tures by a former diplomat divided into seven sections of seven pieces each; seven to represent the sapta-chiranjeevi or seven im­mortal beings in the Hindu pantheon; each section carries a helpful subtitle, Hanuman as the first Indian diplomat to be sent abroad, Vibheeshana who stands for righteousness and so on. As the author announced at a book launch in New Delhi, the book is entirely the creation of the editor, Divya Iyer, who not only chose the pieces but gave them a mythological framework; and she did it as gurudakshina, an offering from a student to the teacher on the latter’s seventieth birthday. Let it be said right away that the author’s views on India’s relations with China and Pakistan are a model of objectivity and clear­sightedness. China uses its reputation for inscrutability, developed over the centuries, for double talk; the reality is that there are more contentious issues between the two sides, India and China, in 2010 than there were in 1962, the threat is now as real as it ever was and seen in their actions along the border as well as their policies on other mat­ters; but they never cease harping on how peaceful they really are, not a threat to any­body. In return, the Indian side responds to such threats with bewilderment, then self-accusation, as if it was we who really pro­voked them, soft words of perfect under­standing from the government, and then the acceptance of temporary solutions, ‘acne’, that suit the Chinese agenda. On Pakistan he is equally forthright. Pakistan’s very exist­ence is conditional on its differences with India being remembered whenever they deal with India; it has no compulsions to make peace and only responds to our peace over­tures by plotting more actively to undermine the Indian state, overtly and covertly. Such overtures are taken by Pakistan as signs of weakness and followed by stepped up pres­sure. And then there is the peace constitu­ency in India, which has, as the author cor­rectly notes, done more harm than good to relations; not to mention the Nobel Prize syndrome which gripped Manmohan Singh, going the extra mile to ‘improve’ relations, meaning really abandoning India’s policies in favour of making unilateral concessions. To be fair, though the author does not ...

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