Date: 16 June 2015
Location: École Normale Supérieure (ENS), 45 rue d'U;m, 75005, Paris
See online advertisment: http://www.ens.fr/actualites/agenda/article/l-invention-de-la-politique
Speaker: Dr. Deep K. Datta-Ray (JSIA)
Discussant: Jean-Luc Racine (CNRS)
The author will speak about Indian diplomacy which he argues is resolutely motivated by the present, free of the burdens of history as developed since the European Enlightenment and hence devoid of nationalism. The author's argument arises from being the only outsider to have embedded in any Foreign Ministry. The result of his lived experiences and archival fieldwork within India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is a new book, The Making of Indian Diplomacy: a critique of Eurocentrism (OUP, New York). The work overturns much of the accepted wisdom about Indian diplomacy being a derivative of European models, in the process shedding new light on the nature of the Indian state.
Datta-Ray argues that the core of Indian diplomatic practice is to be found in the national epic, the Mahabharata. To resolve the enigma of a pre-Western text ordering modern India, Datta-Ray traces the epic’s influence from pre-Mughal times to the present. Moreover, the durability of the Mahabharata’s influence on Indian diplomacy was secured by India’s most significant relationship of the modern political era, that between Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The epic inspired Gandhi’s innovative conception of terminating violence non-violently, or satyagraha. His influence over Nehru ensured satyagraha would shape the new post-colonial nation’s diplomacy, testimony to which, and arguably its greatest achievement, is India’s nuclear diplomacy.
The author’s investigation then reveals Indian diplomacy’s non-Western rational, while its presence at the heart of a state presumed Western at inception reveals new possibilities about how to conceptualise post-colonial India, its purpose and role on the world stage. Most significant is that while nation-states authorised by nationalism remain hostage to the past, the Indian state’s arena for action is very much the present, as is rational its objective of non-violently terminating violence now.