Fabian Blog
December 16th, 2017

Beyond the border - India China Boundary Issues

India China Boundry Issues - Book by Ranjait Singh

India China Boundry Issues - Book by Ranjait Singh Kalha


The personal and professional experience of Ranjit Singh Kalha, who has dealt with China for over 12 years, makes his book refreshingly different from many others on the boundary issue

ALTHOUGH there are many books on the complex issue of the unsettled boundary between India and China, Ambassador Ranjit Singh Kalha’s book is a welcome addition. Broadly, there are two schools of thought among scholars studying China. The first one worships China with such devotion that we need to coin a new word, sinolatry, along the lines of idolatry, to describe it. Examples of two books in this school readily come to mind. One is When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World Order and the Birth of a New Global Order by Martin Jacques, which came out in 2009. The other is Eclipse: Living under China’s Economic Dominance by Arvind Subramanian, who was recently appointed Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India.

The second school, much less prolific and much less influential, propagates a sort of sinophobia, basically a mixture of hatred and fear of China. Kalha, neither sinolatrous nor sinophobic, is sober and scientific, and he writes with remarkable lucidity.

Kalha’s compulsory foreign language when he joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1965 was Chinese. In 1972, he was posted to China. He went to China via Hong Kong, and on the train in the mainland he asked for bacon as breakfast was being served. He was refused because some official had decided that the passenger was a Muslim and hence should not be served bacon.

Kalha’s showing his passport and declaring his Sikh identity did not change the decision. It is the personal and professional experience of the author, who has dealt with China for over 12 years, including three years of boundary negotiations, that makes this book refreshingly different from others.

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January 10th,2015   category: Book Reviews, Books |    No Comments

Book Review: AN UNCERTAIN GLORY

An Uncertain Glory – India And Its Contradictions
by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen
Penguin Books, London
433 pages; Rs 503 

An Uncertain Glory

Tale of inequality

An Uncertain Glory is an indictment of the Indian state for failing the poor by not addressing the disparities between the privileged class and the rest despite its stated aim.

I found it difficult to put this book down. I read it with a unique mixture of pleasure and pain: pleasure, because the book is a study in lucid writing and public reasoning; pain, on seeing the pathetic picture of the human condition in India that emerged.

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September 12th,2013   category: Book Reviews, Uncategorized   | tags: , , , , , , |    No Comments

Book Review: INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY

India’s Foreign Policy - Coping with the Changing World
by Muchkund Dubey
Pearson, New Delhi, 2012
306 pages 

India's Foreign Policy

Foreign policy lessons

This book is refreshingly different from what most other retired diplomats have written. There is no sharing of personal experience or boasting of being present on momentous occasions. There is no attempt at esoteric theorising. The author shares with the reader his lucid thoughts on the evolution of India’s foreign policy. He also makes cogent recommendations for action. The title says it all. Is not foreign policy all about how the country copes with the changing world around it and takes care of its interests?

The author is much more than a retired diplomat. After retiring in 1991, he was Professor at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University for eight years. He is an economist and is quick to spot the economic considerations behind foreign policy decisions.

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August 15th,2013   category: Book Reviews, Uncategorized   | tags: , , , , |    No Comments

Book Review: SAMUDRA MANTHAN

Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific
By C. Raja Mohan

On the United States and the strategic rivalry between India and China in the Indo-Pacific region. samudra-manthan

This is an important contribution to strategic literature by an author whose credentials are well known. He invokes ancient mythology to explain what is happening in the Indo-Pacific. “In the Hindu fable of Samudra Manthan, angels and demons churn the ocean in search of an elixir that will give them immortality. Lord Vishnu intervenes at every stage to tilt the long quest in favour of the angels and ensure they emerge victorious in the end. The legend of Samudra Manthan lives again as the United States shapes and is shaped by the rivalry between China and India in the waters of Asia.”
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Book Review: MANAGING INDIA’S NUCLEAR FORCES

Managing India’s Nuclear Forces
by Verghese Koithara
Routledge New Delhi, 2012
294 pages; Rs.795

Managing India's Nuclear Forces

Managing India's Nuclear Forces

VICE-ADMIRAL Verghese Koithara examines, critically and with clinical thoroughness, India’s nuclear doctrine and the management of its nuclear forces. He points out the shortcomings and proposes remedial measures. His style, free from jargon, is a study in plain, robust English. His logic is sharp and he never misses the big picture. India acquired nuclear weapons primarily to take care of its security needs. The political leadership of the day might have wanted to make a political statement or to derive domestic political advantages. But, the primacy of the security consideration cannot be questioned. If the nuclear weapons in India’s possession are to add to its security, it should manage the nuclear forces more rationally and coherently. This is the fundamental message of the book. It should be read by those who are responsible for India’s nuclear policy. The strategic community and the general public interested in security questions will find in it much food for thought. Koithara does not practise circumlocution even for a moment. “For a variety of political and organisational reasons, India is saddled with a nuclear force management system that is seriously inadequate for the work it needs to do,” he writes (emphasis added throughout). The author mentions two reasons for such a state of affairs.
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NIXON, INDIRA AND INDIA: Politics and Beyond

Nixon, Indira and India: Politics and Beyond
By Kalayani  Shankar
Macmillan, Delhi , 2010
Pages 443, Rs.445

indira_gandhi_and_richard_nixon-300x222

At a time when India is seen, rightly or wrongly, as intensely  engaged in an effort to get closer and closer to United States, it is useful  read this book by the well- known journalist and author Kalyani Shankar. The principal theme is how Indira Gandhi was crafty enough to outwit Richard Nixon ,himself a superb practitioner  of the wicked  art of real politik, in the context of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan bringing into being Bangladesh. Those of us who are old enough do  have an idea of how Indira Gandhi did it. But Shankar by accessing the declassified US material and using her contacts with some of the major actors, including Henry Kissinger, has given us a  reasonably  comprehensive account of what happened and why it happened the way it happened.
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Book Review: CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM AT WAR

Children of Abraham at War – The Clash of Messianic Militarisms
by Talmiz Ahmad
Aakar Books, Delhi, 2010
475 pages; Rs 1,250 

Children of Abraham at War

Children of Abraham at War

A clash of prejudices

As I finished reading the book, I thought of two other books — Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations. All three authors look for the big picture. Unlike the other two, however, the book under review is free from any trace of civilisational ego-centricism. Both Fukuyama and Huntington assume without providing much corroborating evidence the essential, inherent superiority of the western civilisation over others. Ambassador Talmiz Ahmed, currently posted to Saudi Arabia, is refreshingly free from such an ego-centric predicament, as historian Toynbee put it. Why is it that Ahmed is free and the other two are not? The answer is fairly simple. In addition to being an industrious scholar, the author has spent most of his 35-year career in West Asia. He has had the advantage of talking to a wide spectrum of people there, observing their behaviour and the interaction between the West and Islam.
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Book Review: A JOURNEY

A Journey by Tony Blair
Hutchison, London, 2010
Pages 718, Rs. 999

A Journey by Tony Blair

A Journey by Tony Blair

Apologia for a war

Given that 92,000 copies were sold in the first four days, Tony Blair has felled a large number of trees to argue a case that is seriously flawed.

By sheer coincidence, as soon as the reviewer finished the book, the new Labour Party leader Ed Miliband came out with a categorical statement that the Iraq war was “wrong, wrong, wrong”. I had always thought that Tony Blair was really Tory Blair. I felt vindicated after reading the book written in the style of Christian apologetics to defend a position, not primarily to narrate what happened, how and why.
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Book Review: JINNAH AND TILAK: Comrades in the Freedom Struggle

By A.G. Noorani
Oxford University Press, Karachi
Pages 465, Rs. 795 

Comrades in the Freedom Struggle

     The book under review by the eminent scholar- cum- advocate A. G.  Noorani was published in Pakistan and it will attract much attention and debate in India. Noorani’s thesis, argued with formidable skill and compelling documentary support, is that Jinnah started as a secular nationalist. The British considered him one among their most formidable opponents. Gandhi did not treat Jinnah courteously. Jinnah was opposed to Gandhi’s political philosophy and importing of religion into politics. Yet, Jinnah showed remarkable tact and patience and tried hard to work with the Congress till the Hindu fundamentalists in the Congress made it impossible for him to remain there with dignity.
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Book Review: THE INHERITANCE

The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power
Bantam Press, London 2009
Pages 498, Rs. 500

The Inheritance

The Inheritance

Difficult Legacy

There is a frank admission that Bush messed it up. There is hope that Obama will undo the mess if he can get his act right. Is he getting it right? 

DAVID E. SANGER is eminently qualified to write about what President Barack Hussein Obama has inherited from his predecessor. As the chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times, Sanger accompanied President George W. Bush on his official visits abroad and has had access to many of the world leaders Bush met with during his tenure.

Candidate Obama’s words “Yes, we can”, symbolising the paradigm shift he would make as President, resonated not only through the United States but also the rest of the world. The subtitle of the book reads The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power.
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