RETHINKING BORDERS IN CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: THE INDIAN EXPERIENCE

Seminar organised by the MLSIAPA and Jawaharlal Nehru University

16th November 2007

New Delhi

 

Prof. Varun Sahni

 

Prof. Sahni opening up the theoretical debate on borders said that borders constitute very unusual entities. More importantly, India has not used history in identifying the borders. In that sense, India is pre-modern.

 

Prof. k. warikoo

 

Prof. Warikoo talking on Himalayan borders said that there exists an Indian cultural influence on the Indo-Himalayan region. The merging borders of China, India, Pakistan and Tibet in the Himalayas have lent a unique character to the Himalayan region. Independent India however lost sight of all this cultural heritage.

 

devika sharma

 

Borders are still relevant in contemporary international politics because nations continue to demand territorial states, because territorial conflicts remain protracted in nature and moreover because globalisation and its related processes are still rooted in a fixed territory. Terrorism is creating different kind of borders altogether. In terms of theorising the borders, we can see that borders are not only politico-military in nature they are also cultural and metaphysical. This constructivist reading of border allows us to search for change in international politics. This is because realism sees borders in a static manner and liberal-institutionalists do not look at border as such even though they envision co-operation across borders. In case of India, the independence brought with it what can be called as ‘cartographic anxiety’. The horrors of partition, the challenge of nation-building led to a conceptualisation of a border forever under threat from enemies within and without. 

 

Dr. Swaran Singh

 

Discussing the changing dynamics of border negotiations between India and China, Dr. Singh said that Himalayas are the youngest mountains where most of the territory itself is largely inhospitable. This implies that there are no histories, no habitation and no folklore. Both India and China inherited their history of territoriality from the Europeans. However in the changed times, India and China can make their Line of Actual Control as international border. Borders are becoming irrelevant for the states who are increasingly becoming self-confident about their ability to manage things.

 

Dr. D. Suba Chandran

 

India’s boundary with Pakistan from Gujarat to Siachen covers every known geographical feature. What is important to remember is that the legal aspect of traffic movement across the border is miniscule when compared to the illegal aspect. India’s policy has been to maintain the status quo and make the borders soft by way of starting the new bus service, railway lines etc. Interestingly two views prevail within the government over this issue- while the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of External Affairs want to move forward, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence want to take things slowly. Also, the lack of coordination between the security agencies managing the areas on the border makes matters difficult. Yet, time has come now for India to make the borders irrelevant.

 

Prof. P.R. Chari

 

It is difficult to imagine a region where border disputes have been resolved except Europe. At a conceptual level, the Sino-Indian border disputes come about because of historical realities. Whereas, India-Pakistan dispute arises out of partition.