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Exploring the landscape of subnational diplomacy through 'paradiplomacy'

The authors have vividly touched upon 'paradiplomacy' and tried to trace the developments of the concept from its origin.

Neha Tiwari

‘Paradiplomacy in Asia: Case studies of China, India and Russia’ deals with ‘paradiplomacy’ as concept in study of international relations. This is a part of Contemporary Asian Studies Series of University of Lodz. The authors study the concept in the light of available literature on the subject.

The phenomenon of international engagement of regional and local government in the Asian countries is still not sufficiently described and recognized in academic literature. So far, the research on paradiplomacy is mostly concentrated on Europe and North America. However, as shown in this study, the regularities present in Western economies are not necessarily universal. The distinctive feature of each Asian country creates unique contexts in which sub-regional actors have to develop their international strategies. Some of those contexts were presented in this study in order to provide a better understanding of the conditions of paradiplomacy in Asian countries.

The authors have vividly touched upon the topic and tried to trace the developments of the concept from its origin. They have successfully established the fact that the concept of paradiplomacy is prevalent in Asian countries; however, the term “paradiplomacy” is quite new and rather unknown.

It is a good research work to trace the practice of paradiplomacy in Asian countries specifically in India, China and Russia. This literature can be better understood if we follow a chapter wise analysis.

The ambiguity in the definition and meaning of the term ‘paradiplomacy’ is dealt through a serious analytical approach towards historical and present scenario as well as theoretical and practical dimensions. The authors have embarked on the neologism ‘paradiplomacy’ by analysing it through the lens of international theories: realism, liberalism and constructivism.

While discussing the case of India in the second chapter, it has been underlined that subject matter constitutes novelty in Indian context, as it has hardly been studied or examined. The organization of territorial structure, the system of government, and the powers vested in the authorities at the central and state level have been thoroughly discussed as the determinant of paradiplomacy in India. The institutional basis and history of international activities of federal units are examined periodically, i.e., from 1950-1990s; 1991-2014 and 2014 onwards.

An attempt is made at the description and evaluation of paradiplomatic activities in India. It has been noted in this study that the states that reacted positively to economic reforms of 1991 and carried out policies consistent with the spirit (reform oriented states) are the most active in international arena. Intermediate reformers and lagging reformers are also discussed and have been suggested to volunteer. Paradiplomatic actions of Border States have also been examined with specificity.

The authors have chosen Gujarat as a case study for evaluating the paradiplomatic activities by addressing the unparalleled economic growth and potential of the state. Infrastructure, structure of economy, poverty and literacy rate and volume of FDI inflow in the state are compared and analysed closely. Some examples of strategic paradiplomatic actions of authorities are also discussed thoroughly. Grzegorz Bywalec concluded that future of paradiplomacy in India is definitely one of the tools of development of the country. The book therefore focuses on modern Indian foreign policy with the lens of paradiplomacy but fails to add any new dimensions in the field and only scrutinize the existing practices.

Dominik Mierzejewski has attempted to examine the paradiplomacy in China. The legal frame work in form of Foreign Affairs Office, Chinese Legislative bodies and local administrations are evaluated with great care in third chapter.

Socio-economic development of particular regions and access to an additional international communication channel by central government, which enables the state to maintain cordial relations with foreign partners are suggested as paradiplomatic goals by the author.

While discussing some debates over paradiplomacy in China several other prevalent practices such as city diplomacy, twin cities, sister cities are also listed. The book tries to underline the Chinese diplomacy from the eyes of government and only talks about the positive impact. The case of Guangzhou has been scrutinized to enumerate the positives of paradiplomacy as well as the administrative laggings are also pointed out. The example of industries such as exhibition, aviation, and sports in the region of Guangzhou were the peak beneficiaries. Lastly, it has been concluded that the international activities of China’s regions are one of the driving forces behind Chinese reforms and opening up.

Malgorzata Pietrasiak and Michal Slowikowski have collaborated to pen down the academic and practical discourse of centre-regional relations of Russia in the fourth chapter. They have taken into account the international activity of federal subjects of Russian federation on the case of the Far East. The international activities of regions can’t be of political character and is reduced to economic and socio-cultural initiatives; quite similar to the case of India and China. This has been summed up, quite well, by comparing historical perspective of Russian federation with forms, conditions and frequency of international cooperation of federal subjects in the present scenario.

Authors have successfully compared and critically analysed paradiplomatic goals carried out at the regional level, regional potential and legal regulations, form of territorial system for development of paradiplomacy, main geographical directions and level of development of paradiplomacy in the researched countries.

Summing up, this literature is a magnificent contribution in the arena of subnational diplomacy. This work also paves the way for international relations to look into new dimension of regional diplomacy (Track II Diplomacy) and formulates some measures or directives for the subnational diplomacy which is going to become a gem in the crown of global economic, social and cultural development. It would guide the future researchers and students in right direction who are working on the subject matter and rather become a milestone to carry forward further studies.

(Neha Tiwari is an intern with Academics4Nation. She is a Research Scholar, Department of Political Science, University of Allahabad.)



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