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  • The Making of Indian Diplomacy: A Critique of Eurocentrism by Deep K. Datta-Ray
  • Ananta Kumar Giri (bio)
The Making of Indian Diplomacy: A Critique of Eurocentrism. By Deep K. Datta-Ray. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-19-020667-3.

In this book, Deep K. Datta-Ray strives to explore some of the deep foundations of Indian diplomacy with and beyond the discourse of modernity, especially its preoccupation with power, control, and violence. [End Page 1020] Datta-Ray argues that modern diplomacy is rooted in a model of violence and control, and Indian diplomacy is striving to move beyond this. Indian diplomacy draws inspiration from the civilizational ethos of and preoccupation of India with dharma, right conduct, and a non-violent way of being with the world. For Datta-Ray, the Indian approach to diplomacy, as it draws from the civilizational steams of the Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as Indo-Mughal experiments in creative diplomacy and Gandhian and Nehruvian approaches, is that "politics may be possible without violence" (p. 3). Datta-Ray shows how Indian diplomacy avoids an either-or approach. He discusses at great length the civil Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement in which India negotiated with the United States in a subtle manner. While negotiating with and acceding to the United States, Indian diplomats and negotiators stuck to India's right to do further tests without violating the terms of agreement. India also did not have to choose between the United States and Iran and creatively negotiated with both.

Datta-Ray studies the making of Indian diplomacy by speaking with some of the practicing diplomats as well as some of the key makers of Indian foreign policy such as Shiv Shankar Menon and K. Natwar Singh. Menon argues that we need to "develop our own strategic concepts and vocabulary" (p. 86). Menon emphasizes the need for both credibility and empathy, especially empathizing with the problems and the predicament of one's adversary. For Datta-Ray, this approach is different from the anarchical binarism of modernity. Menon suggests that he draws this from the dharma-centric approach of Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Gandhian experiment with this. Datta-Ray adopts a hermeneutic approach to understanding the making of Indian diplomacy, which "[…] maintains the possibility of Indian diplomacy being not the 'indigenization of modernity', but maintained by a metaphysic external to modernity" (p. 23).

Datta-Ray writes the following about Menon: "Menon's virtues were drawn from Mahabharat (Mb)." Mahabharat is an aspect of Indian cultural identity. About Gandhi he writes: "At least three centuries of modern thought from Hobbes onwards—and a much longer intellectual tradition—were short-circuited by Gandhi's innovations within a tradition of dharma." Datta-Ray argues that in offering military resistance to aggression on Kashmir by Pakistan-supported Pathan forces, India did not deviate from the principle of dharma and non-violence. Gandhi also supported this military response. For Datta-Ray by doing so Gandhi did not deviate from the principle of non-violence. As he writes: "Kashmir demonstrated that it was possible for the state to perform Gandhian policy" (p. 223). But Datta-Ray is writing his book in 2015 and he should have looked into the violence in which Indian security forces are involved in Kashmir.

Datta-Ray also argues how Nehru continued the Gandhian approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy. The Non-Aligned Movement [End Page 1021] that Nehru co-created with Nasser of Egypt and Tito of former Yugoslavia was a continuation of Gandhian policy. This is synchronized with his friendly policy of Panchasheel with China. But, as Datta-Ray writes, "[… ] the China war sensitized Nehru about the cost of applying principled Gandhism in the international [realm]" (p. 238). Despite this, Nehru did not cross the "laxman rekha in terms of weaponization" (p. 239). Nehru did not want to build nuclear weapons and wanted to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This was an aspect of his commitment to the Gandhian way of being with self and the world. Despite their differences, for Datta-Ray, Nehru followed Gandhian principles in his politics and policy.

Datta-Ray strives to understand the making of Indian foreign policy...


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