In This Review

Fateful Triangle: How China Shaped U.S.-India Relations During the Cold War
Fateful Triangle: How China Shaped U.S.-India Relations During the Cold War
By Tanvi Madan
380 pp, Brookings Institution Press, 2020
Purchase

Madan argues that the main factor shaping U.S.-Indian relations during the Cold War—even more than relations with Pakistan and the Soviet Union, nuclear proliferation, or shared democratic values—was China. Both New Delhi and Washington were worried about the rise of China, but they seldom agreed on how to respond to it. In the early 1950s, New Delhi wanted to engage with Beijing, whereas Washington sought confrontation; in the 1970s, the United States engaged, whereas India grew more hostile. Even when the Indian and U.S. positions aligned—as they did on confronting China in the late 1950s and early 1960s—the two countries did not agree on how to do it. In Madan’s account, Chinese thinking about the triangular relationship appears only occasionally, through the eyes of Indian and U.S. policymakers who believed that Beijing was anxious about the threat of U.S.-Indian collusion. Since the end of the Cold War, the basic calculations of the three sides have not fundamentally changed, which makes this work a useful guide to the likely limits of future U.S.-Indian collaboration in dealing with China.