India–China stand-off in Doklam: aligning realism with national characteristics

Dalbir Ahlawat, Lindsay Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


India and China, rising almost simultaneously as major powers, share a disputed border. In the 1950s, India aspired to a joint leadership for Asia’s revival but Nehru’s idealism and Mao’s realism triggered the Sino-Indian War of 1962. It took India three decades to come to terms with Chinese political realism and initiate confidence-building measures. Nevertheless, bilateral trade interests converged while security interests diverged. Beijing adopted offensive realism while New Delhi followed defensive realism. When both confronted a 73-day military stand-off in Doklam, unexpectedly India demonstrated a miscellany of offensive realism whereas China constrained itself to defensive realism. Analysis establishes that they permeated their national characteristics while pursuing respective forms of realism. This article traces the trajectory of idealist versus realist perspectives that India has initiated to counter Chinese realism, analyses the two countries’ offensive–defensive postures during the Doklam stand-off, and examines the specific national characteristics that both countries brought to realism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-625
Number of pages13
JournalRound Table
Issue number5
Early online date10 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Doklam
  • India–China relations
  • offensive/defensive realism
  • security dilemma
  • Narendra Modi
  • Xi Jinping


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