Of Perceptions and Policies

Book Review: Shishir Gupta, The Himalayan Face-Off: Chinese Assertion and the Indian Riposte (Gurgaon: Hachette India, 2014).

Shishir Gupta says clearly at the beginning that the ‘book is not about China but its policies and mindset towards India as perceived by the top Indian leadership, political parties and the public’ (p. xi). Within this framework he tries to give an organized picture of the ebb and flow of Sino-Indian relations during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime. While the coverage ends sometime in 2013 well before the UPA regime ended its tenure, the change of regime in New Delhi does not materially alter the nature of relations with China and Gupta by highlighting in his title, the fact that there has been an ‘Indian Riposte’ to ‘Chinese Assertion’ deserves full credit for standing out from the crowd and differing with general public perception of the UPA government’s tenure as being one of inaction and incompetence when it came to China policy. Whatever the UPA’s sins of omission or commission in its domestic politics or in its foreign policy in general, on China policy at least, a combination of focused political and military leadership and competent bureaucratic support ensured that the new NDA regime will find little to change except to provide greater direction, resources and speed and perhaps, with the backing of majority in Parliament, bolder engagement or even, out-of-the-box solutions to resolving ‘The Himalayan Face-off’. Read more

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Taiwan’s 9-in-1 Election Results: Warning for the KMT-CPC Relationship

The major losses suffered by Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in the nine-in-one local elections – called so because there were elections held to nine levels of local government – at the end of November are the result of both internal and external reasons. With elections to the Taiwanese presidency and to the Legislative Yuan due in 2016, China will have to both rethink the scope and recalibrate the pace of its embrace of the island that has held out against it since 1949.

 

Background

Over the years, the Communist Party of China (CPC)-ruled mainland has adopted a variety of approaches to bring Taiwan – dubbed a ‘renegade province’ – around. While for most of the Maoist and Dengist eras, there were really no serious attempts at coercion, rapprochement with the US in 1971 did bring about the ‘one China’ policy that put the Republic of China on Taiwan on very shaky footing as far as its international standing was concerned. Read more

Divide and Rule: China Woos Southeast Asia

At the 17th China-ASEAN leaders’ meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar in November 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for the formulation of a Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2016-2020)[1] to ensure good neighbourly relations. A Global Times commentary has pointed out that while the Chairman’s Statement of the 24th ASEAN Summit on the South China Sea disputes ‘expressed serious concerns over the ongoing developments in the South China Sea’, the statement at the 25th Summit that concluded in Naypyitaw on 13 November, only mentioned that it was ‘concerned over the situation in the South China Sea’.[2] Clearly, the Chinese are working on the ASEAN members to moderate their views on the seriousness of the impact of the South China Sea disputes, and by extension, China’s actions, on regional stability. Read more

Reclaiming India’s Foreign Policy for its Citizens

This is the modified version of a Valedictory Address delivered at a conference titled, Citizen’s Foreign Policy at the Department of Political Science, Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University on 11 November 2014

It is an important distinction to make between citizen’s foreign policy and people’s foreign policy. While the latter is generally used in the sense of ensuring that foreign policy is not just a matter of high politics but is also one of wider democratic consideration of the interests of ordinary people as well, it is also in this sense liable to be misused or misinterpreted. Just as democracy by the numbers alone does not convey the full import of the values and spirit of democracy, so also simple reference to the ‘people’ as a way of legitimizing a foreign policy choice has its drawbacks. The reference to a citizen however comes with clear implications. Read more

4th Plenum: Towards Rule of Law with Chinese Characteristics

The 4th Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held in late October had a major focus on issues of legal reform. The Decision of the Plenum conveys fairly strongly that even as China tries to overhaul its politics, to introduce a greater measure of predictability and accountability in the system, it is the Party’s supremacy that is the end goal of all efforts. A major thrust also remains on developing legal structures and principles that are specifically applicable to China and possess ‘Chinese characteristics’.

 

The Run-up  Read more