India’s former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale in his new book Crosswinds offers a fascinating account of India’s diplomacy in four specific events during 1949 through 1959: the formal recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Indochina War, and the two Taiwan Strait crises. India’s diplomatic role was encouraged by the British and Chinese, but mostly disdained by the Americans who came to view India as too partial to China and unappreciative of the US goal of containing communism in Asia. Gokhale believes that the events of that decade can shed some light on the current US-China confrontation in the South China Sea, and India’s role in today’s geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific.  

There is much about the way international relations is framed—from the so-called rules-based order to the nation-state itself—that has its origins in the Western history, philosophy and experience. It stands to reason that the traditional view might not map very well onto two non-Western countries an order of magnitude larger than almost any other in the original dataset. In his new book Civilization-States of China and India, Ravi Dutt Bajpai posits that India and China are something other than “nation states”.