India-China Relations in the Age of Xi Jinping

Chinese and Indian troops at standoff at India's border with Bhutan in summer 2017; India's Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi meet

The leaders of China and India, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, have nationalist tendencies with a pragmatic bend. Varying economic growth for the two rival nations and contrasting systems of governance – one increasingly authoritarian and the other democratic – have given China the upper hand as a power broker in Asia, suggests Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary of India and a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. China is taking a conciliatory approach for the time being due to unpredictability in the global economy and regional security. Saran analyzes how leadership influences the Chinese-Indian relationship: Xi and Modi rely on leader-to-leader engagement and focus on a “strategic and global dimension” beyond typical dynamics of bilateral relations. Both men explore numerous areas where compromise can be pursued, allowing both emerging powers to focus on pressing matters at home and abroad during a period of great uncertainty. – YaleGlobal

India’s Indian Ocean Challenge

 Indian Premier Narendra Modi with James Alexis Michel, president of Seychelles, during a 2015 visit, and a bridge crossing ocean waters to the Maldives airport, built by China, nears completion

Framed by Africa and Asia, the Indian Ocean is a potential source of global growth, already carrying two thirds of the world’s oil shipments and half the container traffic. China and India increasingly compete in the region, country by country, though local politics and resentments over tourism, trade or labor can derail efforts. India discovered this in the Seychelles after a deal on building a navy base on Assumption Island fell apart. “India’s attempt to gain a foothold in the western Indian Ocean may have suffered a temporary setback, but it won’t be the last of such attempts,” explains Harsh V Pant. “Competition for influence in the Indian Ocean is heating up with China and India both mapping out respective strategies.” China could take a lead with its extensive Belt and Road Initiative, but some partners are increasingly concerned about debt associated with the infrastructure investment. Potential partners leverage their opportunities, and Pant concludes that with a rapidly shifting strategic landscape, both countries must meet expectations or lose credibility as regional powers. – YaleGlobal

Environmental engineering students work in India for better water

A group of Yale students working with an Indian scientist in Hyderabad.

The humanitarian trips that students in Professor Jaehong Kim’s course “Environmental Technology in the Developing World” take each spring break have become an established tradition at Yale. For the most recent trip, there were a few new twists.

After a few years of traveling to Nicaragua, the course brought students for the first time to India. There, they worked with a for-profit company — another first for the class. Kim, the seven students, and two teaching assistants worked with Water Health International (WHI), based in Hyderabad, India. The company operates small-scale community water treatment systems and sells treated water to consumers, who cart away water in jars for a small fee.

It is a great humanitarian operation, but they still make money,” said Kim, professor and chair of the Department Chemical and Environmental Engineering. “It’s a very interesting and eye-opening experience to see such an operation, not only for me, but for the students. They learn that environmental engineering is, of course, about helping people, but it also has a business component to it as well.”


Conference on Identities in Contemporary Afghanistan

This two-day conference at Yale University, held from 13-14 April 2018, will investigate identities in contemporary Afghanistan. Social organization in Afghanistan is complex with interwoven identities based on religion, ethnicity, regional identity and political affiliation—amongst others—deeply entrenched by a legacy of conflict, processes of state formation and other broad historical forces.

The US-led intervention and the socio-political forces it has unleashed have triggered a period of significant social re-organization and change in Afghanistan. For example, new modes of government have led to shifting ethnic relations. Traditional forms of masculinity and femininity are being contested by imported Western conceptions of gendered identity and sexuality. Contemporary manifestations of Afghan nationalism engender new forms of national identity that, in turn, intersect and interact with emerging ethnic and regional identities. In addition, ‘new’ forms of identity have gained traction in present-day Afghanistan, including the growing distinction between ‘returnees’ and those who remained in-country during the recent decades of conflict. Class relations and associated modes of distinction have grown in importance in rural areas of the country and in previously impoverished communities. And, the salience of generational membership—in the context of a rapidly modernizing and increasingly educated youth—has become increasingly important.

The conference welcomes scholars to New Haven, Connecticut for the purposes of presenting papers and engaging in scholarly dialogue. Through a series of panels, speakers will present and discuss topics relating to identity, intersectionality, social organization and change in contemporary Afghanistan. The conference will be a public event in which proceedings will be enjoyed by Yale faculty and students and members of the public.

This conference is made possible with a grant from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund, and funding from the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. Additional financial support has been provided by both the South Asian Studies Council and Council on Middle East Studies at the MacMillan Center and the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies. Funded in part by a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant.

Once Excluded From the Club, India Pursues Global Status as a Nuclear Power

Looking for invitation to the club: Having developed its own intercontinental ballistic missile, India seeks entry to the global Missile Technology Control Regime, while rival China parades its own ICBMs

India tested its first nuclear device in 1974 and then in 1998 conducted three nuclear tests, defying an international ban and prompting condemnation. India’s experiences over the next two decades demonstrate the futility of restrictions against a very determined nation, explains independent security consultant Debalina Ghoshal. The country overcame international barriers to develop sophisticated long-range missiles that could deliver a nuclear payload to distant targets. India also developed a reputation for practicing non-proliferation and securing its nuclear stockpile. Reports confirm the country has applied for membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime – an informal and voluntary association that began in 1987 and later presented barriers to India’s missile development. The association now includes 35 countries that share the goal of non-proliferation of unmanned systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. Having succeeded in overcoming barriers and building its own missiles, India wants to join the regime to continue building a nonproliferation reputation and also develop export markets for missiles and defense systems in Southeast and West Asia, especially for countries that seek to counter China. – YaleGlobal


Yale eye doctor set his sights on volunteer mission to Nepal

Christopher Teng examines the eyes of a Nepali villager

For two weeks in December 2017, Yale ophthalmologist Christopher Teng participated in a medical mission to provide free eye care to villagers in Nepal, a country that was devastated by an earthquake just two years prior. The trip was co-sponsored by Operation Restore Vision and Dooley Intermed, nonprofits dedicated to providing vision care in underdeveloped countries. YaleNews talked to Teng about his trip, which involved trekking on foot for two days to reach patients in a remote region of the Himalayan nation that still bore signs of the natural disaster. The following conversation has been edited.

Sino-Indian Jostling in South Asia

Relations between Asia’s two most populous nations deteriorated over the course of 2017 as both compete over building regional influence. India has questioned China’s motives with the Belt and Road Initiative as well as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Also, China and India had a standoff at the tri-junction of borders with Bhutan. In December, China hosted a trilateral meeting with foreign ministers of Afghanistan and India’s rival Pakistan. “Over the years China has managed to tighten its economic bonds with India’s neighbors,” explains Harsh V Pant, a distinguished fellow at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi and professor of international relations, King’s College London, and he provides examples from the Maldives and Nepal. Smaller nations often try leveraging the larger powers against one another. But providing support does not always go smoothly. For example, Pakistan expresses concerns about debt and conditions, and resists Chinese assistance for a major dam project. “Growing voices in Pakistan suggest that China may be a bigger beneficiary from CPEC than Pakistan,” Pant notes. Geography certainly helps determine influence, and Pant urges leaders of India to “manage not only its immediate neighborhood with greater strategic vision but also monitor China’s growing clout in South Asia.” – YaleGlobal

Can a Bus Ticket Prevent Seasonal Hunger?

In many parts of the rural developing world, a lack of jobs for agricultural workers in the months between planting and harvest creates a lean season at a predictable time each year. The nonprofit Evidence Action estimates that each year, some 600 million people experience this seasonal hunger.

Government and charitable programs can temper the impact, but they are costly and aren’t a solution to the core issue—a lack of work opportunities. Mushfiq Mobarak, a development economist at Yale SOM who often uses field experiments as a way to develop and test welfare-improving interventions, designed a program that offered round-trip bus tickets to agricultural workers, so they could migrate temporarily to cities where there was work. In Bangladesh, the $11 investment provided remarkable returns for the workers, their families, and their communities.

Growing Inequality Dulls India’s Sheen

India has enjoyed spectacular growth since 1990, but the nation’s wealth is concentrated and not trickling down to most people. “The surging economic growth has improved living conditions of its citizens, but these improvements were not uniformly distributed among India’s diverse population,” explains Riaz Hassan, visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore and director of the International Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding at the University of South Australia. “Despite being among the richest countries in the world, India has attracted negative attention in recent years as the second most unequal country in the world, after Russia.” About 80 percent of India’s wealth is controlled by just 10 percent of the population and 60 percent by 1 percent. India’s challenges are rooted in the traditional caste system. Hassan concludes by reminding that widening inequality threatens societies by shrinking the middle class along with democratic systems and culture while increasing the potential for conflict. – YaleGlobal

Ashish Koul talks about Muslim Arains: reform and social mobility in colonial Punjab.

Ashish Koul is a Singh Postdoctoral Associate in the Council on South Asian Studies at the MacMillan Center. Her work focuses on caste, Islam, and politics in South Asia, with law and gender as components within that framework. We talk with Professor Koul about her essay, “Making new Muslim Arains: reform and social mobility in colonial Punjab, 1890s-1910s.”