Policy Press

India’s First Diplomat

V.S. Srinivasa Sastri and the Making of Liberal Internationalism

By Vineet Thakur

Published

Jun 15, 2021

Page count

308 pages

ISBN

978-1529217667

Dimensions

234 x 156 mm

Imprint

Bristol University Press

Published

Jun 15, 2021

Page count

308 pages

ISBN

978-1529217681

Dimensions

Imprint

Bristol University Press

Published

Jun 15, 2021

Page count

308 pages

ISBN

978-1529217681

Dimensions

Imprint

Bristol University Press
India’s First Diplomat

V.S. Srinivasa Sastri was a celebrated Indian politician and diplomat in the early twentieth century. Despite being hailed as the ‘very voice of international conscience’, he is now a largely forgotten figure.

This book rehabilitates Sastri and offers a diplomatic biography of his years as India’s roving ambassador in the 1920s. It examines his involvement in key conferences and agreements, as well as his achievements in advocating for racial equality and securing the rights of Indians both at home and abroad. It also illuminates the darker side of being a native diplomat, including the risk of legitimizing the colonial project and the contradictions of being treated as an equal on the world stage while lacking equality at home.

In retrieving the legacy of Sastri, the book shows that liberal internationalism is not the preserve of western powers and actors – where it too often represents imperialism by other means – but a commitment to social progress fought at multiple sites and by many protagonists.

“By bringing out critiques of Sastri from within his contemporaries – Congress statesmen and India’s leading political thinkers – the book succeeds in decolonising pre-independence Indian diplomacy, thus far, a field too deeply entrenched in India’s colonial past.” H-Soz-Kult

"Dr Vineet Thakur’s latest book is an important and exciting contribution to our understanding of race and the global colour line in the British imperial world of the 1920s." LSE Review of Books

“Vineet Thakur’s biographical study of Sastri, India’s First Diplomat, is therefore a refreshing correction to such historiography. While acknowledging the shrinking domestic political space in which liberals operated in the interwar period, Thakur highlights the very real contributions they made in the diplomatic sphere.” The India Forum

“Straddling the liminal spaces of diplomatic history and biography, Vineet Thakur crafts a fascinating narrative of a discerning but overlooked figure of early twentieth-century liberal internationalism, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri.” Siddharth Mallavarapu, Shiv Nadar University

“Vineet Thakur guides us through the labyrinthine world of interwar diplomacy. In this well-researched and globe-spanning biography of V.S. Srinivasa Sastri, he colourfully reveals the many twists and turns India took as it oscillated between striving to be accepted into the world of imperial supremacy and realizing the need to fight it.” Manu Bhagavan, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Vineet Thakur is University Lecturer at the Institute for History at Leiden University.

Introduction: The Native Diplomat

Shirtless Srinivasan

A Worthy Successor to Gokhale

The Silver-Tongued Orator

The Most Picturesque Figure

A Rather Dangerous Ambassador

Like the Anger of Rudra

An Honourable Compromise

A Trustee of India’s Honour

We Have No Sastri

Conclusion: An Amiable Usurper