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Even as India elects a new government, some of the most important figures in its strategic

establishment have been making the time to read a new book on China: Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh, his aides say, has been through ournalist Shishir !upta"s #he $imalayan
%ace&'ff( so, it is believed, have )efence Minister *+ *ntony and ,ational Security *dvisor
Shiv Shankar Menon- %inance Minister, and former $ome Minister P- Chidambaram, has called
the book a .must read/( 0haratiya 1anata Party leader *run 1aitley, has lauded its .deep insight/-
#he interest in Mr- !upta"s book tells us two important things- %irst, it underlines the desperate
thinness of Indian intellectual engagement on China- In spite of e2ponential growth in trade,
mirrored only by the growing concern over the rising Chinese nationalism, there is only a small
corpus of serious Indian writing that engages unfolding policy debates-
Prem Shankar 1ha"s India and China, and *run Shourie"s very different Self-Deception stand out
3 but much of the writing comes from western authors, like )avid Smith"s The Elephant and
the Dragon-
#he second important thing reactions to Mr- !upta tell us is this: Indian policy&making on China
is at a crossroads- %or the best part of two decades, Indian foreign policy makers have assumed
that a growing economic relationship would lead to strategic stabilisation, and an eventual
resolution of the two countries" border disputes- 4ast year"s military face&off in 4adakh, naval
competition in the Indian ocean rim, and the absence of progress on resolving China&India border
disputes, have all given strength to those sceptical about the optimistic premises on which policy
was built-
!uarat Chief Minister ,arendra Modi, who may well become Prime Minister in May, has
described China as e2pansionist( while this may be put down to poll&time e2cess, the truth is his
private views are likely not dissimilar- Inside the Congress, too, China&pessimists are
proliferating: Mr- !upta records )efence Minister *ntony"s conviction that the People"s
4iberation *rmy was .the real face of 0eiing/- Eminent foreign policy e2perts, like Shyam
Saran, have called on India to deepen their engagement with both the 5nited States and 6ussia,
as a hedge against Chinese aggression-
Mr- !upta"s solidly&researched work doesn"t seek to provide an answer to these debates: indeed,
it could be argued that skills in astrology would be more fitting than those of a ournalist-
Instead, the book provides a gritty empirical overview of the state of the strategic relationship-
China, Mr- !upta argues, has substantially e2panded its military capacities along its boundaries
with India, enhancing both infrastructure and offensive resources- It has also, Mr- !upta records,
maintained a substantial relationship with insurgent groups in the ,orth&East- #his build&up has,
among other things, been attributed to Chinese an2ieties about #ibet, and its fear India might
e2ploit unrest there- #hen, there is China"s organic relationship with India"s arch&rival, Pakistan
3a relationship whose economic aspects are often e2aggerated, but which has translated into
significant support for the country"s nuclear programme, and its ballistic weapons capabilities-
%rom 7889&788:, Mr- !upta records, India began slowly developing the capacities to respond,
enhancing its east&facing military infrastructure and combat capacities- #hough he does not
suggest the prospects of a war are high, he notes that .a single incident of accidental or angry
firing could change temperatures on the border/- $e records growing fears within the 5nited
Progressive *lliance government"s highest levels of .mi2ed messages coming from 0eiing/,
with its political leadership seeking growing cooperation on *fghanistan and the Middle&East,
even as tensions periodically flare up along the border-
#his book is an e2cellent primer on the comple2 considerations that have weighed on the minds
of the 5nited Progressive *lliance government"s policy&making on China through the last ;8
years, and the reasons for the cloud of pessimism that has enveloped it- It also demonstrates,
though, the need for India to have a more nuanced understanding of the power most critical to
India"s destiny through the ne2t century 3 a proect scholarship and ournalism have failed in-
!uns and cash will shape the course of the $imalayan face&off 3 but also knowledge, and it is
here India remains wanting-