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Inside Diplomacy

Author: Kishan Rana
Date: 2000

Review by Geoff Berridge 

Kishan Rana served without interruption in the Indian Foreign Service from 1960 until he retired in 1995 after three years as Ambassador in Germany. He specialized in economic diplomacy and – early on – in Chinese affairs. He seems to have seen all sides of the career and most continents, and in his retirement is now working as a business advisor, columnist, and occasional teacher at the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi.

His book has nineteen chapters on all aspects of diplomacy, including economic diplomacy (of course), cultural diplomacy, consular work (with a related chapter towards the end on the Indian diaspora), summitry, multilateral diplomacy, the ministry of external affairs, missions abroad, and the relations between diplomats and the media. Though extremely well done, the subjects of these chapters are predictable. One of the great strengths of Kishan Rana’s book, however, is that it also contains chapters on important subjects which much less frequently receive sustained textbook analysis. Thus there are really quite full chapters on diplomatic training, the diplomatic inspectorate, properties owned or leased by the IFS abroad (Jane Loeffler please note), and the domestic roles of the foreign ministry. The substantial section on ‘The Diplomatic Corps’ in the chapter on ‘Missions Abroad’ is also original and particularly interesting.

Inside Diplomacy has many important themes. Among these the most prominent is the need for a comprehensive review of the ‘entire Indian diplomatic apparatus’, which Rana argues has done well but could do better. To do this it must work more through strongly institutionalized practices rather than through strong individuals, significantly improve its personnel policies, and introduce as a matter of urgency a proper inspectorate. Among the remaining themes, the one which caught my eye and aroused my sympathy was the claim that exaggerated importance has been attached in India (and by implication elsewhere) to multilateral at the expense of bilateral diplomacy.

To find a downside to this book is difficult. Straining to find something, I will say only that I cannot share Kishan Rana’s dismay at the absence of Chanakya’s Arthashastra from the curriculum of the Indian diplomatic profession, or that of any other diplomatic profession for that matter. (When he reads my entry on Chanakya – under his alternative name, Kautilya – in the forthcoming Dictionary of Diplomacy he may never e-mail me again!) I also found the book’s Index somewhat slender for a work of this length and more interested in flagging up proper names than diplomatic concepts, procedures, and institutions. But these are quibbles. In my opinion this is the best general work on practical, contemporary diplomacy which is currently available.

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