ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A ‘Cosmologial’ Approach to Diplomacy

The Making of Indian Diplomacy: A Critique of Eurocentrism by Deep K Datta-Ray (first published C Hurst & Co), New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015; pp xv + 380, 795 (hardcover).

This book opens with an account of the 123 Agreement in 2007, a signal achievement of the Manmohan Singh government, which fractured the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at home and outfaced international opposition led by China. The treaty invoked a range of contradictory responses, even puzzlement, nationally and internationally, and this, argues Deep K Datta-Ray, is characteristic of India’s polysemic diplomacy. It appears opaque and incomprehensible, even to Indians. How do we begin to understand the distinctive cha­racteristics of this diplomacy? Rather than the usual study of texts and documents, Datta-Ray suggests, we have to understand the people and the culture that “make” this diplomacy. As a rese­arch strategy, therefore, he sought to embed himself in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of the Government of India. Indian researchers will know that this is the stuff of dreams. Dogged perseverance and, finally, intercession from the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, enabled the dream to come true.

The author spent 14 months in the MEA, able to participate in some of its acti­vities and interview officers at many ­levels. In common with most dreams, however, the researcher also suffered an awakening. The secret of Indian diplomacy cannot be narrated through a “thick description” of the MEA’s people and their functioning. Datta-Ray’s conclusion is as inescapable as it is credible—the MEA is largely responsible for implementation of policy. The “making” of the policy is by a small and tight group of individuals around the Prime Minister’s ­Office. This is a historic legacy from the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who devised a novel approach to India’s dealings with the international com­munity, based on Gandhian principles. The book we got then was not an ethnographic account of our diplomatic present but an intellectual history of ­“Indian” diplomacy, which charts its civilisational continuity from our ancient past. The author considers the modes and methods of the Indian government’s dealing with other nations and the world order to reflect a philosophic approach to the world as a community.

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Updated On : 14th Dec, 2020
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