Today, the Chinese portray the 15th century voyages to the Indian Ocean by their admiral, Zheng He, as aimed at promoting diplomacy and trade. But the record shows that these were expeditionary voyages of the Ming dynasty navy that apart from making gifts to local leaders and religious and other institutions along the route also involved itself in local politics. In one case, in Sri Lanka, Zheng even effected a regime change.
History has been repeating itself after a fashion in the modern era with China throwing its support behind then Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s in his fight against the LTTE, his economic development programmes and then his re-election effort in 2015. Following his loss, however, Beijing slowly made amends with his successor Maithripala Sirisena, and recently announced a ‘gift’ of US$295 million to be utilized for any project of the latter’s wish. Continue reading Beware of China Bearing Gifts
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.
South Asia impacts China’s security in several ways. Besides the boundary dispute with India and Bhutan, Nepal and India are destinations for Tibetan refugees while Afghanistan and Pakistan are sources of extremist influences in Xinjiang. Nepal is also politically unstable which creates opportunities for Beijing – which has traditionally played second fiddle to New Delhi – to parlay its influence. Pakistan – where China’s influence has been historically strong – however, is at the other end of the spectrum. Domestic instability has reduced the scope of what China might achieve in and through Pakistan and military-to-military cooperation remains the strongest leg on which the relationship stands, even as economic opportunities for Chinese companies have grown. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have swung between India and China but are increasingly now able to carefully balance their interests between the two. Continue reading China’s Relationships in South Asia: Increasing in Sophistication
Published as जबिन टी. जैकब, ‘श्रीलंका पर सही फैसला’, Dainik Jagran, 12 November 2013.
Original text in English follows below
प्रधानमंत्री मनमोहन सिंह इस सप्ताह श्रीलंका में राष्ट्रमंडल देशों के शासनाध्यक्षों के सम्मेलन (चोगम) में भाग लेने नहीं जा रहे हैं। प्रधानमंत्री का यह फैसला एक राजनेता के साथ ही सरकार के मुखिया की हैसियत से लिया गया एक सुलझा हुआ निर्णय है। मीडिया के एक वर्ग द्वारा चोगम में प्रधानमंत्री के भाग न लेने को अनुचित ठहराना और इसे राजनीतिक दबाव में राष्ट्रीय हितों की बलि करार देना बिल्कुल गलत है। प्रधानमंत्री से सबसे पहली और महत्वपूर्ण अपेक्षा देश को चलाने की होती है और देश चलाते हुए उन्हें निर्वाचन प्रक्रिया से अपनी पार्टी को मिले जनादेश पर बराबर ध्यान रखना पड़ता है। निर्वाचन प्रक्त्रिया ही केंद्र में सरकार का स्वरूप निर्धारित करती है। ऐसे में सरकार पर गठबंधन के सहयोगी विभिन्न क्षेत्रीय दलों का प्रभाव स्वाभाविक ही है।
विदेश में भारत के राष्ट्रीय हितों और घरेलू राजनीतिक दबाव में अंतर्विरोध जरूरी नहीं है। Continue reading India and the CHOGM in Sri Lanka: Well Played, Actually
There has been a flurry of visits over the past few months by leaders of the smaller South and East Asian nations to either or both of the Big Two of Asia, namely China and India.
In the space of a few weeks, the presidents of Vietnam and Myanmar and the Prime Minister of Nepal have come visiting India. Pakistan’s top ruling elite have increased the frequency of their visits to China in recent years while in August, the Sri Lankan President made his second trip to Beijing in less than a year.
What is interesting about these visits as well as return visits by Chinese and Indian leaders is that the old paradigm of the smaller countries being the supplicants is changing. Continue reading The Age of the Lilliputians
One of the more striking images of the 2008 earthquake in China was of a Japanese destroyer steaming into a Chinese port as part of a relief mission, the first such instance since the end of World War II. The Chinese were quick to reciprocate with a similar offer of aid following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Disaster relief operations as an opportunity to engage in diplomacy is not a new phenomenon but seems certainly to have picked up pace in recent years, particularly in Asia, where disasters are frequent and more often than not are accompanied by heavy losses to life and property.
Continue reading When disaster strikes, politics is not far away
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?
Continue reading Rising India’s Foreign Policy: A Partial Introduction
Original Presentation: “The States in India and Foreign Policy: Interests, Influence and Implications,” L’équipe Politiques comparées et études européennes, SPIRIT, Sciences Po, Bordeaux, 9 April 2010.
Summary: This presentation focuses on an important political dynamic that while in play for some time now, has begun to have visible impact only in recent years. I am referring to the growing power and influence of the provinces/states in India with respect to national decisions, including foreign policy. The presentation actually begins with a short examination of the same phenomenon in China because it has in a sense been going on in that country for much longer.
And I hope that what I say will sort of ring a bell or remind you of some experiences that you know of in your own countries, while remembering the differences in context and historical development, when things sound either very obvious or very different. In India, meanwhile, there is increasing work being carried out on centre-province relations in India in the post-1990 or post-liberalization/economic reforms phase but a lot of this work is related to fiscal transfers and the like and much of the attention is also focused on matters such as countering terrorism and left-wing extremism (because law and order is actually, a provincial or state subject) and more recently on education (Right to Education legislation; education too, is a state subject).
This presentation however, focuses on only one aspect of the centre-province relations in India and that is the nature of influence that provinces exercise on national foreign policymaking.
See the full presentation at:
JabinJacob-2010Apr9-ScPoBordeaux-States in India-FP
Original Presentation: “Disaster Relief: Politics, Security Implications and Foreign Policy,” 4th Berlin Conference on Asian Security 2009, 28-30 October 2009, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP, Berlin).
This essay highlights some key characteristics of disaster relief operations in Asia, with a particular focus on the southern Asian region. The thrust of the paper is not so much at the mechanics of disaster relief as at the politics of disaster relief. That there is clearly politics – foreign policy interests and domestic factors of both donor and recipient nations – involved in humanitarian relief and assistance has been well documented. In Asia certainly, as important as the aid itself is, is who provides it and how. As a continent of mostly developing countries it is inevitable that disaster-struck nations often find themselves short of the capacity required to deal with the aftermath. What capacity exists is usually state capacity, often acting through the agent of military forces rather than adequate civilian response. Often, there is foreign military support required as also the resources and capabilities of international NGOs (INGOs).
Beginning with a brief exercise in defining what constitutes disasters, the essay draws attention to three key factors affecting disaster relief operation in Asia – prestige or image issues, security implications and foreign policy goals.
Defining Disasters in Asia
Continue reading Disaster Relief Politics