Of the many small research projects I was assigned this summer, one clearly stands out as my favorite. Most of the projects I worked on centered around major political issues that I was very familiar with. However, when I was assigned a project to research the history behind a China-India border dispute, I had to enter completely unfamiliar territory. Before this assignment, I was not even aware of the very existence of the dispute. My research, then, ended up being extremely enlightening.
For example, I was able to dive deeper into a border dispute that has originated from a moment in history over 150 years ago, when documents explaining Chinese and Indian borders were written, but contradicted each other. Ever since, there have been certain periods in history where the two countries stood toe to toe, at times literally, arguing over land. Similarly, I was able to delve into all the many factors that contributed to the current tensions between the two countries, specifically a dispute focused on a small road near Bhutan. The small rural road holds extreme geopolitical importance for the country of India, as it is close to a very vulnerable section of India, called the “Chicken’s Neck”. If China was to possess this land they could separate most of India from its Northeastern states.
Overall, I think I enjoyed this project to the extent that I did because it was an unfamiliar topic but also because by exploring a new topic I learned different methods for evaluating the core roots of political conflicts. Additionally, I always find that there are significant benefits in expanding expertise and knowledge beyond that traditionally learned in the classroom.