THE NEO-COLD WAR IN ASIA CONTINUES TO FLAVOUR THE TIMES. Two of our research articles in this issue explore the Cold War in Singapore and Tibet, and the enormous challenge of raising funds for demining efforts in Cambodia after the end of the civil war in 1991. Two other research articles interrogate the influence of domestic regional politics on India’s foreign policy, and the Indian government’s two-front “war” against foreign terrorists and domestic critics. And we present a continuing series of book reviews on India’s North East and Tibet.
The political scientist, Shubhrajeet Konwer, who teaches at Gauhati University, explains in his research article that India’s regional political parties have become increasingly influential in national politics, to the extent that electoral politics affects the creation of a robust foreign policy. Professor Konwer explores the intrusion of domestic politics into foreign policymaking in India’s relations with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Kashmir. The author argues that there exists an "elite discord" which is evident in the acute differences of opinion between national and regional political parties on issues of foreign policy. There is, he further argues, a lack of synchronisation of foreign policy goals and domestic interests, particularly regional interests. The politics of regional and communitarian appeasement, he explains, has become a norm in Indian politics, which has hurt the country’s effort to create a strong foreign policy.
In the second research article, Koushik Goswami, a doctoral research fellow at Jadavpur University, unpacks two recent fictional works reflecting on the effects of the Cold War on small states in Asia. First, the article evaluates an extraordinary effort by the United States to purchase Singapore during a neo-Cold War rivalry between the United States and China as depicted in Lee Chiu-San’s novel, Buy My Beloved Country. Secondly, it scrutinises the occupation of Tibet which became the locus of a tussle between the major powers during the Cold War as presented in Kaushik Barua’s Windhorse. The article draws attention to the neutral position taken by neighbouring small states when a crisis affects a weaker nation. In Buy My Beloved Country, a relatively small country like Malaysia does not offer to help Singapore, preferring to keep itself outside the play of the superpowers. The same neutrality is found in Windhorse, where an emerging powerful nation, India, and the neighbouring small nations, Nepal and Bhutan, remain neutral and do not actively participate in the Tibetan resistance movement.
In the third research article, the Cambodian scholar-bureaucrat, Leng Sochea, explains that Cambodia has benefited greatly from significant financial contributions from the international community since 1992 to rid the country of landmines that are a terrible legacy of the Cold War, the civil war, and the Vietnam War. The Royal Government of Cambodia has managed to increase the allocation of funds for mine action despite great pressures on its national budget to finance a wide range of different needs. Dr. Leng analyses the goals and challenges confronting the National Mine Action Strategy 2017-2025 that aims to eliminate, as much as possible, the risk to human and animal life posed by landmines and other ordnance. The demining programme ends in 2025, and domestic agencies are expected to handle any remaining threats thereafter.
National research professor Jayanta Kumar Ray posits in his article that the Indian government’s effort to combat terrorism is a two-front battle—against foreign-trained and armed terrorists, and against criticism at home from Indian Opposition parties. The cross-border attack by the Indian Air Force on terrorist camps in Pakistan in February 2019 demonstrates a new firmness by the government. But it needs to address weaknesses in military preparedness and legal deficiencies.
In our books section, the Shandong University scholar, Hao Junyi, reviews a new book by Yan Xuetong, Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers, arguing that China’s values-driven leadership is perhaps superior to the present-day leadership of the West. Distinguished professor Yan explains China’s expanding influence by presenting a “moral-realist theory” that attributes the rise and fall of nations to political leadership. The U.S.-China rivalry, he posits, hinges not just on a show of hard power but also on the ability of each power to claim a higher moral ground. Yan’s central thesis is that the stronger a rising state’s political leadership, the more likely it is to displace a prevailing dominant state in the international system. This clearly gestures towards the likely displacement of an inward-looking United States by an outbound China.
In a review of Values in Foreign Policy (edited by Krishnan Srinivasan, et al), Harish C. Mehta explains that this book treads new ground by employing a comparative approach. While there are several studies of values foreign policy in a “single nation,” the book under review deals with foreign policy values in “comparative” perspective in “multiple nations.” It is recommended for students because it not only explores the past but also takes the debate into the present. It should inspire students to undertake research projects investigating the ambiguity and ambivalence that is generated when states meld their lofty values and crafty self-interest.
The poet-author, Anjana Basu, reviews three recent books, one each on India’s North East, Tibet and Darjeeling. Visier Meyasetsu Sanyu’s A Naga Odyssey: Visier’s Long Way Home is part autobiography and part history of the people of Nagaland. At a time of military conflict and political turmoil, Visier reveals the importance that the Naga people attach to rootedness and the preservation of tradition.
Parimal Bhattacharya’s non-fiction work, The Bells of Shangri-La: Scholars, Spies, Invaders in Tibet combines history with biography to retell the story of how Britain sent spies into Tibet disguised as pilgrims and wanderers to gather crucial information during the Great Game in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The same author’s No Path in Darjeeling is Straight: Memories of a Hill Town is a book of memories of his days as a teacher at Government College in Darjeeling, melding history, literature, and politics of a hill town.
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 light of the new historical material that is declassified and becomes available from time to time.