Book Review: ‘Centres of Power’ by Chinmaya R.Gharekhan

Insights into Power: A Diplomat's Journey


Book Title: Centres of Power: My Years in the Prime Minister’s Office and Security Council
Author: Chinmaya R.Gharekhan
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-9357022330
Date Published: Jun. 05, 2023
Price: INR 609

Centres of Power by Chinmaya R.Gharekhan Book Cover

Book Review

Centres of Power: My Years in the Prime Minister’s Office and Security Council” is a captivating autobiography penned by Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, an esteemed former Indian diplomat with extensive experience serving in high-ranking positions, including Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations. The book is divided into two distinct parts, the first delving into Gharekhan’s tenure in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) from 1981 to 1986, while the second chronicles his time as India’s representative to the UN Security Council during the tumultuous Gulf War in 1990-1991. The first part is titled “THE INDIRA–RAJIV YEARS”, and the second is “DIPLOMACY DURING THE FIRST GULF WAR”.

In the book’s first part, Gharekhan provides a remarkable and revealing glimpse into the inner workings of the Indian government’s decision-making processes concerning foreign policy. Through his keen insights, readers understand the dynamics and personalities that shaped the approaches of two influential Indian prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Additionally, Gharekhan shares his challenges while serving in the PMO, skillfully navigating the delicate balance between the competing interests of various government departments and the imperative to keep the media informed while safeguarding sensitive information.

The second part of the autobiography focuses on the Gulf War, during which Gharekhan played a pivotal role as India’s representative to the UN Security Council. Here, he recounts the intensive diplomatic efforts undertaken to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Gharekhan’s meticulous narrative unveils the intricate negotiations within the Security Council, offering a comprehensive overview of the positions the countries involved in the war adopted. Furthermore, he presents his assessment of the war and its aftermath, providing readers with valuable insights into India’s role during this critical period.

Throughout the book, Gharekhan highlights several noteworthy aspects. Firstly, his portrayal of the personalities and working styles of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi offers a balanced and nuanced perspective, interwoven with captivating anecdotes depicting their interactions with him and other members of the Indian government. Secondly, Gharekhan elucidates the multifaceted challenges he faced while serving in the PMO, deftly navigating the intricacies of managing diverse government departments, handling the media, and negotiating the egos and ambitions of influential politicians. Lastly, his comprehensive account of the UN Security Council negotiations during the Gulf War sheds light on the diverse perspectives and positions taken by the countries involved, accompanied by his assessment of India’s contributions to the diplomatic process.

Beyond the content, Gharekhan’s writing style enhances the reader’s engagement with the book. His innate storytelling ability breathes life into his experiences, vividly portraying intricate details and injecting moments of humour that elicit genuine laughter. Furthermore, his aptitude for simplifying the complexities of international diplomacy ensures that even technical information becomes easily understandable to a wide range of readers.

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In conclusion, “Centres of Power” emerges as an outstanding literary work. With its profound insights into Indian foreign policy and the functioning of the UN Security Council, it represents a valuable addition to the existing literature on these subjects. Gharekhan’s captivating storytelling, combined with his deep knowledge and expertise, ensures that “Centres of Power” is a compelling and essential read for anyone seeking to delve into Indian diplomacy and the UN Security Council.

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