Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘India-Taiwan Relations: Constrained or Self-Constraining?’, in Jagannath P. Panda (ed.), India-Taiwan Relations in Asia and Beyond: The Future (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2016), 37-47.
The big problem in India-Taiwan relations is the lack of ambition. Given the depth of economic relations and often enough, of political ties too, that many countries including in East Asia itself have with Taiwan, one wonders if there is not also a lack of creativity in the case of India-Taiwan ties. The economic dimension in the relationship is often highlighted – the most recent case being the announcement in August 2015 of Foxconn investing (US)$5 billion in India – but it also seems unlikely that the Government of India went out of its way to court Foxconn because it was a Taiwanese company or indeed, that it is going out of its way for any Taiwanese company.
If the Act East policy is an opportunity to recast and revitalise India’s ties with East Asia across dimensions, then this recasting and revitalisation must also cover Taiwan.
If the development of China-Taiwan relations in the decades following China’s economic opening up and reforms is any indication, the story of India-Taiwan relations is one of missed opportunities. This is understandable in some respects, given that India-China relations themselves were only slowly recovering from the 1962 conflict. The 1980s were still early days as negotiations on the boundary dispute were taking off. Still, India took note of Taiwan under the Look East policy fairly early, as indicated by the 1995 establishment of representative offices in Taipei and in New Delhi. Continue reading India-Taiwan Relations: Promise Unfulfilled
Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘India and China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative’, Nação e Defesa (Nation and Defense, Instituto da Defesa Nacional, Lisboa, Portugal), No. 142, pp. 56-71.
India’s response to China’s ‘new Silk Roads’ or ‘one belt, one road’ initiative is a good example of the problems that beset the India-China relationship. Neither country has quite managed to put in the effort required to pull their bilateral ties out of the deep freeze of suspicion and distrust that came about as a result of the conflict of 1962. And with China’s economic and political rise in addition to its military build-up, doubts about Chinese intentions vis-à-vis India and its South Asian neighbourhood have grown even if India too is growing and gaining economically including through its economic relationship with China. This article examines the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative and the reasons why it creates concerns in India. It looks at India’s response and the weaknesses of that response before examining two cases of Pakistan and the Indian Ocean in the context of ‘one belt, one road’ initiative and the India-China relationship.
Download full article
Originally published as, Jabin T Jacob, ‘Brahmaputra water diversion: India must go with the flow on this’, Hindustan Times, 16 October 2015.
China’s recent operationalization of the Zangmu hydropower station on the Yarlung Tsangpo, the largest such station in Tibet, is an occasion to reconsider the ‘water problem’ in India-China relations. Unsurprisingly, but sadly, mainstream Indian reactions have been kneejerk and paranoid rather than based on any rational considerations.
Any dam, even run-of-the-river projects will have effects on riverine ecology. However, the impact downstream must be balanced against the fact that most of the water that contributes to the volume of the Brahmaputra beginning in Assam comes from rainfall and tributary flows on the Indian side in Arunachal Pradesh. The more important issue in India is the lack of management of river water resources; thus, a huge hydropower potential remains un- or under-exploited on the Indian side. Continue reading India, China and the Yarlung Tsangpo: Much Ado About Nothing?
Published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Arunachal Pradesh in the Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Constant Claims, Changing Politics’, in Gurudas Das, C. Joshua Thomas and Nani Bath (eds), Voices from the Border: Response to Chinese Claim over Arunachal Pradesh (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2015), 48-62.
The main point of contention in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute was originally the Aksai Chin area in the Indian northwest. In the mid-1980s, however, the core of the dispute shifted eastward to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. This essay makes the argument that while Arunachal Pradesh remains central to the boundary dispute its significance for the two parties to the dispute has varied over time. For China, the shift in emphasis to Arunachal was in large measure tied to the Tibet question, and this emphasis has, if anything, become more important in recent years as instability and protests in Tibet have increased. For India too, Arunachal’s significance has grown, owing mostly due to the increased Chinese attention. But India also appears to be moving from defending Arunachal militarily within a purely bilateral context to defending Arunachal and strengthening Indian claims in the international context.
This essay also argues that Arunachal ought to be seen in the Sino-Indian relationship not only within the context of the boundary dispute but also within the framework of centre-periphery relations in China and India and in the larger context of the differences between the Chinese and Indian political systems. The nature of Arunachal Pradesh’s relations with the rest of India, including the Indian central government, is important not just for the Indian body politic but also for Sino-Indian relations and for Beijing’s relations with Tibet. If in India, this centre-periphery relationship is a just and equitable one, maintaining a fair and necessary balance between local aspirations for peaceful and sustainable development alongside national security considerations, then India and Arunachal can become the model to follow for China and Tibet – it is in this way that Arunachal will best fulfill its role as the ‘first line of defence for India.’
This essay is divided into four sections including a conclusion. The first section looks at how Arunachal Pradesh is currently involved in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute, the second, looks at how China’s stress on Arunachal is a part of its inability to stabilize Tibet; and the third section looks at India’s own relationship with Arunachal.
Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China’s Maldives Strategy: How Much of a Threat to India?’, Policy Wonks, 9 September 2015.
Indian analysts have long considered the Maldives as a potential pearl in the ‘string of pearls’ strategy that they believed China is engaged in. There was even a name for the specific island in the Maldives – Marao – which saner minds however, have dismissed as a figment of the imagination. Nevertheless, all the concern about the Maldives falling into the Chinese embrace was not enough to generate a coherent Indian policy towards the island nation with policy even held hostage by private Indian entrepreneurial interests. While it is true that the Maldives’ domestic political dynamics – political contestation as well as the gradual rise of Islamist forces – left New Delhi in a vulnerable and sticky situation, China has used the same interregnum to ramp up its ties across a range of issues.
Upswing in China-Maldives Ties Continue reading China Courts the Maldives
This article was specifically requested as an op-ed by the Renmin Ribao at very short notice. I submitted it in early December 2014 in English and they sent a Chinese translation for my approval. I approved it but it was then never published.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a sign of Asian commitment to both regional and global economic development. Besides promoting regional connectivity and self-reliance for Asian countries, the AIIB also creates opportunities for developed countries in the form of greater investment opportunities as well as for promoting their own economic recovery. As the Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei has pointed out, historically, the establishment of regional multilateral development banks such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development did not weaken the influence of existing development banks such as the World Bank. Rather, it was the total capacity of development financing that increased promoting still further development of the global economy. Thus, the AIIB will be an additional source for development financing in the Asian region with a specific focus on infrastructure and in contrast to the ADB with its focus on poverty alleviation. Continue reading Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: Promise and Responsibility
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s loss in the Sri Lankan presidential elections in January 2015, raises a number of questions in the context of China’s role and influence in the country. How relevant now are the statements on China that the winner, Maithripala Sirisena, and his supporters made during the election campaign? And what are the implications for Beijing and New Delhi?
Read full article at: Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China-Sri Lanka Ties Post-Rajapaksa: Major Changes Unlikely’, ICS Analysis, No. 26, January 2015.
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.
Continue reading China’s Conference Diplomacy: Lessons for India
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’. Continue reading Of Perceptions and Policies