Book Review| One Mountain Two Tigers: India China and the High Himalayas
September 27, 2020 1:00 AM
A host of voices add value to the ongoing India-China conundrum
The publication, consisting of 14 chapters, commences with chapters focusing largely on historical aspects— essential for a holistic understanding of bilateral ties.
By Trividesh Maini
A wide range of opinions on the vexed India-China relationship have been expressed by commentators from varied disciplines on all media platforms, though the perspective of the electronic media has been rather skewed.
One Mountain Two Tigers: India, China and the High Himalayas published by Pentagon Press is a valuable addition to the many voices on the subject. With contributions from individuals of diverse professional backgrounds, former policymakers, academics and policy professionals, the compilation straddles the spheres of research and policymaking. The editor, Shakti Sinha, an academic and a retired bureaucrat, needs to be commended for this timely effort.
The understanding of the contributors regarding the complexities of the relationship that will shape the future world order, are not restricted to mere armchair expertise. As we read along, we perceive that past and present geopolitics have been deftly juxtaposed with the appropriate socio-political and historical context, a formidable task indeed.
The publication, consisting of 14 chapters, commences with chapters focusing largely on historical aspects— essential for a holistic understanding of bilateral ties. The second chapter by P Stobdan, India-China Relations: Ladakhi and Dogra Claims in China, delineates the history of the region. This is particularly relevant as it underscores the strategic importance of the region in the India-China bilateral relationship, as well as highlights crucial aspects that are often glossed over. The chapter is not only confined to the Indo-China narrative, but encompasses the role of other significant players as well.
The starting point for any discussion on the India-China relationship is invariably the 1962 war. In this context, two chapters are especially important. Ajay Singh in The Shadows of 1962 draws parallels with the 1962 war, while also concluding that “the stakes are much higher” given the current scenario. Sriparna Pathak’s chapter 1962 and Beyond on the post-1962 situation argues that the recent conflict will have an indelible impact on the bilateral relationship, and reduce the scope for any sort of cooperation with China in the immediate future.
The chapters by Prachi Aggarwal and Hema Narang are important because both bring to the fore important issues. Aggarwal begins by examining the similarities in the political rise of Xi and Modi in their respective countries. She then examines the domestic challenges Xi is facing. Narang summarises the differences of China and India’s utilisation of soft power. This is especially important, since in a post-Covid world the nature of soft power will change drastically.
Manish Tourangbam’s chapter provides a comprehensive backgrounder to the complex India-Pakistan-US triangle, and India’s ties with Russia. While the author makes a compelling case for India-US relations to strengthen, he concludes that India will not be able to ‘pick sides’, as is being suggested by some commentators and strategists.
Sana Hashmi’s chapter on India-Taiwan relations argues in favour of bolstering economic and strategic ties under the aegis of Taiwan’s new south-bound policy and the narrative of Indo-Pacific cooperation. The author also warns against being excessively reactive and viewing the relationship solely from the China lens.
Sinha’s chapter is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, his rich and varied experience as a policymaker as well as researcher. Secondly, Sinha does not underplay China’s economic progress or the power differential with other countries. Simultaneously he recognises the challenges that China faces, including fault lines within the communist party and a steady deterioration in relations with liberal democracies.
A chapter focusing on India’s internal challenges and the need to give priority to economic growth and social harmony would have been appropriate. Apart from this, any narrative that seeks to counter China needs to be built upon values like diversity and pluralism; ‘unity’ does not imply ‘uniformity’.
Undoubtedly, this work is a must read for those interested in India-China relations. The publisher, editor and contributors also deserve special credit for bringing out this volume in difficult times.
Trividesh Maini is a member of the faculty at OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat