The Long Game: How the Chinese negotiate with India – Book Review

Politically, the world has many serpents. Not all of them are lucky enough to be venomous. But the one with the most poisonous fangs, influences the group of other serpents.

When we see the world has more than one serpent, there comes a conflict. How easy is to solve such conflicts between the two? Either by a war or by a dialogue! Dialogue is no way less than war, as it requires similar tactics and arriving at similar conclusions. These serpents have a habitual action of breaking treaties, while admonishing others. I am reviewing a book which describes the complexity of negotiation between two such Asian snakes – India and China.

Name of the book: The Long Game: How the Chinese negotiate with India
Author: Vijay Gokhale
Genre: Political/External Affairs
Borrow in NLB
Buy from Amazon
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0670095605
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0670095605

About the book

The Long Game‘ presents a chronology of Indian relation with Chinese Government and the Communist Party of China. It has seven interesting chapters which includes the following.

  • How the newly formed Indian republic was in a hurry to recognize Chinese communists, who had toppled the previous nationalistic Government.
  • How India lost its privileges over Tibet without gaining anything.
  • How India was able to overcome Chinese plot to isolate it after Pokhran nuclear tests.
  • How China delayed recognizing the annexation of Sikkim and India persuaded them to agree.
  • How India got access to nuclear energy sources by limiting Chinese tactics to keep India away.
  • How China delayed and how India was able to get its approval to sanction Masood Azhar at the UN.
  • And finally, the extract of author’s best practices.

Why do I recommend this book?

When I was in a shopping center on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, I liked a ladies bag. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I could purchase in this universe. The seller sensed it. He did not reduce a single penny. My colleague said that I should not have expressed my eagerness to buy the product. When the seller senses the pulse of the buyer, he will not reduce his price.

The way India recognized China after the communists of China toppled the Government and took over the crown. They were in need of international recognition. India, lead by Jawaharlal Nehru, wanted to ‘join the asian jyoti‘ and offered all his support to the Government formed by the insurgents, without any benefit to the Indian side. Nehru and his ambassador negotiated as I did, with the Bangkok Bag seller. It was a one-sided love of Nehru for China. He looked at them as friends; they suspected him. The worst part is Nehru did not even realize that they suspected his love!

The author expresses his grievance on how the new Indian government’s inexperience in external affairs in the 1950s, lost many of its natural rights instead of gaining something. In addition, the author lists down the different tactics followed by the Chinese, to delay or stop any progress that affects their long term interests. I was amazed to see they were able to block Indian attempts to sanction Masood Azhar for a decade, to save its partner Pakistan, which is not worth a naya-paisa.

The way they prepared for the meeting by borrowing time, their process-driven approach against the ad-hoc approach by the Indian side, were all good lessons for anyone, who is in position to negotiate with third parties. The way Indian side has transformed itself over the years based on different experiences looks positive. We can realize the commitment of the author to inculcate his knowledge into young IFS officers.

India started its journey like a frog – one that screams and identifies himself as prey to a hungry snake – in the 1950s. Its experience in external affairs was frail and vulnerable. The synergy was missing. Nehru influenced decisions on the ground in a hurried manner without weighing the risks. But India tries to catch up by its learnings over the past.

This book provoked me to compare the Chinese strategies described in this book with recent incidents. We could see amazing similarities.

Chinese president came to Gujarat on an official visit to meet Indian PM on Sep 2019. On the same month, there has been a complaint of incursion of Chinese army as long as 100 KMs. When the same man visited Tamilnadu, he should have been preparing for an invasion of Eastern Ladakh. Even after we lost our lives in the butchery of Galwan valley, Delhi did not pronounce its enemy’s name. So we can anticipate that Beijing’s perception of Delhi and Delhi’s prolonged submissive approach to Beijing are likely to continue.

The author says that Chinese are eminent in using democratic elements to manipulate a democratic country by using the immunity offered to their high commission status. At the same time, they isolate themselves without providing similar offerings to other countries to save their face among Chinese commoners. We recently saw Chinese advertisements in popular Indian dailies. There have been allegations in the US, that US news papers received donations from the Chinese for publishing articles that promote Chinese propaganda.

Indian news paper published chinese propaganda
Indian news paper published Chinese propaganda

About the Author

Vijay Gokhale - Picture (c) Wikipedia
Vijay Gokhale – Picture (c) Wikipedia

Vijay Gokhale is a retired Indian diplomat. He is the 32nd foreign secretary of India. He is a former Indian Ambassador to China.

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6 thoughts on “The Long Game: How the Chinese negotiate with India – Book Review

    • Treaties are the way to avoid escalations between countries. But Chinese are famous for breaking the treaties. These articles exposes such tactics in details. Thank you for your visit and comment.


    • Thanks for your visit and comment, sir. In a way, we have our own share in our perils. When it comes to negotiations, the opposite party tries to strip most of their benefit. When we decide to stand to naked on the negotiation table, who can prevent our fall?


  1. Looks like an interesting book. Will certainly look for it. Want to mention 2 of my thoughts. Nehru”s Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai was no sale with the Chinese. The Chinese have lot of patience. To achieve their goal they will wait for the right time – will wait even for decades.

    Liked by 1 person

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