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TheFractured Himalaya

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Nirupama Menon Rao is a former Indian Foreign Secretary (2009-2011) and was Ambassador of India t... Read More

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Nirupama Menon Rao is a former Indian Foreign Secretary (2009-2011) and was Ambassador of India to China (2006-2009) and to the United States (2011-2013). She was High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka from 2004 to 2006 and also served as Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs from 2001 to 2002. During her diplomatic career, she spent significant time working on the bilateral relationship between India and China and specialized on the history and problems concerning the India-China border, and the question of Tibet. In retirement, she has taught at Brown and Columbia Universities, and was a Pacific Leadership Fellow at the University of California at San Diego. She is currently a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. Rao is also the founder of the South Asian Symphony Orchestra, a project to promote dialogue and habits of cooperation among young South Asians and the South Asian diaspora, through music.

A deep dive into understanding India-China relations

Why did India and China go to war in 1962? What propelled Jawaharlal Nehru's 'vision' of China? Why is it necessary to understand the trans-Himalayan power play of India and China in the formative period
of their nationhoods? The past shadows the present in this relationship and shapes current policy options, strongly influencing public debate in India to this day.
Nirupama Rao, a former Foreign Secretary of India, unknots this intensely complex saga of the early years of the India-China relationship. As a diplomat-practitioner, Rao's telling is based not only on archival material from India, China, Britain and the United States, but also on a deep personal knowledge of China, where she served as India's Ambassador. In addition, she brings a practitioner's keen eye to the labyrinth of negotiations and official interactions that took place between the two countries from 1949 to 1962.
The Fractured Himalaya looks at the inflection points when the trajectory of diplomacy between these two nations could have course-corrected but did not. Importantly, it dwells on the strategic dilemma posed by Tibet in relations between India and China-a dilemma that is far from being resolved. The question of Tibet is closely interwoven into the fabric of this history. It also turns the searchlight on the key personalities involved-Jawaharlal Nehru, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and the 14th Dalai Lama-and their interactions as the tournament of those years was played out, moving step by closer step to the conflict of 1962.

With elegance, authority and a prodigious amount of research, Menon Rao tells us how a mountainous wasteland in the Himalayas once viewed as just a 'blank place on the map' became a field of combat between India and China in 1962. As the two nations find themselves again in conflict, hers is a cautionary tale worth heeding.Ambassador Nirupama Rao has written a brilliant and fascinating narrative of India's road to war with China in 1962. In this tragic decade-long saga of missed opportunities, with each side misreading the other, Ambassador Rao has mined the archives to disentangle the complicated story of how minor divisions and disagreements between these two countries that would have been easy to resolve early on were allowed to fester and grow, until they culminated in an unnecessary and fruitless war, which left both sides diminished. This is a book full of profound and revealing insights about the making of foreign policy, constant reminders that even the wisest of statesmen can find themselves blinded by hope and fall prey to their own illusions.This is a study that is thoroughly researched, scrupulously argued, fair-minded and elegantly written. It combines the historian's rigor with the practitioner's insight as well as a sane appreciation of the benefits and limits of hindsight. The book deserves a wide readership, especially in light of where we are with China today.Fluent, analytical, and wise, Nirupama Rao's book is a tour de force. This is the most readable, informed, and documented account of India-China relations in the Nehru years. One of India's most seasoned and scholarly diplomats, Rao vividly lays bare the thinking and decision-making of Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese leaders leading up to the war of 1962.A rare gem of a book that combines deep scholarship with felicitous writing. Nirupama Menon Rao's unique knowledge and experience brings to life and makes accessible the important triangular interplay between India, Tibet and China which had such significant effects on all three polities and peoples, and on Asia as a whole, which still resonate to this day. As relations between the three polities are being recast and contested again, there is no better guide than Nirupama Rao to show us how the past illuminates the future. Her book is essential reading for an understanding of this part of the world.In The Fractured Himalaya, Nirupama Menon Rao has written a compelling, insightful, detailed history of how India and newly-Communist China dealt with one another in their earliest years, from the friendship of the early 1950s to the 1962 war. Her account is full of insights about the leading figures, from Nehru to Sardar Patel in India to Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai to, above all, the current Dalai Lama, whom the author interviewed at length about Tibet in the 1950's and the sequence of events leading up to his flight from Lhasa. This is both an authoritative history and a smooth-reading narrative.Combining deep research with an engaging literary style, this book is a must read for anyone interested in India's foreign and defence policies.

Nirupama Rao has written a fascinating and deeply researched history of the interactions among India, Tibet and China during the short thirteen years between the founding of the PRC (1949) and the India-China War (1962), as their initial desire for 'brotherly friendship' deteriorated into military confrontation.
Rao utilizes her unique perspective as a historian-diplomat with years of experience dealing with China to explain the logic behind the decisions of the key players in the drama, especially the tragic hero of the story, Jawaharlal Nehru. The book provides crucial lessons from history to guide contemporary efforts to preserve peace between these two rising Asian powers.

Nirupama Rao, uniquely combining stellar diplomatic experience and deep scholarship, provides profound insights into why the initially-friendly relations between Communist China and Democratic India gave way to the Chinese invasion of 1962. With the two giants confronting each other anew, this fabulous book is indispensable reading.In her book The Fractured Himalaya, Ambassador Nirupama Rao draws on an unprecedented diversity of sources, primary and secondary, to provide amazing breadth of analysis and insight on the history of India's relations with China covering the period from 1947 to 1962. Rao is erudite, multi-textured and highly nuanced. Her sensitive and balanced portrayal of the complex relationships between various key actors during this complicated period of Asia's early post-colonial history is truly impressive. A definitive work.The Fractured Himalaya is a deeply researched, critical and lucid discussion of the complex diplomatic processes that led to the Sino-Indian war of 1962, identifying much that has been overlooked or misread. More importantly, it requires us to engage with the multiple perspectives that shaped the decisions and calculations of policy-makers on all sides at the time. This leads it to be not just a highly readable historical analysis, but also a detailed demonstration of the intellectual rigour and breadth that are needed if policy practitioners and analysts are ever to resolve major conflicts or balance competing national interests. With its emphasis on the necessity of maintaining highly informed but flexible approaches in policy-making, alongside its attention to borders as zones of connection rather than as dividing lines, it should be required reading for all interested in the study or practice of diplomacy and international negotiation.This elegantly written book illuminates the dark corners of the India-China relationship in its foundational period - from the birth of a Communist China to a war that inflicted defeat on India. It is especially relevant today, as tensions and clashes on the border have returned. Why were the two Asian giants, both emerging from the shadow of imperialist control, unable to solve their border dispute? We learn that Mao craftily combined anti-imperialism with nationalism, as Nehru sought to turn his anti-imperialism into an attempt at post-imperial, anti-war high-mindedness, an attempt that eventually failed. Combining meticulous archival research with the subtle gaze of a professional diplomat, Nirupama Rao has produced a historical account that compels reflection and deserves wide readership.Anyone who wishes to understand the geostrategic complexities of the high Himlayas and the origins of the India-China rivalry must read this book. An extraordinary work of historical scholarship, which richly sourced based on a range of government archives and interviews with key players, Ambassador Nirupama Rao's expose is elegantly written and offers nuanced texture to the origins of Sino-Indian frictions during the 1950s-1960s that still resonate today. Not only are the territorial, border, diplomatic, and security dimensions carefully dealt with, but she reveals the centrality of the Tibet issue (which is not well understood). A signal accomplishment that should be carefully read by all concerned.

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