Vijay Gokhale, The Long Game: How the Chinese Negotiate with India

AuthorSwati Singh
Published date01 January 2022
Date01 January 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
International Studies
59 (1) 103 –105, 2022
© 2022 Jawaharlal Nehru University
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DOI: 10.1177/00208817211064506
Book Review
Vijay Gokhale, The Long Game: How the Chinese Negotiate with India
(Penguin Random House, 2021), 200 pp. `397, ISBN: 9780670095605
International relations as a discipline is substantially enriched when seasoned
diplomats step into the world of academia. This holds to be true with the current
book under review, authored by former Foreign Secretary of India, Vijay Gokhale.
His experience in the Indian Foreign Services is a four-decade long story. His rich
knowledge is well displayed in this book, which encompasses a profound analysis
of diplomatic negotiations between India and China, explored through six
episodes, spanning from 1949 to 2019. These chapters pan out as a series of
carefully analysed case studies and the concluding chapter ‘Lessons for India’, is
an amalgamation of all the learnings throughout the seven decades.
For review sakes, the six chapters of the book can be bifurcated under two
heads, the bilateral diplomatic episodes entailing three issues, namely, the
recognition of People’s Republic of China (PRC; 1949), Tibet issue (1954) and
Sikkim’s accession to India (1975) and the multilateral diplomatic episodes
encompassing Pokhran nuclear tests (1998), the 123 civil nuclear deal (2008) and
listing of Masood Azhar in the United Nation’s 1267 committee (2019). This
bifurcation helps us to chart out and compare the changing styles of diplomacy on
the Indian and the Chinese sides.
In the course of bilateral diplomatic events, the author presents a meticulously
detailed trail of negotiations that took place between India and China, where he
notes an apparent contrast between the levels of preparation, use of tactics and
methods of negotiations between the two. The author attributes this disparity in
the diplomatic styles of the two Asian giants, to China’s ‘unbroken tradition of
diplomatic experience...with the Soviets, the Americans, and the Japanese through
1930s and 1940s’ as opposed to India’s ‘little hands-on knowledge of the conduct
of diplomacy’ (p. 21). During the recognition of PRC, the author points out that
India’s weaknesses were a few. India gave up its higher ground due to a self-
imposed pressure of timing, ‘to recognise PRC before any other commonwealth
nation did, to avoid being seen as a camp-follower’ (p. 12) and a ‘lackey of
capitalist bloc’, as the Chinese media had been projecting. In doing so, India
‘squandered its first-mover advantage’ (p. 21), by approaching China and allowing
them to set the agenda of the meeting, whereas China ensured that India severed
all its ties with Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (nationalists) and did not
bandwagon with Americans, against the PRC.

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