Cold Peace: China-India Rivalry in the 21st Century


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In partnership with South Asia Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

When: Feb 20 2014 - 10:30am until Feb 20 2014 - 12:00pm
Where: 1819 L St, NW, Washington, DC. Sixth Floor Conference Room

Cold Peace: China-India Rivalry in the 21st Century

An Asia Pacific Security Seminar and Book Launch :

Jeff M. Smith
Director of South Asia Programs, Kraemer Strategy Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

Director of South Asia Programs and Kraemer Strategy Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, Jeff M. Smith, explained the complex relationship between India and China in his book talk at the East-West Center in Washington.

Mr. Jeff M. Smith launched his latest book, Cold Peace: China–India Rivalry in the Twenty-First Century (Lexington Books, 2014) at the East-West Center in Washington. Through rare and unique field research from the disputed China–India border in the Himalayas to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; and over 100 interviews with experts, government officials, and military officers in India, China, and the United States, the book seeks to unravel the complex layers of the contemporary China–India rivalry. In his talk, Smith shared some of his insights into what is fast becoming one of the most important relationships in Asia and the world at large.

He began by putting the India-China rivalry framework in perspective: it is not a rivalry of equals. China is about as far ahead of India, Smith explained, as the US is ahead of China. Therefore threat perceptions differ. India sees China as its greatest future external threat, while India is perhaps a second-tier concern to China strategically. Although this rivalry is not as emotionally charged as that between China and Japan and the two governments enjoy a fair bit of diplomatic amity, changes in both countries' strategic outlook as their growing spheres of influence increasingly overlap are leading to greater tension between them.

According to Smith, key among the factors leading to deteriorating ties is the disputed land border between India and China; among the longest, and most militarized, contested borderlands in the world. Despite over 50 sets of talks since the 1980s, officials are pessimistic of resolution. Recent provocations such as the infiltration and two-week encampment of Chinese forces into Indian territory have stoked anger in the sub-continent and rekindled memories of the 1960s border war. Meanwhile in China, issues related to Tibet have been a chief security concern, particularly the imminent succession of the current Dalai Lama, who operates the Tibetan government in exile out of Northern India.

While tensions over the India and China's close proximity in the North have been extant for decades, encroachment on each other's space in the maritime sphere is phase to the rivalry. China is increasingly concerned over India's rapidly developing naval capabilities, and its control over the sea lanes that carry a bulk of its oil and gas imports from the Middle East. At the same time, China's naval movements into the Indian Ocean, nominally to help combat piracy, are making India nervous as well. 

As geographic proximity contributes to the rivalry, Smith also noted the importance of actions as well. Water use issues, visa disputes and third-party balancing are just a few of the areas where as the grievances pile up and public opinion is soured against the other, the window of opportunity for Indian and Chinese officials to settle long-standing disputes and improve relations may be closing.

Mr. Jeff M. Smith is the Director of South Asia Programs and the Kraemer Strategy Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC). In addition to authoring Cold Peace, he is a contributing author to two books being released in 2014: India-US Partnership: Asian Challenges and Beyond (Wisdom Tree, 2014) and an edited volume covering security dynamics in the China-India-U.S. trilateral relationship due out this summer. Smith is also the Co-Editor of the 1,100-page World Almanac of Islamism 2014 (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014). Jeff has testified as an expert witness before congress and his writings have appeared in Foreign Policy, the Wall Street Journal, and CNN among others. He has been a featured guest on the BBC, CBS, CNBC, and Fox News. Mr. Smith received his MPIA from the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Grace Ruch Clegg
Phone: 202-327-9762