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Of Perceptions and Policies


Jabin T. Jacob

THE HIMALAYAN FACE-OFF: CHINESE ASSERTION AND THE INDIAN RIPOSTE
By Shishir Gupta
Hachette, India, 2014, pp. xii 328, Rs. 650.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 12 December 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 UPA regime. The coverage ends sometime in 2013 well before the UPA regime ended its tenure, but the change of regime in New Delhi does not materially alter the nature of relations with China. 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 a majority in Parliament, bolder engagement or even, out-of-the-box solutions to resolving ‘The Himalayan Face-off’. Gupta does not fail to outline a familiar litany of fears and woes on the Indian side—‘whether India has already lowered its global ambitions and has made its peace with the fact that China is a superior power both in terms of its economy and military’, ‘absence of a pro-active strategy from India to counter China’ (p. 30), ‘military acquisition is stuck’, (p. 31), and so on. And yet, the author also repeats at several points that the Indian strategy has been to try and avoid confrontation or to buy time till it is militarily and diplomatically prepared to tackle Beijing’ (p. 27) and that ‘the India-China relationship is certainly not a lose-lose game…’ (p. 37). Buying time has, in fact, something of the feel of a strategy when interpreting the UPA’s policy towards China, and under the circumstances, it was not a bad one either. There is practically no discussion of such important trends of the UPA years as the emphasis on multilateralism through the Russia-India-China trilateral, BRICS or the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) Forum for regional economic cooperation—perhaps, another form of buying time?—or ...


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