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The book is a chronological compilation of the author’s diplomatic experiences when, during his Foreign Service career, he was involved in seven unconnected negotiating responsibilities. No other officer was entrusted with comparable burdens but he acknowledges that they came to him by bureaucratic happenstance. In the first three-accompanying Nehru to Bhutan (1958), leading the official team for India-China Boundary talks (1960), negotiating compensation for Indians expelled by ldi Amins’ Uganda (1975)-he was only a secretatriat offical. During the last four-normalizing relations with Pakistan and negotiating Salal hydroelectric project on a ‘Pakistani’ river (1976), Farakka negotiations with Bangladesh (1977), and separating Trade and Transit with Nepal (1978)–he was the Foreign Secretary which enabled him to recommend improvisations to resolve inherited deadlocks. Most negotiations were with unequal neighbours, which required anticipating the perceptions (and misperceptions) of the sovereign partners. Suspicions–justified or exaggerated–of coercion and hegemonism had to be assuaged.
Mehta also recalls the personalities of select colleagues and negotiating opposite numbers, the ablest amongst whom was Chang-wen-chin, his Chinese counter part. According to Mehta dueling all day intellectually but toasting each other’s nations after sundown, symbolizes the unique calling of professional diplomacy.