India-China Borderlands: Conversations beyond the Centre

Sage
2014

The political understanding to set aside the border dispute and explore functional areas of cooperation has undoubtedly set the tone for an expanding arc of cooperation between India and China at bilateral, regional and international levels. While these have created new avenues of engagement, the India-China borderlands have largely remained in a freeze frame, awaiting a new political imagination. Breaking out of this time warp would call for a redefinition of the problem beyond conflict prevention towards conflict transformation. This will mean appreciating that there is more to borders than lines of control, hotlines and flag meetings. The book offers a critical comparative analysis of India-China relations at the subregional level, an analytical level that remains an understudied aspect in both research and policy. The study situates their evolving dynamics within the rubric of the massive state-led developmental thrust that India’s Northeast and China’s Western border regions are currently witnessing. By and large, India and China’s parallel moves in the subregion have tended to be studied as isolated cases with little attempt at comparison. This has been a curious omission at a time when processes of subregional integration are rescaling India and China and call for the need to disaggregate our understanding beyond solely national frames of reference. If creatively reimagined, the India-China borderlands could be at the centre of a promising subregional conversation of change. This will in turn depend on India and China’s capacity to recast ageing agendas and to imaginatively decentre practices of governance and diplomacy. This could introduce a much-needed borderlands perspective as an analytical category in its own right, instead of remaining as a mere tangential dimension of India-China relations.