In this talk, Nirupama Rao, the former Indian Foreign Secretary, will address the current relationship between India and China in the light of her three-and-a-half decades of experience dealing with this crucial bilateral relationship. The politics of a fractious history still complicates this relationship: a history tied to the brief but intense border conflict of 1962, the presence of the exiled Dalai Lama and the Tibetan refugee community in India, and Sino-Pakistani friendship. These issues have proved they have an extended shelf life and they are coupled with 21st century strategic competition in maritime Asia between the two nations, the ascent of China as well as India’s rapid economic growth, and China’s growing assertiveness and presence in India’s neighborhood. Besides Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka are two examples of countries where the Chinese profile has grown dramatically in recent years. On issues like multilateral trade negotiations and climate change issues, China and India have much in common despite their bilateral rivalries in other areas. But where, essentially, is this crucially important relationship headed? How are the deepening friendship and strategic partnership between India and the United States, and trilateral India-US-Japan cooperation, affecting China and its relationship with India? Ambassador Rao will address these issues in her talk through the prism of her unique experience as a former Ambassador to China, and her long years in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
Nirupama Rao was Foreign Secretary of India from 2009 to 2011. Prior to that she served as High Commissioner to Sri Lanka (2004-2006) and Ambassador to China (2006-2009). On the completion of her tenure as Foreign Secretary she was appointed India’s Ambassador to the United States where she served from 2011 to 2013.
Ambassador Rao joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1973, having placed first in the list of men and women candidates who had taken a nation-wide examination to enter the civil service. She grew up in various parts of India as the daughter of an Army officer. During her diplomatic career she served also in Vienna, Lima and Moscow. She was and remains the only woman in the Indian Foreign Service to have served as spokesperson of the Foreign Office (and also the only Indian woman to have served as High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and as Ambassador to China).
Mrs. Rao was a member of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission from 2009 to 2011.
In retirement, Ambassador Rao has taught a course on Indian foreign policy at Brown University. She has been a Fellow of the India-China Institute at the New School in New York and a Public Policy Fellow at The Wilson Center in Washington DC (where she is also a Global Fellow). She is on the Advisory Council of the Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center. She is a Member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and serves on the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Advance Study, Bangalore. She is a frequent contributor on Indian foreign policy issues to Indian newspapers and is currently working on a book called “The Politics of History: India and China, 1949 to 1962” to be published by Penguin, India.