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Comparative Politics

A Foreign Policy without Foreign Languages

India is famed as a country with multiple languages and dialects with most Indians being able to understand if not also speak at least two. For a substantial number that number can go up to three and more. Educated Indians also usually have a fascination with French as a ‘foreign language’, though technically, it is spoken or followed at least by older generations in Pondicherry and other former French possessions and a medium of instruction in several schools.

But it is part of a general blindness about all but the developed world that most Indians who wish to learn French do so because they are interested only in France and things French. They almost never think that the largest number of French speakers in the world – and therefore, also a great number of opportunities – exist in Africa. But because Africa and Africans are looked down on by the general Indian population, such possibilities escape them. Spanish and Portuguese are other languages spoken widely in the developing world but arguably have fewer takers in India than German does. 

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

China’s ‘New Tianxia’ and the Indian Response

This is an updated version of a paper presented on 28 February 2015 at a conference, India’s Foreign Policy Strategies through the 21st Century, organized by the University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

Following the ascension of a new leadership at the 18th CPC Congress in 2012, China has conducted a dynamic foreign policy – on the one hand asserting itself on territorial issues from the East and South China Seas to Line of Actual Control with India and on the other, coming up with new initiatives to draw the Asian continent first and then further afield into an ever closer economic and political relationship with China. It is this latter aspect of that is the subject of this paper. Two parts of this form of Chinese foreign policy are examined – one, China’s frequent hosting of international conferences and seminars and two, its promotion of new ideas and new organizations as a way of shaping a common narrative for Asia with China in the lead. Alongside, this paper also highlights how India lags behind China in terms of organizing principles and institutional capabilities. By way of conclusion, I suggest that China is harking back to ancient principles and the worldviews of an imperial power as a framework for its foreign policy that continues to evolve in a world where its economic power is growing stronger, the influence of the West appears to be declining and calls for China to take greater international responsibility are also increasing.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

China’s Conference Diplomacy: Lessons for India

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China’s Conference Diplomacy’, Organiser, Vol. 66, No. 26, 28 December 2014, pp. 40-41.

In a roughly 30-day period beginning late October 2014, China hosted a major international military dialogue called the Xiangshan Forum, the World Internet Conference, the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan, a UN meeting on the role of geospatial information in promoting sustainable development as well as an international conference each on humanitarian rules governing military operations and anti-hijacking. In addition, the Chinese government offered to host an informal defence ministers’ conference of all ASEAN countries in 2015, and has been designated host of the G20 summit in 2016. Together these give us a sample of the literally hundreds of meetings of international organizations and associations that China hosts round the year in addition to normal bilateral diplomatic meetings. Add to these, are the regular conferences that China has begun organizing on its new Silk Road initiatives all across the country where dozens of participants from Asia and around the world participate.