“Africa weaves a magic spell around even a temporary visitor,” wrote the former Indian high commissioner to East and Central Africa, Apa Pant, in 1987, echoing the allure that the continent had over him and other fellow Indian diplomats. But the diplomatic roles of men like Pant and the history of Indian engagement with Rhodesia has not, until now, been explored. This article argues that the central role of India in the colonial world ensured that London reined in the white settler Rhodesian government from enacting discriminatory legislation against its minority Indian populations. After Indian independence in 1947, the postcolonial government shifted from advocating specifically for the rights of Indians overseas to ideological support for the independence of oppressed peoples across the British colonial world, a mission with which it tasked its diplomatic representatives. But after India left its post in Salisbury in 1965, Indian public rhetorical support for African nationalist movements in Rhodesia was not matched by its private support for British settlement plans that were largely opposed by the leading African political parties in the country, colored by private patronizing attitudes by India's representatives toward African nationalists and the assumption that they were not yet ready to govern themselves.

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