How India Became Territorial: Foreign Policy, Diaspora, Geopolitics

How India Became Territorial: Foreign Policy, Diaspora, Geopolitics

How India Became Territorial: Foreign Policy, Diaspora, Geopolitics

How India Became Territorial: Foreign Policy, Diaspora, Geopolitics

Synopsis

Why do countries go to war over disputed lands? Why do they fight even when the territories in question are economically and strategically worthless? Drawing on critical approaches to international relations, political geography, international law, and social history, and based on a close examination of the Indian experience during the 20th century, Itty Abraham addresses these important questions and offers a new conceptualization of foreign policy as a state territorializing practice.

Identifying the contested process of decolonization as the root of contemporary Asian inter-state territorial conflicts, he explores the political implications of establishing a fixed territorial homeland as a necessary starting point for both international recognition and national identity-concluding that disputed lands are important because of their intimate identification with the legitimacy of the postcolonial nation-state, rather than because of their potential for economic gains or their place in historic grievances.

By treating Indian diaspora policy and geopolitical practice as exemplars of foreign policy behavior, Abraham demonstrates how their intersection offers an entirely new way of understanding India's vexed relations with Pakistan and China. This approach offers a new and productive way of thinking about foreign policy and inter-state conflicts over territory in Asia-one that is non-U.S. and non-European focused-that has a number of implications for regional security and for foreign policy practices in the contemporary postcolonial world.

Excerpt

This project effectively began over a decade ago when I started work on a series of articles on the historic Bandung conference of 1955, seen from the vantage point of its fiftieth anniversary. I had always taken for granted that Bandung was a singular moment in world history: the moment when newly independent leaders of Asia and Africa collectively articulated their own path to world peace in the face of global resistance. Once I began to read the primary documents related to this event, I was surprised to find that the first Asia-Africa conference was much more—and less—than its dominant representation. Bandung is usually positioned in relation to the future, as the event that led to the founding of the nonaligned movement. I came to the opposite conclusion. Not only was it an event where disagreement and conflict told us more than agreement, its significance could not be fully appreciated until set in the context of prior multicultural political gatherings I was only barely aware of. Fault lines—ethnic, religious, racial, and civilizational—made visible through the conference discussions went well beyond the usual tropes of Cold War politics and China’s arrival on the world scene and pointed to structures of hierarchy and exclusion that conventional accounts of international relations rarely addressed. I began to see Bandung as the culmination of a series of little-known “international” events that sought to confront and overcome global political subjection and racial division. I started to read more widely in the international history of the immediate postwar period, only to find myself going back into the Dark Ages of the twentieth century until I reached World . . .

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