Responding to China’s New Silk Roads Initiative

Originally published as ‘China’s New Silk Road Diplomacy’The Organiser (Delhi), Vol. 66, No. 46, 17 May 2015.

Launched in 2013, the so-called ‘new Silk Roads’ trace both land and sea routes from China to Europe and Africa respectively, and form an ambitious Chinese project to win friends and influence people. Where a section of India’s China analysts and policymakers across two different political dispensations have been remiss, is in anticipating the ambition and scale of the Chinese initiative. It goes without saying therefore, that devising a suitable response has been accordingly wanting.

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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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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.

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China Policy in India: For a Revolution in Mindsets

Grand strategy on China requires political attention, bureaucratic competence, military capability and academic expertise. If any one of these is missing, strategy is hobbled, and one can forget about grand strategy altogether.

With the Indian political leadership reeling from corruption scandals and already in preparation for general elections, foreign policy has suffered from lack of political attention. In fact, the impression has gained ground that policies related to defence and external affairs have of late been outsourced to the bureaucrats. While most criticize the government’s China policy, calling it pusillanimous and ineffective, the more serious issue is missed – no matter how competent the bureaucrats, policy in a democracy must be seen as being initiated and guided by elected political leaders.Read More »

Rising India’s Foreign Policy: A Partial Introduction

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, “Rising India’s Foreign Policy: A Partial Introduction,” in D. Suba Chandran and Jabin T. Jacob (eds.), India’s Foreign Policy: Old Problems, New Challenges (New Delhi: Macmillan, 2011): 1-22.


Current Indian foreign policy is informed by a realization that a combination of economic reforms and the end of the Cold War has steered India into a position of some considerable influence in the post-9/11 world. This is influence of a kind that India did not have in the years following Independence. What India had then was a moral standing which it could make little use of, boxed in as it was by the contingencies of a Cold War division of the world. This division allowed very little leeway for the Indian policy of non-alignment, which ended up being not so much an alternative as a means of holding the line, until India could find itself in a more favourable geopolitical situation. Further, unlike in the post-Independence phase, India today often appears reluctant to exercise what influence it has outside South Asia and sometimes even within the region, keenly aware of the several continuing limits on its capabilities and having suffered from blowback on the few occasions it did, as was the case most tragically, in the assassination of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Even as some old problems continue to keep India off-balance in international affairs, notably the issue of Kashmir, the world has also not stood still and new problems – both traditional and non-traditional – have emerged that have required India to step up and take a position on. These have included the fall of the monarchy and the ascension of the Maoists in Nepal in the immediate neighbourhood, the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme in the extended neighbourhood, and issues of global import such as climate change. And all this, even as the Indian foreign policy establishment remains woefully ill-equipped and understaffed to meet these challenges. What then are the patterns of Indian foreign policy behavior in the new century?

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