When balance of power meets globalization: China, India and the small states of South Asia

Published date01 February 2019
Date01 February 2019
Subject MatterSpecial Section Articles
2019, Vol. 39(1) 50 –63
© The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0263395718779930
When balance of power
meets globalization:
China, India and the small
states of South Asia
TV Paul
McGill University, Canada
This article addresses the research question: how have most small states of South Asian region
managed to acquire substantial amount of investment from China and India without falling into the
strategic orbit of either power? This is an anomaly because most structural theories, in particular
neorealism, would expect small states not to have much power and influence on their own in
their relationship with powerful states. I answer this puzzle by arguing that the limited competition
between China and India in an era of intensified economic globalization has provided a window
of opportunity to small states to maximize their returns from the two without upsetting their
relationship with either in a big way. This short-term bargaining window has been facilitated by the
managed rivalry and economic interdependence between China and India which is yet to become
an intense strategic rivalry. The article cautions that as the Chinese and Indian ambitions in the
Indo-Pacific collide, the smaller states may be asked to make choices akin to bandwagoning with
either one, in particular by offering military bases and naval facilities. This development, if it occurs,
will drastically affect the bargaining power of the smaller states.
balancing, China, India, South Asia
Received: 11th October 2017; Revised version received: 5th February 2018; Accepted: 10th April 2018
Dominant international relations (IR) perspectives on balance of power and state behav-
iour are heavily focused on the European and United States–Soviet historical experience
of yesteryears. The European model emerged out of a material condition of the colonial/
imperial era and the Cold War rivalry and alliance system, although international institu-
tions, democracy and economic interdependence helped shape the model in the post-
World War II era. The realist conception of balancing, relying on arms buildup and
Corresponding author:
TV Paul, Department of Political Science, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, QC
H3A 2T7, Canada.
Email: t.paul@mcgill.ca
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