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Reader’s Review, November 2014

By John D. Baker

Bargaining With a Rising India:
Lessons from the Mahabharata

By Amrita Narlikar & Aruna Narlikar
136pp. New York, N.Y.: The Oxford University Press, 2014
Hardcover (USA) $49.95

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Amrita Narlikar is the daughter of Aruna Narlikar and both women are extraordinary scholars and well-know contributors to Indian and world culture. This work reflects their varied skills and wide-knowledge of Indian history and literature to present a view of Indian culture and its impact on the nation’s approach to negotiation and international relations.

Amrita Narlikar holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in International Relations from Balliol College, University of Oxford. She is the author of nine books, dozens of articles, and the recipient of many awards for her research and service. She is an expert in multi-lateral organizations.

Dr. Amrita Narlikar is the newly appointed President of GIGA, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, taking office October 1, 2014. At the same time, she has been appointed as Professor in the Department of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Hamburg.

Dr. Aruna Narlikar is an expert in Sanskrit and holds a doctoral degree in Indian writing. She is also a columnist and free-lance journalist, writing for a wide-variety of newspapers and magazines, such as the Times of India.

Aruna Narlikar also serves as a national T.V. anchor in her native India. She is the frequent host of many programs on Indian culture. Additionally, she is a well-known artist, exhibiting her works of art across Latin American, Europe and Asia.

Bargaining with a Rising India is an extraordinary work that will be of interest to both international negotiators and general negotiation practitioners and scholars. For those who negotiate with India and its citizens the interest is clear. For those who study or negotiate with other members of the emergent BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and for international scholars in general it is a potential model of significant value.

To better understand the Indian approach to negotiation, the authors focus on the nation’s cultural heritage as revealed in the great Indian epic; the Mahabharata. Drawing on its rich account of a war between two families for a Crown and the machinations of gods, heroes and villains, the epic is filled with negotiations between the parties to the conflict. The authors weave many of these tales of negotiations into their book as illustrative examples of the impact of the Indian cultural heritage which continues to live on in their contemporary negotiating behaviors. It is an excellent method which works brilliantly.

We learn through the lens of the Mahabharata and the record of Indian negotiating behavior in the post-colonial period, why its people continue to be known for “hard” bargaining, rock-solid positions, moral and ethical pronouncements, and a national penchant for delay and walking-away from the negotiating table rather than risking a bad deal. As examples in the work, readers learn about the power of the Indian honor based culture and the role that preserving “face” plays in the refusal of Indian negotiators to settle for less than their original demands. As a second example, the authors explore the role of the Indian popular belief that “no deal is better than a bad deal” that encourages Indian negotiator to employ extensive delays or refuse to complete deal.

There is much more in this work that will enrich your understanding of the Indian negotiation approach to negotiation. I am certain international negotiators and scholars will find this book a rich resource. As the authors’ conclude, successful negotiation with the emerging BRIC powers requires “more studies of the cultures of the non-Western rising powers will have to become essential reading for all those involved in the theory and practice of diplomacy and global governance” (p. 223). This is just such a work.

The book is well-documented with extensive bibliographical sources listed at the close of each chapter and has a full and helpful Index.

Highly Recommended.

John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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The Negotiator Magazine  November 2014 Copyright © 2014 The Negotiator Magazine