World view from within

Another biography that appears this year is that of former Indian Foreign Secretary Jagat Singh Mehta (how appropriately named!) who looks back on an eventful career which began the day after India’s independence- just after the famous tryst with destiny speech...

The Tryst Betrayed gives an insider’s view of policy making. In his lucid and informative style Mehta sheds light on Jawaharlal Nehru’s prophetic assertion of ideological agnosticism (named ‘Non-alignment’ in 1946) and its distortion by the accidental overlap of decolonization with the Cold War. Partition, decades of tensions, four wars and underdevelopment have been the consequences.

In marked departure from other memoirs, Mehta pulls no punches. He argues that Nehru was na├»ve on China, wishful on the Soviet Union and prejudiced on America. The civil servants were hypnotized by what he refers to as the ‘Panditji knows best’ syndrome. Mehta illustrates that Nehru’s bark was no doubt frightening but his bite not vicious. Mehta’s career is marked by his innovative approach to all his several diplomatic assignments—and though not in office, he forewarned against unprincipled attitudes on Afghanistan.

After retirement Mehta chose academia and voluntarism—at Harvard, the Woodrow Wilson Centre for scholars and he was for fifteen years a visiting professor at the University of Texas in Austin. He remains engaged with the voluntary sector through the Udaipur-based Seva Mandir (working for development in 600 villages), Vidya Bhawan (sixteen educational institutes) and the Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti (for the protection of Udaipur’s lakes). The book gives a fascinating insight into the workings of the NGO sector and the critical importance of the actions of unselfish voluntary effort to ensuring a just democracy.

In our Biography section, in hardcover, 344 pages, Rs. 550. ISBN: 9780670082469