We are delighted to present our new Editorial Advisory Board, bringing together professors and scholars from universities in India’s North East, Singapore and the United States. We will have some other accomplished scholars of Japan and Korea join us soon. Among our new advisory board are specialists in geographies, such as India’s North East, Sikkim and Nepal, Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China and Japan, and in the disciplines and subfields fields of history, global economy, trade, foreign policy and international relations, military history, the environment, autonomy movements, border studies, genocide studies, identity, political theory, cultural studies, environmental humanities, critical theory, ethnicity and conflict management, peace processes, urban and regional planning, and more.
A new specialist column, Asian Advisory/North East Advisory is being launched in this issue, featuring analyses by the members of our Editorial Advisory Board. In her inaugural column, Professor Veronica Khangchian comments on the current status of the peace processes in the North Eastern states of India. She explains that the peace accords may not achieve a peaceful political solution unless there are transparent and concrete agreements by all the negotiating parties concerned, and all stakeholders are taken on board in the process of seriously implementing the agreements. In his advisory, Professor Robert Buzzanco reflects on the emergence of Vietnam on the forty-fifth anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. Taking a historical perspective, he documents how North Vietnam emerged the victor and then used the same grit to create a vibrant economy.
The Corona Virus Disease of 2019 (Covid-19) broke out right when we were sending this issue to press. At the last minute, our authors updated their columns and research articles, where necessary, in the light of the pandemic which has upended ongoing regional projects, disrupted border trade, and led to a new calculus in Southeast Asia’s relationship with China.
We present research articles on haats (markets) located at the borders of India’s North Eastern states, on the value of examining the South East Asian Regional Complex in security analysis, on India’s counterterrorism strategies, and the concluding article in a three-part series on Cambodia’s efforts to get free of the hazard of landmines. We are publishing an extract from a recent book on the politics of the waters of the Brahmaputra River, and a series of book reviews on Tibet and Shillong.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University doctoral scholar, Jigme Wangdi, investigates border haats located along the boundary of the two North Eastern states of India, Meghalaya and Tripura, with Bangladesh. He analyzes the inner workings of the border haats and advances an argument for establishing more such haats along the borders of other Indian states with Bangladesh. The creation of more haats is expected to further improve India-Bangladesh bilateral relations and boost the faltering regionalism in South Asia. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has led to a closure of all the border haats until further notice from the authorities.
Ryan Mitra, a Bachelors’ student and former intern at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, revises and updates an important theory created by the International Relations’ emeritus professor, Barry Buzan, on the South East Asian Regional Complex that was framed for a bipolar world during the Cold War. The author revises Buzan’s theory to fit the current behavior of states in a multipolar world during rising tensions with China and the arrival of the new concept of the ‘Indo-Pacific.’ The article argues that the factors impacting the SEARC have evolved beyond traditional bipolar politics and military concerns, and the regional complex is now designed to increase cooperation through common agendas on outstanding political disputes by incorporating the extra-regional powers into Southeast Asian discourse. The Covid-19 crisis, he argues, has seen many Southeast Asian countries rallying to absolve China of responsibility in starting the crisis, highlighting the dependence of Southeast Asian states on the East Asian giant.
In the third and concluding part of his study of demining in Cambodia, the scholar-bureaucrat, Leng Sochea, uses qualitative and quantitative methods to make recommendations for Cambodian government policymakers to ensure that the country meets its 2025 deadline to free the nation of landmines, and to become self-reliant afterwards in removing any residual mines. For their part, donors who fund the demining program should ensure that there is no duplication of existing initiatives. Where necessary, national standards should be amended based on international standards, and the authorities should look for new donors such as China, Russia, India, South Korea, and the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre to get more funding before 2025. Dr. Leng advises the government to restructure the mine action framework to fit into the new evolving context.
Vinay Kaura, an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Affairs and Security Studies at Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice, offers a qualitative assessment of the foreign policy dimensions of India’s airstrikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps located at Balakot in Pakistan by interrogating the perspectives of the United States, China and other states. Dr. Kaura argues that although India seeks to advance its influence in global affairs, structural constraints in South Asia have always frustrated its greater ambitions. The Balakot airstrikes signaled a major shift in India’s traditional attitude of restraint in favor of a daring assault inside Pakistani territory, demonstrating its willingness to escalate a crisis with Pakistan. The author argues that it is essential for India to acquire more hard power competencies if it wishes to play a wider and more influential global role.
We present a chapter from a recent book, Raging Waters: China, India, Bangladesh, and Brahmaputra River Politics by Nilanthi Samaranayake, Satu Limaye, and Joel Wuthnow. In the chapter, Dr. Wuthnow investigates China’s goals and challenges as the uppermost riparian of the Brahmaputra. The author’s study is significant because, in the summer of 2017, the military forces of China and India engaged in a seventy-three-day standoff over a disputed border involving a third country—Bhutan. While the standoff was not directly related to Brahmaputra basin resources, the conflict resulted in Beijing halting data sharing with New Delhi for flood forecasting purposes. The data-sharing constitutes an important cooperative gesture because no water management agreement has been achieved in the basin. Dr. Wuthnow’s study employs Chinese-language sources and field research to understand, from China’s perspective, the subnational issues involved as well as the bilateral relationships with India and Bangladesh over security in the Brahmaputra basin. The author concludes that while China has shown little willingness to address Brahmaputra issues at a multilateral level, opportunities may exist for China to modestly expand cooperation at both a bilateral and multilateral level.
The poet-novelist, Anjana Basu, reviews three books on Tibet and one on Shillong. Greg C. Bruno’s Blessings from Beijing: Inside China’s Soft-Power War on Tibet examines the question of the global Tibetan diasporic community after the passing of the Dalai Lama. Madhu Gurung’s Tibet with My Eyes Closed presents five short stories on the lives of displaced Tibetans, and of their hopes and fears. Bijoya Sawian’s Shadow Men: A Novel and Two Stories is set in the North Eastern state of Meghalaya where the story unfolds against the backdrop of violence by the locals against the outsiders, or dkhar, as they call them, a label identifying the affluent, educated settlers from West Bengal, or the Hindu, Bengali-speaking migrants, who are forced to leave the state. Deepa Agarwal’s Journey to the Forbidden City investigates the determination of India’s British colonial rulers to explore the Forbidden Land because they saw it as an integral part of the ‘Great Game’ that they played with Russia and its spies. To get around border restrictions, they inducted a cohort of Indians whom they called ‘Pundits’ and who infiltrated Tibet under the guise of studying Buddhism. One of the first of these was Nain Singh Rawat, who was relatively overlooked by history in the wake of other Pundits like Saratchandra Das who wrote diaries of their travels.
The allusion to the historic capital city, “Calcutta,” in the name of this Journal denotes its easterly geographic trajectory. Our arc of interest is mapped in our focus on “Global Affairs,” albeit with an Asian eye. We, therefore, look at the world with an Asian perspective.
The journal welcomes articles on India’s North East, and India’s role in world affairs; South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia (Japan, the Koreas, Taiwan, and China); and the policy towards Asia pursued by the United States, Russia and the West, as well as West Asia, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. The journal’s focus is on diplomacy, conduct of foreign policy, international relations, soft power (use of film and the arts as tools of diplomacy), diplomatic history, war and peace, defence issues, geo-strategy, national and global economic issues, peace studies, informal diplomacy and Track Two diplomacy, revolution and counter-revolution, terrorism and counter-terrorism, colonialism and decolonisation, and hegemony and resistance. The journal carries articles on contemporary world affairs and major events and policies of the twentieth century that are still shaping the world today and are being revisited in the light of new historical material that is declassified and becomes available from time to time.