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. Read more
Original presentation titled, ‘People-to-People Connectivity’, Stakeholders’ Consultative Workshop on the BCIM Economic Corridor, organized by the Institute of Chinese Studies with the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Kolkata, 2 May 2014.
A. What are your governing values/principles in which you see people-to-people connectivity?
B. What are you trying to achieve?
C. What are you trying to avoid?
D. What are the practical issues involved in implementing these principles and achieving these objectives? Read more
Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, “India’s China Policy: Time to Overcome Political Drift,” RSIS Policy Brief, June 2012.
A foreign policy without competent and visionary political direction, especially in a democratic dispensation, is a serious shortcoming. The Indian government’s policy towards China in recent years has been driven more by bureaucratic expertise and military demands than by political vision. Such a foreign policy risks either missing opportunities provided by the global situation or diverting and wasting limited national resources. As a rising global power, New Delhi can scarce afford the current drift in its foreign policy. With China as neighbour and one that has a head start in many aspects of national and global power and influence, the lack of initiative and boldness in its China policy are likely to be even more costly for India.
• India will have to develop its own expertise and viewpoints on China instead of relying only on Western sources and perspectives. The rapid establishment of centres for the study of China now under way in India needs to be better planned and coordinated. Resources promised by the government must both be made available on time and increased.
Read the rest here
What follows is a summary of a presentation that I made at the 4th All India Conference of China Studies held from 8-9 November 2011 at the University of Hyderabad:
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 by those in government and those outside. Read more
Abstract: The development of the North East hinges on a range of factors. One of the aspects that could play an important role in the matter is the improvement of infrastructure along the India-China boundary in the sector. While both India and China have legitimate security interests to consider along their common, disputed frontiers, renewed focus on developing border relations between the two Asian giants, especially in the light of recent infrastructure developments in the North East, could have a salutary effect. If security is defined also as the maintenance of peace and harmony along borders, New Delhi and Beijing might find that the current phase of infrastructure development by both the countries along the common frontier could provide for such security in a number of ways. In this context, it is my contention that the pursuit of cross-border economic initiatives by both countries must focus on letting sub-national actors such as the states (on the Indian side) and the provinces (on the Chinese side) take the lead. The time has come to stop thinking of borders as being static or unchanging and to abandon the belief that achieving fixed boundaries or the defence of those lines as defined on a map is a guarantee of national security.
For the North East, this is a position that could possibly contribute to the reordering of priorities accorded to it by New Delhi. Moreover, such an approach could offer ‘mainstream’ India a way out of the dilemma it has often been caught in: whether to consider the North East as a part of India that has genuine developmental aspirations or only as a region for which security should be the sole concern—the latter, either because of the several ethnopolitical problems that beleaguer the region, or because it as a buffer zone against external pressure.
Original Article: “Beyond the McMahon Line: Infrastructure Development in the North Eastern Sector,” in Jaideep Saikia (ed.), Frontier in Flames: North East India in Turmoil (New Delhi: Penguin, 2007), pp. 170-85.
Originally published: January 2007
Abstract: July 2006 saw China make two major statements of intent in its huge western region. The first of these was the opening of the 1,142km section from Golmud to Lhasa completing the Qinghai-Tibet railway (QTR). The other, was the reopening of the 4,545m high Nathu La trading route on the Tibet-Sikkim border that had been closed following the 1962 border conflict between India and China. Besides a narrow perception of these and other Chinese infrastructure developments as creating a strategic threat, they might also be looked at in terms of creating long-term opportunities for India.
India must not view Chinese moves to gain greater access to South Asia only within a narrow strategic framework but as another opportunity for New Delhi to come to terms with the problems that bedevil its relations with the northeastern states of the country, to take better account of local aspirations and demands before deciding what is best for the region. It needs to be remembered that Chinese ties to South Asia cannot be enduring in any way without a decisive Indian influence. For several decades now, that Indian influence has played out in a negative sense where Chinese relations with Pakistan have been concerned. On India’s eastern front, strategic concerns and a defensive mindset meant that connectivity in the northeast remained limited. Today, however, if India were to accept the challenge and approach the Chinese moves more positively, Indian influence in the larger region too can play out positively. The vision is one of tying the development of India’s northeast with that of its South Asian neighbours, of China’s west and southwest and of the countries of Indochina. The closer the ties, the lesser incentive any player has to play spoilsport. This can be a situation where everyone is a winner.
Original Article: “The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and Nathu La – Challenge and Opportunity for India,” China Report (New Delhi), Vol. 43, No. 1, January 2007, pp. 83-87.
Originally published: December 2006
Abstract: The European Union and the People’s Republic of China can be compared by viewing them primarily as conglomerates of smaller constituents, each with their own political and economic significance in relations with their respective political centres. While this is a perspective that is more easily applied to the EU given that each of its members enjoys sovereignty and also the Union’s rather short history, Chinese area studies have only recently begun viewing China as a sum of its parts. The present study while conscious of the huge differences in the historical development and present realities of both the EU and China, posits that the similarities in the centre-constituent as well inter-constituent relationships developing in both the EU and China allow for important lessons to be drawn. A key focus is the differentiated set of relationships developing between Brussels and the latest entrants to the EU and between the older and newer members of the EU. In China, too, the nature of relationships between the central government and the better-developed coastal provinces is different from those that Beijing has with the central or western provinces, with implications also for the relationships among these different sets of provinces themselves. The tensions and charges of unfair treatment seen in the accessions of the Central and Eastern European nations to the EU, have an echo in the similar complaints that have been coming from the interior provinces of China since the beginning of economic reforms in that country, and perhaps, provide pointers to the future direction of the development of centre-province and inter-provincial relationships in China.
Original Article: “European Integration and Lessons for China,” Asia Europe Journal (Heidelberg), Vol. 4, No. 4, December 2006, pp. 511-21.