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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Book Review of “Understanding India China: The Enduring Threat of War in High Himalayas” By Manoj Joshi

Author: Manoj Joshi
Publication Place: London, United Kingdom
Publisher: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.
Publication Year: 2022
Edition: First Edition
Pages: 363
ISBN: 9781787385405
Price: ₹417

Manoj Joshi’s book is deeply rooted in historical understanding and strategic analysis and provides an overall understanding of the most difficult border disputes in the world. The book has examined the most contentious boundary issues between Asia’s two largest nations. It is a thorough examination of the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Manoj Joshi not only recounted the events leading to the conflict but also provided an in-depth analysis of the military strategies, political miscalculations and diplomatic failures that led to the defeat of India. Joshi argues that this war has left a firm mark on India’s strategic psyche and continues to influence its security policies and perceptions of China.

The author begins by explaining the historical roots of the border dispute. He precisely traces the origins of the conflict back to the colonial era and particularly focuses on the British administration’s actions and policies The author has detailed the McMahon Line which was drawn during the Simla Convention of 1914 that the Chinese have never accepted; and contrasts it with the Johnson Line and the Macartney-Macdonald Line in the western sector, especially in the disputed region of Aksai Chin in Ladakh. This historic backdrop sets the stage for understanding the complex territorial claims and the deeply rooted positions of both nations. The book claims that as both nations began to assert their sovereignty and territorial integrity that led to the border dispute escalated leading to the Sino-Indian War. (1962)

Joshi delves into the ever-evolving military dynamics alongside the border and also discusses the significant build-up of the infrastructure of roads, airfields and forward posts by both countries. Moreover, highlights how infrastructure development has changed the nature of the border dispute, enabling rapid mobilization and has increased the potential for localized conflicts to escalate. Joshi examines the modernization of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian military’s response, showcasing a detailed account of their capabilities and strategic doctrines.

Another critical aspect that Manoj Joshi brings up is the role of diplomacy and bilateral relations in managing the border dispute. He gives a very balanced view of various attempts at conflict resolution which includes agreements and confidence-building measures undertaken since the 1980s. Joshi notes that despite numerous rounds of talks and mechanisms for maintaining peace at the border it remains volatile with frequent stand-offs and clashes such as the Doklam Clash (2017) and the Galwan Valley Clash (2020).

Manoj Joshi’s analysis extends the geopolitical implications of the India-China border issue. He argues that the border dispute cannot be considered in isolation but must be understood within the broader context of Sino-Indian competition, including competition for regional influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, the impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and India’s strategic partnerships, particularly with the United States. The author posits that the border dispute is a symptom and is a driver as well of the broader strategic competition between the two rising powers of Asia. It also offers insights into the internal political dimensions of the boundary question in both India and China. Joshi examines how nationalist sentiments and domestic politics have influenced the border strategies of the nations. Manoj Joshi argues that leaders of both countries use the border dispute to bolster their political legitimacy and rally domestic support, which has complicated the efforts for a peaceful resolution.

In the concluding sections, the author offers his views on the future trajectory of the India-China border dispute. He emphasizes more on the need for strategic foresight, improved military readiness, and robust diplomatic engagement to manage the enduring threat of conflict in the high Himalayas.

The book is a vital contribution to the literature of the world of International relations and border studies. It serves as a crucial resource for policymakers, academic scholars, and other readers interested in the future trajectory of India-China relations. In methodology terms, it has used several sources which include official documents, military analysis and interviews with experts and officials. Notably, the book has made complex geopolitical issues understandable and it doesn’t shy away from reflecting the limitations and failures of both Indian and Chinese strategies. It has critically pointed out India’s reactive approach, its historic neglect of border infrastructure and China’s aggressive posture and lack of transparency.

The book gives a comprehensive approach to understanding the border disputes but it is not without its Weaknesses, Although the book provides a balanced analysis and draws on a wider range of secondary sources, the absence of firsthand Chinese perspectives can be considered as a gap which could have been enriched by utilizing the primary sources from China, be it official documents, statements, and analyses from Chinese scholars. Somewhere or other historical events might have overshadowed the contemporary developments and strategic shifts. The economic factor holding a significant role in international relations received relatively less attention which could have been explored in greater detail providing a more holistic view of the bilateral relationship between the two. Moreover, the book primarily has focused on the national level perspectives of the countries, overlooking the regional and local dimensions of the border dispute, which could have added more depth to the analysis and highlighted the human impact of the border tensions.

As an academic approach, the critical perspective has encouraged a re-evaluation of India’s strategic policies and highlights the need for proactive and forward-thinking strategies. Understanding India-China Borders by Manoj Joshi is a nuanced work that offers a comprehensive and in depth analysis of one of the most complex border disputes in the world. The book’s historical context, detailed military analysis, exploration of diplomatic efforts, and examination of integral political dimensions provide valuable insights into the dynamics of the India-China border dispute. Joshi’s balanced and thorough research makes this book an essential resource for comprehending the past, present, and future of one of the world’s most critical geopolitical flashpoints.

This book is a must read for people interested in South Asian Politics and Sino-Indian relations. Manoj Joshi, a renowned journalist and strategic affairs expert, provides a deep exploration of the historical, political and military aspects of the border issue. The Book is well structured and organized, with an evident logical flow. The Complex geopolitical and strategic concepts have been explained in a manner that is understandable to a broader audience, including both experts and general readers interested in international relations. The inclusion of Maps and diagrams would significantly enhance the reader’s interest as visual aids help to illustrate in a better way. Moreover, it is a well-researched piece of work with the inclusion of citations from various sources. Talking about its price, the book should reflect its value as an authoritative analysis of a crucial geopolitical issue, the book is likely to be priced in the higher range for academic and professional readers.


Reviewed by:
Manya Sharma
RLA Research intern

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