On Democratic Space and Aggressive Foreign Policy

Indian analysts and officials frequently differentiate their country from China on the basis of the political systems of the two countries. It is seen as positive that India is a democracy despite the poverty, superstitions and lack of education of a large number of its people. China however is looked down upon despite its many achievements in living standards and social indicators because it is an authoritarian state.

Nevertheless, it is also common to find among sections of Indian elites an admiration for China’s ‘tough’ ways; for the ‘discipline’ of its people. It is often proposed that India, too, needs a tough leader with authority to ensure that corruption and other ills are eliminated and the country reaches the front rank of nations, which it deserves. A question left unaddressed is whether the objective of becoming a world power is an end in itself or designed to help India to the means to improve its domestic conditions. Continue reading On Democratic Space and Aggressive Foreign Policy

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. Continue reading Reclaiming India’s Foreign Policy for its Citizens

Charting India’s China Policy for the Next Decade

Original Article: Jabin T. Jacob, “Alternative Strategies towards China: Charting India’s Course for the Next Decade,” IPCS Issue Brief, No. 162, February 2011.

Summary: Sino-Indian bilateral ties at the start of the 21st century saw the two sides putting behind them the contretemps that followed India’s 1998 nuclear tests and rapid growth of their economic interactions. It soon began to be claimed that economic imperatives would be the new driver in their relationship, one that many held also would be the defining relationship of the new century. However, neither the sentiment nor the expression that it engendered, namely, ‘Chindia,’ retains much salience now at the beginning of a new decade.

What should India’s China policy for the next decade look like? How can India maximize its strengths in diplomatic and other arenas vis-à-vis China in a manner that can push forward the positive aspects of the bilateral relationship while at the same time reduce chances for actual physical conflict of even a limited nature?

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A Parliament for Northeast India

“A Parliament for the North East,” Assam Tribune (Guwahati), 20 June 2010, p. 6. (co-authored with Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman).


Extract: To counter the role of the central government as a manipulator of intra-Northeast Indian politics in order to serve supposedly ‘national’ interests, ensure that minorities including women are not marginalized, escape institutional inertia and help the people of the region to deal with the increasing effects of globalization, both positive and negative, Northeast India requires a regional parliament that will function within the ambit of the Indian Constitution but will aim to give the region a weight that is more than the sum of its parts.


One such solution could be the formation of a North-East Parliament (NEP) where every ethnic community, small or big, would be represented proportionally across the state boundaries of Northeast India and perhaps include also the hill regions of West Bengal. The proposed NEP would help ethnic communities to make their voices heard in a recognized democratic platform and allow for the formation of cross-state coalitions (much like what happens in the European Parliament) over inter-state and regional issues such as water, environment and infrastructure development among others. More importantly, with adequate powers of legislation and oversight of regional and central government institutions, the NEP would provide a forum where communities have the opportunity to talk and hold the central and state governments to account before they had to pick up the gun.

See the full article at  Jabin-Mirza-AssamTribune-NEP.