25 November, 2020

From Our Men In Bratislava

Differ though they may in tone and tenor, the essays are uniformly well-researched and analysed and written with the advantage of the insider

From Our Men In Bratislava

A few years ago, a delightful book, Parting Shots, came to hand. It was a collection of valedictory telegrams, or simply ‘valedictories’, written at the end of their posting, or of their career, by British ambassadors. According to a century-old tradition in the British foreign office, ambassadors were encouraged to pull out all the stops in these freewheeling despatches. The result: elegantly written essays, marked by candour and humour, in which the departing envoy let rip at everything in sight—local customs, personalities, habits, headquarters, the future of the world and so on. When the ambassador happened to be retiring, the valedictory assumed an even greater significa­nce. The fact that the valedictories were widely circulated and occasionally went up to Buckingham Palace was incentive enough for the extra turn of phrase. When the circulation was restricted in 2006 after some embarrassing leaks, the practice sadly withered.

Indian diplomacy has a less structured and more circumspect tradition. Ambassadors leave handing-over notes for...



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