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India’s strategic culture features three broad schools of thought – Nehruvianism, neo-liberal globalism, and hyper-realism. Nehruvianism was dominant until Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister (1947-1964). It was succeeded by a form of hyper-realism under Indira Gandhi. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, presided over a grand strategy that was closer to neo-liberal globalist preferences. Until 2013, when the first major India-China confrontation in decades occurred, the Rajiv grand strategy held sway. Gradually, under Narendra Modi, India has shifted course back towards a more hyper-realist path. India’s strategy towards China can be mapped in phases corresponding to those grand strategic preferences. How sustainable is a hyper-realist posture towards China? It is perhaps not surprising that India has moved towards a more hyper-realist strategy towards China given the growing power asymmetry between the two countries. Other drivers of the relationship – perceptions of each other, the border quarrel, and their diplomatic-strategic partnerships with third parties – do continue to shape the relationship, but increasingly it is the power asymmetry that matters. Closing the power gap has become central to India’s policy. The talk will draw on the speaker’s recent book, India Versus China: Why They are Not Friends (2021) and his earlier work on Indian strategic thought.


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