For a book that is fundamentally about hope, Philippe Sands’s The Last Colony is a depressing read, not just its in its tale of colonial injustice, but also in its recounting of the US and Britain’s refusal to abide by the norms, the “rules-based order”, that they demand of others. “One rule for you, another for us?” as Sands succinctly puts it.
In May 2022, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, outlined the Biden administration’s approach to the People’s Republic of China. Blinken closed by speaking directly to the Chinese people, vowing “We’ll compete with confidence; we’ll cooperate wherever we can; we’ll contest where we must.” Between Blinken’s maxim and the actual conduct of foreign policy lie countless trade-offs, debates, and decisions. Scott Moore is familiar with those details, having lived in China before serving in the State Department’s Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs. His new book, China’s Next Act, offers guidance for how the US should decide when to cooperate and when to compete with China.
India is home to more than 200,000 refugees in India today including Afghans, Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Rohingya and more. Yet almost counterintuitively, the Indian government is highly skeptical of international refugee mechanisms designed to help conditions for refugees. India has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and has been widely criticized for its treatment of Muslim refugees. Ria Kapoor argues in Making Refugees in India that India’s complex relationship with refugees is “born of the world of European empires and a colonialism carried on by self-determined post-colonial states.” How a post-colonial India ended up repeating imperial policies regarding refugees requires an appreciation of India’s refugee policy from the Raj to the modern day.
We often neglect the Indian Ocean when we talk about our macro-level models of geopolitics, global economics or grand strategy—often in favor of the Atlantic or the Pacific. Yet the Indian Ocean—along whose coasts live a third of humanity—may be a better vehicle to understand how our world is changing.
In 2019, that watershed year just before the onset of Covid-19, a protest movement erupted on the Indian subcontinent in response to two new laws introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The first, a revision to the Citizenship Act of 1955, with changes to conditions for asylum conditions designed to specifically exclude Muslims; the second law required Indians to provide proof of ancestry, if and when asked by local state authorities, essentially enabling and encouraging discrimination against minority and oppressed groups. The passage of these laws was interpreted by those on the left as only one part of the Modi regime’s ongoing efforts at erasing the Muslim history of the Indian subcontinent.
Much like countries, regions are man-made, prone to arbitrary borders reflecting the priorities of long dead statesmen. In the 19th century, French leaders discovered “Latin America” as they sought to expand their influence in the Western hemisphere. The American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized the “Middle East” in a book that guided generations of naval officers. At the dawn of a multipolar world order, it seems likely that some “new” region might come to embody its anxieties and ambitions. Beyond Liberal Order, a recent collection of essays edited by Harry Verhoeven and Anatol Lieven, offers the “Global Indian Ocean” as the geographical unit ripe with insight for our age.
With the demand for books describing the rise of China and regional dynamics in Asia, more and more translations of works from Asian thinkers have been making it into English. Back in 2015, Shiraishi Takashi, professor and prominent foreign policy commentator in the daily newspapers of Japan, gave a series of influential lectures that were collected and edited into a book. Maritime Asia vs Continental Asia: National Strategies in a Region of Change presents a framework for examining the changing political environment in Asia.