Amrita Narlikar and Aruna Narlikar, Bargaining with a Rising India: Lessons from the Mahabharata

Published date01 July 2021
Date01 July 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book reviews 413
Amrita Narlikar and Aruna Narlikar, Bargaining with a Rising India:
Lessons from the Mahabharata (Oxford University Press, 2014).
` 880, 238 pp. ISBN: 0199698384, 9780199698387. (Hardcover).
DOI: 10.1177/00208817211031110
The Great Epics of ancient times, from the story of Gilgamesh to the Mahabharata,
comprise great wisdom. The focus of the book is on the roots of the vocabulary,
ideology and psychology of the Indian negotiation strategy by examining
anecdotes from the Mahabharata. The epic of the Mahabharata is a lucid
representation of the thread of continuity in the Indian civilization, touching upon
the subjects of politics, primogeniture, marriage, ethics, meaning of life and the
subjects that are of interest to the scholars of international studies, that is,
diplomatic negotiations, war and peace. A reductionist analysis of the watershed
events in the epic from Bhishma’s vow to the vengeance of Ashwathamma, would
bring one to the subject of the authors’ focus that is, the thread of continuity in the
diplomatic culture of an India that is rapidly ascending to its rightful position in
the comity of nations on the global stage, from ancient to the modern times. It puts
the Indian strategic mind under a microscope and uses the epic of Mahabharata
as the lens.
According to the authors, the missing variable in the simplistic, axiomatic,
Western-oriented understanding of negotiation and strategy is ‘culture’. The
emerging powers of the global economy, BRICS, have a significantly different
political, institutional and cultural core than the incumbents. Russia, India and
China are renowned as ‘civilizational states’ that lend credence to history and
have a variable understanding of ‘time’ construct in life and in negotiation.
Multidisciplinary studies on negotiation have factored in material, economic and
psychological characteristics to evolve theoretical paradigms, and yet,
commensurate attention has not been paid to the cultural factor, which dominates
the behaviour of civilizational states. Non-Western studies have focused on the
Chinese concept of guanxi and the Japanese concept of amae; this book is a
valuable contribution on similar lines to discovering (rediscovering) the cultural
roots of the Indian negotiating culture, enhancing the literature on International
Relations, business negotiations and the literature on negotiation, in general.
The book is divided into six chapters, four of which elaborately explore the
roots of Indian negotiation culture, studying bargaining strategies, the style of
argumentation, coalition behaviour and the understanding of time. Each chapter
elucidates 10 anecdotes from the Mahabharata and further derives insights on
negotiation from them. Then, it applies those insights to the end of confirming
India’s negotiation culture from an examination of India’s negotiating positions in
multilateral trade and nuclear non-proliferation regimes. The final chapter offers
policy recommendations to foreign and Indian negotiators for bargaining with a
rising India.

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