2023-24 Dissertation Fellow


Creating New Asia: Sino-Indian Friendship and the Promise of Asian Solidarity in the Early Cold War, 1947-1962


My dissertation, “Creating New Asia: Sino-Indian Friendship and the Promise of Asian Solidarity in the Early Cold War, 1947-1962” highlights how the Cold War produced ‘friendship’ as a new political paradigm in India and China. Prevailing views of Sino-Indian relations in this period characterize ‘friendship’ as vacuous and unimportant. By treating it seriously as a contingent form of politics, I show how state and private actors in both countries defined friendship as a uniquely Asian mode of solidarity that promoted mutual respect in service of the regional priorities of nation-building and anti-imperialism. Advocates of Sino-Indian friendship emphasized that it accepted adopting different solutions to shared ‘Asian’ problems and could act as the framework for a New Asia based on mutual learning and coexistence instead of colonial paternalism and bloc conflict, thus ensuring regional peace at a time of rising global tensions. Consequently, friendship’s invocation of a regional struggle convinced different publics in China and India that successful nation-building at home required resolving Cold War crises abroad, and vice-versa. Sino-Indian friendship inflected postcolonial nationalism with transnational urgency; being Indian or Chinese also meant being Asian. In tackling Sino-Indian friendship in such a comprehensive manner, this dissertation utilizes material from archival holdings in United States, the United Kingdom, India, China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia; this material is in Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin, Japanese, and English. This ambitious scope reflects friendship’s own ambitions to transform Asia into a vehicle for transforming the international order. Acknowledging that ambition requires a truly transnational research agenda capable of uncovering the diverse ways in which state and non-state advocates of friendship were able to actualize its rhetoric through marshalling domestic and international support. This dissertation thus tells a history of the Cold War through the novel forms of politics that people embraced to resist it. Instead of accepting that the Cold War narrowed political visions, I propose that it also created the conditions for political projects that sought to expand the limits of what was possible. Sino-Indian friendship and the dreams of a New Asia that it inspired across the world was one such example, and by excavating it I hope to showcase the intimate relationship between nationalism and internationalism in the postcolonial world.



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Yasser Ali Nasser is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the ways in which anti-imperialist networks in China, India, and Japan used “Asia” to critique the international system in the early Cold War.