A veritable explosion in books offering China-India comparisons is a sign of the times. The two Asian giants offer strong similarities and contrasts, which belies an approximate 5-to-1 difference in the size of their economies. And it is the blend of contestation and cooperation in their relationship that intrigues researchers, in scanning the future for Asia and world affairs.
In a comprehensive introductory chapter, Professor TV Paul calls this relationship a ‘managed rivalry’, and searches for a theory that might capture ‘the dynamics of this rivalry’. He focuses on a ‘growing asymmetrical interdependence’ between China and India. He is intrigued that China’s rapid rise in the post-Cold War era did not produce a decline in its relationship with India. A short answer to that is of course the interplay of other major power relationships, and a need for each player in this dynamic, multi-dimensional global game to find its own balancing equations with other major powers, in order to maximize opportunities for itself.
Paul contrasts two dyads, China-India and India-Pakistan, declaring that unlike in the former, ‘Pakistan, the weaker party in the India-Pakistan rivalry, steadfastly opposes any economic concessions or deep interactions with India…there is no vigorous challenger in the China-India dyad, unlike in the India-Pakistan dyad…’ (pp. 5-6). In South Asia, the term ‘dyad’ is not widely used, except among academics, while it is used to describe a two-state cluster, it also implies a connection between that pair (one dictionary definition speaks of a ‘sociologically significant relationship’1). In the case of India-Pakistan, the cultural, linguistic and ethnic connections are profound; it is those connections that add much to mutual bitterness and emotion between the two, as with any ‘family’ dispute. This element also needs consideration. One may also add that the analysis presented in this book does not go to the next connected and important point that Pakistan’s actions go much beyond a vigorous challenge to India. In fact, this country has become a global hub of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist sponsorship, threatening not just India but also Afghanistan and the wider region; this deserves attention. For Paul, India is developing Chabahar port in Iran ‘in a bid to circumvent Pakistan’ (p. 4); a more complete statement might have noted Pakistan’s denial of land-transit facilities for India to access Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Besides the Introduction, the book has three parts. Part II consists of six chapters that look at different sources of China-India rivalry, while Part III examines the strategic dimension of the relationship; Part IV looks at the ‘mitigators’, namely the impact of trade and investments, and the international engagement of the two. The final chapter offers conclusions. Part II opens with Mukesh Shankar’s essay on territory and the China-India dispute. Challenges to its resolution are ‘real’ and include ‘rivalry dynamics (however asymmetrical), status concerns, historical memory and domestic politics’; he calls the dispute ‘at the same time both intractable and manageable’ (p. 34). Shankar calls Tibet ‘an additional dimension to the territorial disagreements between China and India’ (p. 36); AS Bhasin’s archival document study shows that Tibet became in fact central to that dispute.2 The essay adds: ‘following the  war diplomatic ties with China were broken by New Delhi and it took another two decades for the two sides to even attempt to re-establish a certain level of civil normality between each other’ (p. 45). The facts are different. Owing to deteriorating relations, India withdrew its ambassador from Beijing in August 1961, and China followed suit shortly thereafter. Though the two countries sent back their ambassadors only in 1976, full diplomatic relations subsisted throughout this period and each country was ably represented in the other capital. Further, between September 1961 and December 1963, Premier Zhou Enlai had 11 substantive meetings with the Indian Chargé affairs, PK Banerjee, using him as the major communication channel with India.3 After the 1962 war, substantive bilateral dialogue continued, and this played a role during the 1971 Bangladesh War. This is a gratuitous inaccuracy in a fine essay.
Again and again, the book deals with the paradox of interstate rivalry between China and India, partly mitigated by growing mutual cooperation, in which new elements of mutual antipathy also emerge, to add further complications. This produces shifting images, and ambiguous outcomes. One chapter looks at the asymmetry in international status between China and India, offering the conclusion that mutual rivalry on this count can be mitigated, because status is not simply a zero-sum game. Another looks at the views of each on the international order. It becomes evident that in contrast to China’s official statements on its global goals, Indian views are couched in indirect language, to be gleaned from dispersed statements and from analytical writing by scholars. India simply does not unambiguously set out either its foreign policy strategic objectives or its international order prescriptions.