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Games Nations Play

G.S. Iyer

By K.P. Fabian
Har-Anand Publications, Delhi, 2012, pp. 258, Rs.595.00


We do not lack books on the history of Indian diplomacy or those dealing with India's relations with specific countries and regions. There has also been a steadily broadening stream of books that narrate the professional experiences of those who have been in the business of dealing with foreign governments, though there is a general conviction that enough has not been brought out into the open about the past and that a good deal of important happenings behind the scene has been lost beyond retrieval because of the passing away of major participants who chose not to tell all. The third variety of books are those that treat the theoretical aspects of foreign policy and the methods of the conduct of relations abroad. Here, there has been a relative paucity for the obvious reason that conclusions on general patterns can be drawn only from an adequate sample. The book under review by Ambassador K.P. Fabian is an attempt in this specific field. The book follows the case study method to draw conclusions on the Indian diplomatic method. The author has chosen three areas for analysis for this purpose, India-China relations from the time of our Independence till the 1962 war, India-Pakistan relations all the way to the Shimla Pact, and the Sri Lanka crisis culminating in the insertion of the IPKF into the domestic conflict of that island. The events stretch over a few decades, thereby making the samples adequate for drawing conclusions on the important components of good diplomacy including quickness of response to events, consistency, clarity of aims, persistence in reaching the objectives and the patience needed for achievement of the objectives. (There is a fifth element in good diplomacy, secrecy, which has not been dealt with here as part of the diplomatic methods adopted by us.) What are the conclusions drawn by the author? The common pattern seen by the author is neatly summarized by him as the overriding of the textual over the contextual. The facts are quite well known because all the three sets of bilateral relations have been subjects of intense scrutiny by academic specialists in India and abroad as well as memoirs of diplomats. The author summarizes them quite well and proceeds with his demonstration that our side negotiated texts for the settlement of issues in each case on the hope that the written agreement would resolve the problem. The hope turned out ...

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