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This article explores the very real dilemmas of small states during the Cold War through the prism of a fictionalised schematic. It, first, deals with an extraordinary effort by the United States to purchase Singapore during a neo-Cold War rivalry between the United States and China in the novelist Lee Chiu-San’s Buy My Beloved Country (Ethos, 2014). And second, it locates another Cold War over Tibet between those two major powers in Kaushik Barua’s Windhorse (HarperCollins, 2013). 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.

ALTHOUGH TRANSNATIONALISM HAS WIDENED THE POSSIBILITIES of constant negotiations between/among nation-states, the problems and effects of global market economics and capital transnationalism upon the weaker or smaller nations cannot be overlooked. The global domination exercised by the United States and China has caused many smaller nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America to live under threat of a new hegemony and exploitation. Although the phase of colonialism is supposed to be over, new forms of colonialism, which we may term ‘neo-colonialism’ have taken over.

In Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism, the Ghanaian political leader and revolutionary, Kwame Nkrumah, writes:

Once a territory has become nominally independent it is no longer possible, as it was in the last century, to reverse the process. Existing colonies may linger on, but no new colonies will be created. In place of colonialism as the main instrument of imperialism we have today neo-colonialism.[1]

The imposition of neo-colonialism by big powers in small states exhibits aggressive features which manifest themselves in crude, naked forms. Through hard bargaining, the hegemonic neo-colonial forces make inroads into the economy, polity and ideology of small states. Critics belonging to the realist tradition believe that a competitive race for power is inevitable in international politics as big states, in their bid to establish power in specific geopolitical zones, may try to extend their control which in its turn would invite more conflicts from one or more superpowers. Balance of power, thus, needs to be maintained.

Archie W. Simpson argues that according to the realists, power is a determining factor in international behaviour and self-preservation is the highest duty of any state. Moreover, small states tend to adopt “balancing” behaviour that maintains the international status quo; small states are not in a position to be revisionist states.[2] In such a situation small states have to give up “neutrality” and surrender to the interests of big powers. Simpson rightly observes that as small states tend to have fewer military capabilities, they are compelled to adopt policies and strategies designed to enhance their security as much as possible.[3]

During the old Cold War in Asia, small states fell prey to the invasive politics of the superpowers. They were either invaded, as in the case of Tibet (fictionalised in Barua’s Windhorse), or during the emerging neo-Cold War they were forced to succumb to the superior military power of big states as in Lee Chiu San’s Buy My Beloved Country.

Before discussing the two fictional works, I should clarify the concepts of ‘small’ and ‘big’ states as they are used in the article. Sometimes, scholars and the general public have negatively defined small states by confusing them with weak states. Israel, for example, is a small state but is certainly not a weak one. The distinction between small and great does not coincide with the distinction between strong and weak.[4] The difference between small/great is one of quantity, and the difference between strong/weak is of quality. On the one hand, for the sociologist, Émile Durkheim, a society’s strength depends on its moral and civic value systems which can serve as a model for other states to follow. “Societies,” Durkheim argues, “can have their pride, not in being the greatest or the wealthiest, but in being the most just, the best organized and in possessing the best moral constitution.”[5] But on the other hand, for IR scholars, Keohane and Nye, the question of smallness and greatness should rather be treated as a question of the influence that small states possess in specific areas, for example, Singapore’s status as a world financial hub, and Kuwait’s position as an oil producer.[6] Along this line of thinking, small states are often defined by employing quantifiable criteria of the size of their territory, population, economy, and military spending. There are, however, other means of defining small states such as their self-perception, analysis of their behaviour in international relations, or a combination of factors.[7]

Barston lists four possible approaches to defining small states: first, arbitrarily delimiting the category by placing an upper limit on, for example, population size; secondly, measuring the “objective” elements of state capability and placing them on a ranking scale; thirdly, analysing relative influence; and fourthly, identifying characteristics and formulating hypotheses on what differentiates small states from other classes of states.[8]

One of the founding fathers of the American school of realists in the twentieth-century, Hans Morgenthau, had made clear that “a Great Power is a state which is able to have its will against a small state […] which in turn is not able to have its will against a Great Power,” and yet “a Great Power could easily sink to the level of a second-rate or small Power, and a small Power could easily rise to the eminence of a Great Power.”[9] Demonstrably, although small states are less threatening to great powers, they can influence the big ones.

Realist scholars, it may be mentioned, do not pay much attention to the role of the small states; they are tilted towards the big ones. But Neumann and Gstöhl have underscored the importance of the small states, pointing out that small state theory is thriving both in economics and political science. Many economists, for example, argue that the size of a small nation determines its wealth due to its small domestic market, a low diversification of its economy, scarcity of natural resources, higher costs of production and lower economies of scale, a lack of competition, and low research and development expenditure.[10] Several theoreticians have dealt with small state theory, especially in the context of the Cold War. Among them, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Kenneth Waltz (neo-realist), Stephen Walt, and Morgenthau are noteworthy.

This article flags the importance of the role of small states which are either annexed militarily or subjugated under tremendous political and economic pressure. This article investigates how the big hegemonic forces, the United States and China, combat each other to further their interests in specific parts of Asia as they try to grab land and control the polity and economy of weaker nations through military threats and the use of soft power. In the face of such threats, the smaller states fail to maintain their neutral stance. The term “neutrality” designates a condition in which any small nation can declare its non-involvement in a conflict or war and indicates its intention to refrain from supporting or aiding the other side.[11] But the maintenance of neutrality is always context-specific and depends on the extent of willingness of other states, particularly the superpowers, to cooperate and reciprocate.

This article, on the one hand, deals with the neo-Cold War rivalry between two powerful nations, the United States and China, over Singapore in Buy My Beloved Country, and on the other hand, it locates another Cold War—over Tibet—between those two big powers. In the process it addresses the neutral position taken by neighbouring small states when a crisis affects weaker nations. In Windhorse, 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. The same neutrality is found in Buy My Beloved Country where a relatively small nation like Malaysia does not offer to help Singapore, preferring to keep itself neutral.

Buy My Beloved Country: Cold War in Southeast Asia

In a review of the book, Buy My Beloved Country (2014), Himadri Lahiri rightly observes:

For at the centre of the Lee’s novel lies the imagined proposal of the United States of America to buy the tiny Southeast Asian country Singapore which is strategically positioned and is therefore in the eye of storm. The work negotiates widely divergent responses the proposal evokes in Singapore, its neighbouring countries, China and the USA. The questions such a situation generates are related to, among others, loyalty, patriotism and political stakes of local and world leaders. The ultimate issue boils down to power play and resource grabbing. The novel concentrates more on inter-national issues than domestic socio-cultural ones. Although Singapore is the central focus, the authorial gaze pans through its neighbouring countries and the superpowers like the USA and China who show an active interest in the region.[12]

The title of the novel, Buy My Beloved Country, is modelled on Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country. Lahiri explains that Lee has replaced the word “Cry” which is employed to suggest “emotional content” with “Buy” in the title as a way of showing the “commercial” tone evident in the novel. A proposal of selling/buying of Singapore—and the responses of Singapore—are floated in the novel. The author, Lee, also highlights the active interest of the superpowers in the region. “It is in such troubled waters that the superpowers want to fish. They want to extend their power base, seek countries which would agree to the establishment of their naval or air bases and try to explore ways and means for exploiting the economically and politically weaker countries.”[13]

Through the representation of Singapore at the microcosmic level, Lee explores the interest of the superpowers in the region’s smaller and weaker nations. For his characters, the author deploys a cast of high profile political leaders of different nation-states in the role of presidents, ministers and other important personalities. They are sources and agents of power, they are power-mongers and they play functional roles in policy decisions and coalition-formation, and in increasing the political and economic visibility of their nations in the geopolitical arena. In this context, this book can be seen as a political novel. The United States wants to add Singapore to itself as its fifty-first state, but the emergence of China as a global power creates several conflicts between Washington and Beijing.

In the very first chapter, “A New Cold War?,” the word “new” suggests an emergence of fresh cold war rivalry involving new nation-states and new geopolitical zones. The title, therefore, draws our attention to the fact that the novel is not going to deal with the old U.S.-Soviet conflict. Its focus is on the new dimensions of the new/‘other’ cold war. It begins with exchanges between the prime minister of Australia, Opal Guillame, and the U.S. president, Malcolm Frasier, over the South China Sea, and over the islands that are claimed both by Japan and Korea as well as Japan and China.[14] Their conversations bring out the role of China as an emerging global power. The impact of the Chinese presence in East and Southeast Asia creates tension in the mind of the U.S. president. Guillame tells Frasier that the “U.S. has difficulty projecting power in the Western reaches, especially in South China Sea which is 8,000 miles away from your mainland.”[15] Guillame also talks about Russia as an emerging superpower thereby indicating the possibility of the arrival of yet another player in the region. But the problem is that Russia, right at that moment, has a weak presence in the Pacific after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Their conversation abruptly moves towards the concept of the Cold War between the United States and China. Guillame refers to the speech of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore:  “In the book to mark his 90th birthday, he said that on the Asian side of the Pacific, you will find it harder to exert influence. Proximity is the key in this case, and China has the advantage of being closer to this region . . . You being so distant invites China to behave as if this part of the world belongs to them. They believe that it is their domain, theirs to do with as they please.”[16]

Lee Kuan Yew points towards China’s geographical proximity to Singapore. China, at that moment, was trying to influence Singapore’s policies and even making attempts to occupy Singapore. Guillame also states that China is trying to include Singapore, the Spratlys and many parts of India to expand its own empire. This is another form of colonialism. Guillame says, “They (Singapore) used to be quiet. Now, they are beginning to throw their weight around, perhaps to test the U.S. response.”[17] For its part, due to geographical distance the United States is unable to exercise the same kind of influence on the Southeast Asian countries as it did earlier. Although China’s relationship with the United States in trade and investments was a strong one, China was becoming a threat to the United States. This dichotomy is reflected in the words of Guillame: “China is our very good customer. They buy our coal, oil, minerals, wool and all the other stuff we produce. But in the long term, I see an unfettered China as a threat. They can choke us off from our other trading partners.”[18] Guillame’s statement is prophetic. The current U.S.-China trade war testifies to the truth of the vision.

The chapter, “Asian Pivot,” discusses a meeting between Frasier and the U.S. Secretary of State, Helen Flint. They want to incorporate Singapore into the United States as the fifty-first state but with a special autonomy in several areas of administration. This special autonomy is similar to the arrangement that China has with Hong Kong, under the “one country and two systems” model. Both the superpowers, the United States and China, now launch an aggressive and competitive effort to acquire land.

The leaders of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) hold an urgent discussion on the issue of the buying of Singapore. Their dialogue creates multiple discourses and counter-discourses between Frasier and the prime minister of Singapore, Wan, as well as the leaders of China and ASEAN. There is yet another meeting of U.S. leaders on the issue of incorporating Singapore. Many officials, such as the U.S. ambassador to Singapore, Neville Longstaff, justice secretary Van Nuys, defense secretary Pobreza, national security advisor Strangelove, and secretary of state Flint, are present. Flint shows his disgust for China: “China cannot be the bullying superpower in the absence of other superpowers. I saw for myself how China’s aggressive posturing spooked the ASEAN nations. When there’s an 800-pound gorilla that could go on the rampage in your neighbourhood, it’s nice to know that there is one double the size to watch your back.”[19] Being a powerful nation, the United States tactfully uses political platforms like ASEAN to keep its position stable and to manipulate weaker nations. The U.S. mission is to utilise Singapore’s treasures; it wants to incorporate Singapore for economic purposes:

Both Treasury Secretary Gleissner and Justice Secretary Van Nuys think we can overcome the obstacles. Defense Secretary Pobreza affirms that Singapore will provide an ideal location for a US Naval Base, and National Security Adviser Strangelove agrees that Singapore will improve our intelligence gathering capabilities. From a business viewpoint, Trade Secretary Maisonrouge believes that US companies will benefit from increased trade with ASEAN as well as East Asia[20](emphases added).


While the debates are going on regarding the autonomy—or the lack of it—and whether Singapore citizens would accept the purchase, the U.S. president consoles Singaporeans by saying, “However, we are not asking them to give up their country totally. It will operate as a state, with an extraordinary level of autonomy. Their way of life continues. They become an important part of a greater whole. Sure, there are trade-offs involved. But will they give up some independence, or give up a million dollars, that is the question.”[21] This speech of the president clearly indicates U.S. political tactics to govern/incorporate Singapore. By awarding conditional autonomy to Singapore, the United States wants to retain its influence over Singapore and to increase its geopolitical power. It also is intent on exploiting the latter’s economic and business resources.

The Singapore government holds several meetings to discuss the U.S. intention to set up a large naval base in Singapore. Singaporeans are divided in their opinion. Their sense of nationhood is strong and they do not want to sell their independence. The author, Lee, aims to represent the consciousness of Singapore citizens and their constant efforts to protect their nation. Lee demonstrates how small nations become victims of hegemonic policies and Cold War situations. A rumor is spread regarding the selling of Singapore to the United States: “. . . the story goes that we will become a state of the USA, but a state with special privileges and autonomy, albeit not forever—but for a long time. We are supposed to give up control on issues of defence and foreign affairs, but most other matters remain under our control. Daily life won’t change.”[22] A sense of attachment towards the nation is seen in the speech of Linus Tan, a partner at a leading Singapore law firm: “Give up our autonomy for a few million? Not for me. We don’t need money, surely?”[23] The sense of nationhood becomes prominent in the words of Linus who cites the Singapore national song:

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity
and progress for our nation.[24]

Through portrayals of characters like KP, Helmy, Tan, and Chandran, the author represents the national consciousness of Singaporeans. Chandran’s outburst—”We happen to be located on a major sea route. The British recognised that, which is why they established a colony here. And even before the WWII, this was already a thriving port city”[25]—shows how its strategic territorial location made Singapore vulnerable to foreign aggression.

The chapter, “The Deal Is On,” focuses on the discussions between president Frasier and the prime minister of Singapore, W, on the following issues: What are the conditions of the United States? How will Singapore be benefitted? After a long discussion, Wan finally declares Singapore’s official inclusion into the United States. He further says that the United States would buy all Singapore’s assets for the sum of three trillion dollars and this amount would be distributed among Singapore citizens. Singapore would benefit just as Hong Kong benefits from China. The news channels announce PM Wan’s acceptance of the offer to sell Singapore to the United States. The response of Singapore citizens is important in this regard. They do not want to lose their independence for money and this sentiment is expressed through the character of Matthew who says that after few generations everybody, whether an “African, Chinese, German, Korean, Italian, Indian, becomes an American.”[26]

The conflicts between the superpowers are found in the chapter, “The Forbidding City,” when President Lu Geji, the supreme leader of the People’s Republic of China, speaks vehemently agai the policy of the United States that has promised a “one country, two systems” status to Singapore. The conflict escalates when China wants to give a similar offer to Singapore.

Yet another country, Malaysia, joins the race to buy Singapore. Although Malaysia is not a powerful nation, its political intervention to capture Singapore raises some questions. Probably, Malaysia is afraid of the United States and it apprehends that, in case the latter is given greater access, it can also be captured like Singapore. The author demonstrates a Cold War ‘’fear complex’’ among the smaller nations. In a referendum in Singapore on the issue of selling the country to the United States, Singaporeans give more votes to the United States than to Malaysia and China, and finally Singapore accepts the U.S. offer to become the 51st state of their union.

Although this novel is based on a painting of Victor Ang and Dr. Henry Yeo Peng Hock, the author’s former classmates, and it is “purely imaginary,” the argument of the author is still relevant as tensions between the superpowers are at a high pitch. The neo-colonialist impulse of powerful nations to wreak physical or psychological violence on the weaker nations is a continuing process.

Windhorse: Cold War in South Asia

While the searing political heat of the Cold War in Southeast Asia is blown out of proportion in Buy My Beloved Country through imaginary excesses, Kaushik Barua’s Windhorse represents in softer undertones the impact of the Cold War, this time in South Asia. In Buy My Beloved Country, we find how in the U.S.-China tussle, Southeast Asian nations are affected and how they are gradually sucked into a state of regional uncertainty. In Windhorse, which represents the Tibet crisis in a realistic manner, India emerges as a major player. The seclusion and peace of Tibet was shattered with the Chinese invasion and occupation in 1950, and the subsequent Chinese violations of the human rights of Tibetans.

Barua, an emerging Indian author working at present in Rome with the United Nations, represents in the novel the tussle between China, on one side, and India and the United States, on the other. It also discusses how the Americans at the time of the crisis helped Tibetans in their efforts to raise an army and supplied them with weapons to fight against the Chinese. The Americans and Indians show their unwavering sympathy towards the Tibetans, and this provokes anger in China. India’s offering of shelter to the Tibetans in Dharamsala disrupts cordial relations between China and India. However, the American assistance to Tibet is not merely an effort to demonstrate sympathy but to enhance U.S. influence and resist the expansion of a Chinese empire.

The action of the novel spans the period from the 1940s to the 1970s, set against the backdrop of the Tibetan resistance movement against Chinese occupation. Tibet is the entry point for global politics; it provides fodder for ‘political’ action and counter-action. The novel is divided into three parts—“Home,” “Exile,” and “The Last Stand”—and unfolds in Tibet, Delhi, and Nepal. It begins with the presentation of a geographical map of India and its neighbouring nations. The map shows Tibet’s proximity to India and displays the concern that Indians should be more sensitive to the Tibetan cause.[27]

The two protagonists are Lhasang Tsering, a Tibetan, and Norbu Shakya, a Tibetan expatriate in India. Lhasang grows up in Kham in the Eastern Tibet, but he is forced to flee after the Chinese occupation and makes the ‘death-defying trek’ to India with his family. However, the memory of his homeland is prominent and his only wish is to return to his homeland. Norbu is the son of a wealthy Delhi-based Tibetan businessman, Karma Shakya, who is blissfully ignorant of the actual Tibet. Karma Shakya thinks that Delhi will be a proper place for the upbringing of Norbu as the future in Tibet is uncertain.

The very first chapter “Home, Where All the Stories Are Born,” describes the year 1947 in Kham, Tibet. The author portrays a brutal picture of Chinese colonialism and the way Chinese dominate, exploit and torture the Tibetan people. We get this picture of violence when Lhasang, along with his father, Dadul, goes to the house of Dawa-la, Dadul’s friend. Thupten-la, a Tibetan activist, is the host for that night. From their conversations we understand how the Chinese have been colonising Tibet and exploiting the Tibetans as slaves. Lhasang and his friend, Dhondup, encounter a group of Chinese soldiers and find that many Tibetans are chained and are being led towards a truck. The Chinese summon large numbers of Tibetans to the market, and brutally kill Dawa-la who has opposed the occupation. By killing Dawa-la in a public space, Chinese want to spread terror among Tibetans.

The Chinese status in Tibet is that of an aggressor and coloniser. The Chinese order Tibetan villagers to go to the city so that they can witness how Tibetan ‘traitors’ are punished. The warning is loud and clear: “be obedient to the Chinese and refrain from all acts of opposition and subversion.” The Chinese display a typical strategy of colonial oppression by demonstrating their power through several incidents in the Chinese-Tibetan encounter.[28]

The picture, however, is quite different in Delhi. Norbu’s life changes suddenly when at the college, Miranda House, he meets Dolma, a Tibetan girl and comes to know about the “evolving situation” in Tibet. He reads newspapers to get further updates about Tibet and learns about the violent realities of life Tibetans are facing:

He knew that by the mid-1950s, land redistribution had commenced in Kham. The Chinese had initiated their agricultural cooperatives, seizing land and labour. At the same time, they had imposed gun controls, knowing well that any man with a gun in his hand was unlikely to be an obedient subject. And finally, they had started decimating the monasteries. Thus, all that the Khampas, the natives of Kham, held dear was being threatened: their land, their guns and the sangha of monks. Thousands fled to the hills and families disappeared overnight to join the resistance.[29]

The story then moves to the exilic life of the Tibetans. Barua depicts multiple strata of Tibetan exilic consciousness. Lhasang, along with his family, escapes from the ‘Chinese’ territory and finally enters India. He joins the group of Thupten-la and Athar, “the monk who gave up his prayer wheel for a gun.”[30] Their mission is to ‘free Tibet’ from the clutch of Chinese colonialism.

Barua, in this respect, describes how America offers to help the Tibetans in their mission to ‘free Tibet.’ In these ways a Cold War situation develops between America and China. From the Indian perspective, New Delhi’s offer of shelter to Tibetans causes conflict between India and China. Both America and China demonstrate their geopolitical interest in this matter. Interestingly, Barua introduces an American character, Andy, who is an American agent. Norbu acts as a translator for Andy. Soon, Thupten and his men start gathering people from different refugee camps; some are to be sent to America for training. Thupten’s encouraging speech is a political one: “Once you reach your training camp, you’ll be in Andy’s friends’ hands. You have to do everything they say, blindly. Learn all you can—we’ll need all their knowledge to fight the Chinese. And . . . remember that Bod [Tibetan Plateau] shall not be free till we force the Chinese out. . . . Remember, we fight for Bod, we fight for the gods.”[31]

Despite the geographical distance, America shows its constant interest in Tibet based on political ideology as it does not want to leave any space for Chinese hegemony and tries to stop it from exercising power. In America, they are taught several skills: familiarisation with weapons and maps of Tibet, and readings of American .

Nepal also participates in the political games. Norbu and Thupten meet Jigme, the king of Mustang in Nepal, who gives them permission to operate from his kingdom. They are successful in killing some Chinese soldiers. They also lose a good number of freedom fighters. The interesting point in this respect is that although America and Nepal actively participate in a geopolitical power struggle and help Tibetans fight against the Chinese invasion, suddenly they withdraw their support. They no longer give importance to the Tibetan cause and the mission to ‘Free Tibet.’ By portraying their sudden withdrawal of support, Barua raises several controversial questions and attacks the political games of the superpowers.

The Americans have a political interest in Tibet. They train Tibetans to prepare them for an uprising against the Chinese. The American intervention is a political one, driven only by self-interest. It is reflected in Norbu’s words, “Decision from Washington. Kissinger’s visit to China. Sino-Soviet split. American President meeting Mao, talking about Tibet and Taiwan.” [32] Barua, here, critiques the role of the United States that leaves a small country like Tibet in the lurch when it withdraws unilaterally.

Thupten does not trust Andy completely. That is why he employs Norbu who can understand the Indian government and handle the Americans. Thupten rightly questions the political game of the United States in the following way, his words indicating that Tibetans are aware of America’s selfish interest and its political strategy:

“We must be careful. We don’t know who he (Andy) works for, or what. Don’t trust someone if he don’t know his god. . . these Americans are the only people the Chinese fear. . . How they hated the one word: America. Western imperialists, they called them. . .We don’t need their friendship, only their support” (emphases added).[33]

Tibetans also critique Indian’s role in the Tibetan cause. From conversations between Karma and Vohra, a rising official in the Indian ministry of commerce and industry, several issues emerge regarding the “Chinese crossing over the border of Tibet, the role of the UN and the British to fulfill Tibet’s international claim at independence, the role of India and Jawaharlal Nehru and his ‘Panchsheel’ agreement with the Chinese ….”[34] attack Nehru by labelling him“a sentimental fool” and show their hatred for India and China by saying “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai”(the India-China brotherhood). Although the epicentre of Tibetan diaspora is located in Dharamshala, Barua questions India’s role in this respect. India shows its sympathy and gives shelter to Tibetans, but it is unable to actively participate in the ‘Tibetan cause.’ As an emerging powerful nation, India is merely participating in a Cold War theatre and has limited control over it.

Barua’s intention is to foreground the power game in which superpowers are involved and to represent their masculine power. Barua’s narration, on the one hand, critiques American and Chinese colonial power that plunged Tibet into darkness, and on the other hand, he subtly attacks India’s role in the Tibetan cause.


Armed neutrality is a classical requirement of neutrality, Vukadinovic points out. Neutral countries have always been expected to use all the means at their disposal to safeguard their independence.[35] Simpson argues that the establishment and maintenance of a credible neutrality is determined by the role played by  factors such as political impartiality, diplomatic networking, consistency in being neutral, and developing some defensive military capability.[36]

The unethical aspects of aggressive big power politics are also brought out in the two fictional works under study. Realist scholars would, of course, ignore the ethical dimension. Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff rightly point out that, to the realist, politics is not a function of ethical philosophy. Instead, political theory, is derived from political practice and historical experience.[37]

The fictional representations of small states such as Nepal and Bhutan, and the emergence of India as a powerful nation, is foregrounded in Windhorse. Nepal and Bhutan, however, remained neutral in the Tibetan cause as they want to keep themselves safe from the threat of the superpowers. They are not only small states; they are weak ones as well, lacking both in military prowess and power for negotiation.

Lee and Barua tactfully weave two narratives exploring inter-nation rivalry between the superpowers. As demonstrated, their approaches to geopolitical conflicts have both similarities and differences. They critique the role of the superpowers that dominate, exploit and marginalise weaker nations. Barua deals with Tibet and the Tibetan cause, describing their struggle realistically.

Lee represents the context of the selling/buying of Singapore, attacking the role of the superpowers in the political game. In Lee’s novel, the manifestations of the Cold War are visible; in Barua’s text, however, Cold War elements are hidden in the nooks and the corners of the plot.

Koushik Goswami is a PhD Research Fellow at the Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. The title of his PhD research project is: “Nation and Diaspora in Select Works in English by Contemporary Diasporic Authors from Tibet and Nepal.” He completed his MPhil at the Department of English and Culture Studies of the University of Burdwan. The title of his MPhil dissertation was: “Gazing at Tibet: A Study of Kaushik Barua's Windhorse and Jamyang Norbu’s The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes.” He has presented research papers at international and national level seminars. He has published articles in journals, and in an edited book. Two of his recent articles are: “The Politics of Fencing and Exchanges of Enclaves: A Study of the Indo-Bangladesh Border” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing), and “Nation and Diaspora in Manjushree Thapa’s Select Stories” (University of Burdwan). His areas of interest are South Asian Literature, Diaspora Studies, Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Literature.


[1] Kwame Nkrumah, introduction to Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism (London: Thomas Nelson, 1965), 3.

[2]Archie W. Simpson, “Realism, Small States and Neutrality,” E-International Relations, February 5, 2018. https://www.e-ir.info/2018/02/05/realism-small-states-and-neutrality/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Iver B. Neumann and Sieglinde Gstöhl, “Lilliputians in Gulliver’s World? Small States in International Relations,” Centre for Small State Studies, University of Iceland, May 2004, 4.

[5] Émile Durkheim, Professional Ethics and Civic Morals (London: Routledge, 1992), 75.

[6] Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (Toronto: Little, Brown and Co., 1977).

[7] Simpson, “Realism, Small States and Neutrality.”

[8] Neumann and Gstöhl, “Lilliputians in Gulliver’s World?,”13.

[9] Ibid, 13-14.

[10] Ibid, 9.

 [11]Simpson, “Realism, Small States and Neutrality.”

[12] Himadri Lahiri, “Lee Chiu San, Buy My Beloved Country,” Asiatic 9, no. 1 (2015): 227.

[13] Ibid, 228

[14] Lee Chiu San, Buy My Beloved Country (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2014), 13.

[15] Ibid, 10-11.

[16] Ibid, 13.

[17] Ibid, 15.

[18] Ibid, 20.

[19] Ibid, 45.

[20] Ibid, 46.

[21] Ibid, 51.

[22] Ibid, 78.

[23] Ibid, 85.

[24] Ibid, 297.

[25] Ibid, 93.

[26] Ibid, 158.

[27] Koushik Goswami, “Gazing at Tibet: A Study of Kaushik Barua’s Windhorse and Jamyang Norbu’s The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes” (M.Phil, University of Burdwan, 2017), 35.

[28] Goswami, “Gazing at Tibet,” 47-48.

[29] Kaushik Barua,Windhorse (Noida: HarperCollins, 2013), 73-74.

[30] Barua, Windhorse, 175.

[31] Ibid, 253.

[32] Ibid, 322.

[33] Ibid, 212-213.

[34] Goswami,“Gazing at Tibet,” 46.

[35] Simpson, “Realism, Small States and Neutrality.”

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.