A diplomacy primer for navigating a turbulent world

Editor's ChoiceA diplomacy primer for navigating a turbulent world

The primer scrupulously avoids jargon and is embellished with maps, diagrams, pictures and quotations to engage the reader.

folding global story of our time. With the world becoming increasingly interconnected and India poised to become the world’s third-largest economy, there is greater demand for understanding foreign policy positions and priorities of the world’s leading power centres, including India. This burgeoning demand has spawned a proliferation of books on foreign policy issues, thereby adding to the confusion of those seeking a clear-cut understanding of global developments and issues. Against this backdrop, Sandeep Chakravorty, a serving diplomat whose three-decades career spans postings in Madrid, Dhaka, Lima and New York, has authored a book entitled “International Relations: Diplomacy Primer”.
Unlike books by many veteran diplomats, this one does not claim to provide the inside story behind momentous global developments or profound theorising, but is more modest in its scope and execution. While interacting with his nephew preparing for the Civil Services entrance exams, the author realised a compelling need for writing a primer or handbook which will provide relevant information for students, aspirants as well as anyone who has a keen interest in international relations. The result is a book that provides a window to different aspects of international affairs, with crisply written accounts on diverse subjects, ranging from International Organisations, Global Groupings to International Relations Theorists, Treaties, Pacts and Agreements.
The primer scrupulously avoids jargon and is embellished with maps, diagrams, pictures and quotations to engage the reader. The section on “International Relations: Terms and Definitions” is especially useful. Terms like realpolitik and resource curse are often used in journalism and writings on international affairs, but very few bother to find out the exact meaning. “Realpolitik: a system of politics or principles based upon practical considerations.” What is resource curse? “An inverse relationship between a lack of economic development and an abundance of natural resources.” Similarly, the book provides basic information on around 50 global organizations in easily digestible form. The chapter on environment encapsulates the growing importance of global efforts in curbing climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. A brief history of the Conference of Parties, starting from COP1 in Berlin on 1985 to COP 25 in Sharm el-Sheikh in November 2022 provides a quick snapshot of key outcomes of these multilateral climate summits. Conceived as a handbook for UPSC aspirants and practitioners, the book will be also valuable for IR scholars and researchers across the world.
On the flip side, the book should have avoided the pitfall of packing in too many subjects in 210 pages. A chapter on Indologists does not quite fit in the framework of international relations and diplomacy. The chapter on “India’s foreign policy and its evolution” could have been longer given the country’s growing global stature and its centrality to solving an array of cross-cutting challenges. But overall, it’s a laudable initiative to offer factual and verified information in condensed form on different aspects of international relations and diplomacy, especially in these post-truth times when facts are being wilfully twisted and substituted by opinions and agendas.
Manish Chand is CEO, Centre for Global Insights India, a think tank focused on global affairs, and Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network and India and the World.

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