A nifty handbook for those interested in foreign trade and policy

Did you know that in ancient Greek mythology, the god of trade as well as diplomacy were both the same — Hermes (no, Birkin is not their offspring). Perhaps it is just as well, as international trade is today deeply intertwined with bilateral, and often multilateral, relationships that straddle the synergy between economic, political and strategic interests.

Independent India has been a dedicated learner of how both feed off each other. Right from first PM Jawaharlal Nehru who didn’t let his deeply socialist beliefs come in the way of making overtures to American big businesses and quid pro quo bag the affection of czars on Capitol Hill for the newly independent country, to PM Modi who wholeheartedly picked up the phone and called UAE President in the guise of a new year greeting call and smoothly passed on his keen interest for an Indian company (ONGC Videsh, in this case) to bag the contract for a 40-year oil drilling rights in Lower Zakum, New Delhi has been a quick learner and steady practitioner of the art of bridging diplomacy and trade. 

The results are showing now, as the country, despite snubbing China’s grandiose RCEP, has been sowing free trade deals left, right and centre. More than that, India has emerged as a masterful artist in the genre, working out nimble agreements that benefit the state in the long run. Pradeep S. Mehta, founder of the Jaipur-based think-tank NGO Consumer Unity & Trust Society, better known as CUTS brings out all the drama and historical significance of how this has panned out over the years in his latest book Economic Diplomacy: India’s Ascendency in the 21st Century.

Mehta is helped out in the editing of this compendium of essays by former ambassador Anil Wadhwa and CUTS assistant policy analyst Advaiyot Sharma. The list of writers is heavy duty, almost reading like a roster of Raisina Hill regulars, ranging from Manmohan Singh’s advisor Sanjaya Baru to former foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and a plethora of former ambassadors, from Rajiv Bhatia to Gurjit Singh to Ajay Bisaria.

A nifty handbook for any IFS aspirant (or trainee) as well as anyone interested in foreign trade and policy, the strength of the book is the authoritativeness of the backroom information the hefty list of writers bring to it. Its drawback is the pedantic diplospeak used all over the place, as well as the urgency to sing too many paeans to the present dispensation and dwell too long on recent achievements. But here and there, gems of fascinating anecdotes pop out, like when Satish C. Mehta writes about the Jaipur Foot and how its supply to landmine-wreaked Africans wrote a new chapter in south-south cooperation, to the backroom look at the backroom lobbying that went on before India clinched the civil nuclear deal with the US in 2008, to even the piece by Ashok Sajjanhar on the strategic perspectives that set India-Kazakhstan ties apart. This book gives a life of its own to diplomatic backchannels and tells you why trade straddles all in the modern global order’s scheme of things.

Economic Diplomacy; India’s Ascendancy in the 21st Century


Edited by Pradeep S. Mehta, Anil Wadhwa, Advaiyot Sharma


Academic Foundation


Pages: 360


Price: Rs 1,495