Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Insights on a Triangular Relationship’, The Book Review, Vol. XLI, No. 12, December 2017, 12-13.
Amitav Acharya. East of India, South of China: Indian Encounters in Southeast Asia (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Karen Stoll Farrell and Sumit Ganguly (eds) Heading East: Security, Trade, and Environment between India and Southeast Asia (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016).
The two volumes under review are dissimilar books – dissimilar in structure, approaches and style. And yet, in their juxtaposition also emerges many interesting insights on the common theme in the two volumes namely, of the triangular relationship between India, Southeast Asia and China. Amitav Acharya’s East of India, South of China has China much more upfront as a central factor but Heading East edited by Karen Stoll Farrell and Sumit Ganguly would not stand either without China being the unspoken elephant in the volume.
This is not surprising. India’s interest in Southeast Asia today is largely commerce-driven but China has never been far from the surface as a factor. Indeed, it has been the glue holding disparate Indian interests and faltering attention together for over the nearly three decades since the Look East Policy was announced. But only just. And this is evident in the scant resources devoted to the study of Southeast Asia and China in Indian academic institutions or to desk specializations within the government. And this despite a change in nomenclature to an ‘Act East’ policy, frequent claims of Indian civilizational contributions to and geopolitical interest in the two regions and despite China being India’s largest neighbour.
While India has a famed (infamous, according to some sections) group of China-wallahs within its foreign ministry, it is slim pickings almost in every other area of India’s foreign policy and segment its government or non-governmental sector. Read more
Book Review: Shiv Kunal Verma. 2016. 1962: The War That Wasn’t (New Delhi: Aleph Book Company).
This is a well-written book and goes into some considerable detail on each of the major battles of the 1962 conflict between India and China in both the Eastern and Western Sectors. The narrative is riveting and supported by maps particularly of battles in the Eastern Sector as well as reproductions of photographs of many important personalities and events associated with the conflict culled from multiple sources. These definitely add a heft and immediacy to the book often lacking in many historical texts. Without doubt, this is a labour of love, much effort, including by the author’s own family members has gone into it. To recreate the amount of detail there is in the accounts of battle the Verma certainly had access to some very personal reminiscences and he communicates the immediacy and tension of battle as well as the bitterness of defeat with verve and feeling. For these reasons alone, this book must belong to the shelves of any student of India’s wars.
And yet, this book is not without its flaws. Read more
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
Originally published as जबिन टी. जैकब, ‘नाकामी पर नई निगाह’, Dainik Jagran (Delhi), 23 March 2014, p. 10.
Large sections of the Henderson Brooks-Prem Bhagat Report of the inquiry into the Indian army’s 1962 defeat were recently released online by Neville Maxwell, a former India correspondent of a British newspaper. The release affords us an opportunity to reconsider some questions about both the Indian conduct of the conflict and the nature of policymaking in this country.
Presentation: “Indian Public Opinion and Sino-Indian Relations: Causes and Consequences,” India-China Interface, Department of Foreign Languages – Chinese, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 10 January 2011.
Summary: Former Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Yuxi’s statement reiterating the Chinese claim over Arunachal on the eve of his President, Hu Jintao’s visit to India in November 2006 might have been the unintentional starting point for a new phase in Sino-Indian relations. Unintentional, because the play that the Chinese envoy’s ordinary, entirely unsurprising statement received in the Indian media, marked the beginning of a heightened popular Indian awareness and engagement with China, that now has perhaps begun to contribute or inform to some extent to New Delhi’s engagement at the higher political level with Beijing. The impact of popular opinion on Sino-Indian relations is nothing new however. In the run-up to the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 and subsequently, popular feelings played an important role constraining the government’s freedom of action and in encouraging political players to make rash statements and promises. There are of course several differences with the present and it is these differences – their reasons and their implications – that will be examined in greater detail.
- Public Opinion pre-1962
- Government Clampdown post-1962
- China’s Rise
- India’s Rise
- Rise of Indian Television Media and the Globetrotting Indian
Presentation: “Political Economy of Arunachal Pradesh in a Rising India,” Center for China’s Borderland History and Geography Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 14 December 2010.
Summary: Arunachal Pradesh’s disputed status, unique socio-cultural makeup and difficult geographic location have elicited multifaceted responses from Indian policymakers. First, its disputed status and the shock of the 1962 border conflict have given it some features in common with other disputed territories bordering China, namely, a legacy of poor physical and communications infrastructure. Second, Arunachal’s demographic composition of minority ethnic groups has meant that it has like other states in Northeast India been protected from a demographic influx from the rest of India and its citizens enjoy special economic rights. Finally, the difficult geographic location of the Arunachal Pradesh has meant that it largely remains exoticized in the mainstream Indian imagination and hence little studied, and even lesser understood both by those in government and those outside.
However, in the post-liberalization era, and particularly in the new millennium with the dispute with China persisting, each of these three factors have also begun to shape Arunachal in slightly different ways from the rest of its Northeast Indian neighbours and indeed from the rest of the country. For one, the Indian government has abandoned its old policy of keeping border areas underdeveloped and is engaged in a massive infrastructure build-up in Arunachal. This naturally has a huge impact on previously important cultural and environmental concerns in the state. For another, Arunachal’s location is now sought to be used as an advantage in India’s economic outreach to Southeast Asia and southwest China. The presentation examines in detail how all these factors affect and mould the political economy of Arunachal Pradesh and the implications thereof for Sino-Indian relations.
Download presentation: JabinJacob-2010Dec14-CASS-PolEcon-Arunachal