Stirring Africa towards India: APA Pant and the Making of Post-Colonial Diplomacy, 1948–54

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This article investigates the making of independent India as an international actor through Apa Pant, a diplomat posted to East Africa in 1948—a time when India’s interests there were fuzzy and potentially contradictory. Appointed while adrift professionally and desperate financially, Pant struggled to make sense of his role as a diplomat, to elaborate an “African policy” for India in the absence of firm guidance, and to juggle between professional, private and public life. He poured out these feelings in hundreds of frequent, unguarded, and often moving
letters to his wife and family. Unusually for diplomats, who tend to leave behind carefully scripted and redacted writings, these letters form an emotional and experiential archive of diplomacy. Pant’s experiences reveal what it meant to be a diplomat serving a newly independent nation trying to assert itself in the international order. Beyond the recent focus on ideas and institutions in India’s international history, this article reveals Indian diplomacy as an embodied practice and effort of imagination, whose contours were negotiated not just in Delhi but in fledging missions by diplomats whose individual efforts to learn and
adjust “the rules of the game” mirrored, and sometimes clashed, with those of the nation they represented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-913
Number of pages22
Issue number4
Early online date15 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


  • diplomacy, diplomatic theory, diplomatic practice
  • East Africa
  • India - foreign policy
  • decolonisation
  • India-Africa relations


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