Vijay Gokhale, The Long Game: How The Chinese Negotiate With India ( Penguin Vintage , 2021)
Multiple divergences have shaped Sino India Relations for decades, filled with doubts and suspicions in spite of historical interactions as well as trade. Amidst this backdrop, Amb Vijay Gokhale’s book Long Game, provides a window to understand various techniques adopted by China to impose its will cum demands on New Delhi through multidimensional methods to achieve its ambitions in the subcontinent and set boundaries, perceptions as per its convenience when border and security issues have remained unsolved between them in spite of multiple dialogues and mechanisms.
The book begins with historical interactions being a key behind development of relations between the two countries having cultural and maritime links, witnessed through takeaways of Fa Xian and Xuanzhang’s tours and the latter’s perceptions and understandings about Indian culture and society. These historical exchanges, underscored the need for the two aspiring Asian powers to collaborate on tackling imperialism-making this idea being championed by leaders such as Nehru- were insistent on Beijing and New Delhi developing good relations where according to him, cooperating alongside China and giving her the recognition at the earliest ,could prove fruitful in nudging ties on time and supporting decolonization against imperialist activities in developing countries-which unfortunately was not the case due to hidden intent of the Chinese vis-à-vis its selfish geopolitical ambitions and its envy about New Delhi’s goodwill approach towards Third World countries ,where eventually this misjudgment about the Dragon’s intention created unclarity in the newly established government having lack of expertise and experience along with diverse political institutions aspiring to be accommodated.
Amb Gokhale goes on to explain how the CCP uses time biding tactics to confuse the Indian side through keeping silence and the former only giving their own points vis-à-vis the boundary demarcation. Therefore, Beijing played a clever game in order to incentivize New Delhi on supporting the former’s role in Tibet, due to which in 1953, the latter slowly lost options immediately, by blindingly giving into Chinese demands which were -non-interference in the Tibetan administration with Beijing being the direct point of contact for maintaining relations with the former along with removal of direct contacts with the Tibetan Administration. So, to avoid irking Beijing, New Delhi has been neutral when it comes to dealings with the Tibetan refugees as well as the Dalai Lama’s whereabouts in the recent past .
Even, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence of 1954 was misinterpreted by the Indian side who were viewing it as a goodwill gesture where this principle became an irredentist tool of Beijing’s own security and expansionist strategy with respect to the former blaming New Delhi interfering in affairs of other smaller countries with itself acting as a champion for them, not respecting territorial sovereignty and integrity of the boundaries.
The book claims that it is Beijing’s provocative measures that underscored India’s need to test its nuclear weapons at Pokharan in 1998. During the Cold War, the Chinese started developing nuclear weapons, in view of emerging threats coming from Washington and India (that time it was suspiciously looked upon as a Western imperialist agent by Beijing, where this doubt is prevalent even now .) New Delhi after its defeat in the 1962 War, suffered a huge economic catastrophe which led to heavy inflation, food crisis alongside the 1965 Pakistan conflict. During that period , New Delhi had just too many opportunity costs at that time due to a weakened economy and international image, made it difficult for the former to undertake immediate arms development at an earlier stage. Amidst periods that followed, multiple denouncement tactics were initiated by Beijing to prevent new aspirants such as India to join the nuclear club which the latter continued to work on post- the 1998 Tests.
When the Bush Administration agreed towards India’s access to critical nuclear technology in the future seen through the 2008 Indo-US Nuclear Deal ,where during the process, Beijing attempted to put barriers by mobilizing other countries through consensus building against American hegemony and biasness along with blaming Washington in pursuit of being partial while giving relaxation to certain aspirants on developing nuclear arsenal where these continuous efforts of deterring New Delhi to harness its military potential ,appeared to be fruitless later on .
India has always been a soft target when it comes to radicalism and separatist activities being used as proxy warfare tools in Kashmir promoted by Islamabad, home to some of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations like the Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-E-Taiba, JeM ( Jaish -E- Muhammad ).Beijing , a neutral and silent observer vis-a-vis the radical activities in Kashmir ,while catering to its own economic cum strategic interests had no other choice but to give in to the UN 1267 Sanction Committee and characterize Maulana Masood Azhar as a global terrorist where the former was completely isolated on this issue and didn’t receive global support on its stance on the declaration.
An all-weather convergence and engagement with Islamabad made it imperative for New Delhi to increase its engagement in the Indo-Pacific through partnerships such as the Quadrilateral Security Initiative where this convergence is widening even further vis-à-vis Beijing, being evident during unprecedented times like the Covid Pandemic, Doklam as well as the Galwan Standoff.
The author concludes with the Chinese being crafty negotiators, witnessed through their usage of perception creation, leading to it distracting one from timely adopting a plan strategically, making it essential for future risks to be tackled properly vis-a-vis China, having a history of ensuring censorship on its media so that the latter addresses its narrative
through a positive as well as a victimized tone internationally.
This writing gives a detailed insight about the ways persuasion, emotions were frequently being used by Beijing to show itself as a representative of weaker countries while the former is intending to bring them to do what it aspires through creating distraction from core issues and concerns regarding economy, territorial sovereignty later them being compelled to take sides of Beijing in whatever it aspires .As far as its dealing s with India is concerned, many previous mechanisms and discussions being at a stalemate for continuous periods seen through increased incursions on Sino-India border as far as a strategy adopted by a zero sum player is concerned .
Long Game is an important text when it comes to actual purposes of negotiations for a country in order to assert its interests through many means possible, witnessed through assessing the psyche of the weaker country and confusing it then the latter succumbing to the manipulation of the former, which factually could be observed through New Delhi’s misperceptions vis-à-vis China’s intentions in the past. In accordance to the changing global scenario, it is imperative for diplomats, academicians to assess the tactics of a belligerent before coming to any conclusion and decisions which also underscore the need for academic government institutions to be autonomous along with transparent decision-making playing a key role in foreign policy implementation.
This complex relationship between the Elephant and the Dragon makes this book a must read for international relations and foreign policy aspirant where the relationship filled with cooperation has a competition angle as well in multidimensional realms since countries have selfish interests and unlimited appetite for power where one adopts multiple means to achieve its ends.