NDISC Seminar Series - Šumit Ganguly

Author: Notre Dame International Security Center

Sumit Ganguly

On January 18th as part of the NDISC Seminar Series, Professor Šumit Ganguly presented “The Global Significance of the Sino-Indian Rivalry” at Jenkins-Nanovic Hall. For those who were not able to attend here is a brief overview of the discussion.


Šumit Ganguly 

Šumit Ganguly is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and holds the Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is a specialist on the international and comparative politics of South Asia. His most recent book (edited with M. Chris Mason) is The Future of US-India Security Cooperation (Manchester University Press, 2021). 



Professor Ganguly started the seminar with the history of the Sino-Indian rivalry and the legacy of British colonial rule in Southeast Asia, so that those who are not familiar with the conflict could be provided with context. He went into detail about how issues with cartography in post-colonial India and Tibet led to border disputes with newly communist-ruled China. These disputes and concern in China that India was trying to take control of Tibet led to the ongoing Sino-Indian rivalry—there was a tenuous peace between the two until India granted sanctuary to Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Tensions have escalated. 

Fast forward to today and India’s rapid economic growth and nuclear testing in the past three decades have increased the tensions over the existing border disputes—it's important to note that China never officially recognized India’s nuclear program as legitimate.  

Professor Ganguly then moved on to talk about the significance of the Sino-Indian rivalry to the United States. He gave four specific reasons why the Sino-Indian rivalry matters to the US:  

  • The US and India are collaborating much closer than they have in the past. The US and India have more military exercises per year than any other 2 countries. 

  • India, Australia, Japan, and the US have joined a partnership, calling themselves 'The Quad.' 

  • Much of the United States' focus is placed on the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Straits, but this has led to a lack of attention on the Sino-Indian Rivalry. Professor Ganguly believes this is a mistake.  

  • In his view, this is the most likely area in the world for accidental military escalation. 



Once Professor Ganguly’s talk concluded, the floor opened for questions. Here are some of the questions asked by audience members. For the full list of questions and answers visit our Twitter account. 


Q: Would India develop a nuclear policy beyond no-use-first? 

SG: No-use-first policy is already being diluted. If India is attacked first by a weapon of mass destruction, India may view that as justification to turn to nuclear arms. There have been caveats inserted into the policy. 


Q: Do you see Southeast Asian countries getting involved? 

SG: Absolutely, but they waffle. They want to avoid conflict. Considering the presence of the The Quad and China, they’re literally caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. 


Q: What would it take for China to recognize India's weapons program? Would that change anything?  

SG: My hypothetical answer is this: a decade of double-digit economic growth. Steady economic growth for a decade would get a much better response from China. 


We would like to thank Professor Šumit Ganguly for taking the time to come and present on such an important and relevant topic. To find more sessions of our Seminar Series please visit our events calendar