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Nitasha Kaul – ‘Inbetween’ India and China: Bhutan’s International Relations
April 7, 2022 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Speaker: Nitasha Kaul, University of Westminster
Moderator: Arunabh Ghosh, Harvard University
The antagonistic relationship between India and China is marked by a high mutual threat perception, frequent hostilities along their shared border across the Himalayas and a demonstrable ineffectiveness of big power diplomacy in bringing about conciliatory understandings in spite of increasing volumes of trade between them. As a small Himalayan state, contemporary Bhutan is geopolitically mapped through an exhaustive and southward oriented “inbetweenness” (“inbetween India and China”) that is taken to be natural but in fact has shifted over the centuries. In this lecture, I first put forward a subaltern geopolitical perspective to first trace a longer imperial and post-colonial history of this inbetweenness and its effect on knowledge-making about smaller states. I then present the indigenous aspects of this small state’s foreign policy, suggesting that Bhutan’s foreign policy trajectory is important in both descriptive and analytical terms to better grasp the Indian and Chinese interests as they are negotiated by the Bhutanese, as opposed to accounts where Bhutan is constructed as a passive placeholder of great power politics.